CLEVELAND - The Battle of the Bricks will take on new meaning for both the Miami RedHawks and the Ohio Bobcats this afternoon. The teams will play in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals, and it's win or go home.
No. 2 Ohio beat No. 7 Northern Illinois by a 72-56 margin, and No. 3 Miami defeated the No. 6 Toledo Rockets by an almost identical 72-54 on Wednesday evening. Then, the stage was set.
"We looked confident out there and that was the big thing," MU head coach Megan Duffy said. Any time, in March, you can come away with a win, regardless if it's a close one or by double-digits, is huge. We're really thrilled to continue to play here in Cleveland."
These teams have been here before - they met last year in the quarterfinals.
The 'Hawks defeated OU 69-66, ending the Bobcats' MAC Championship dreams, but the RedHawks would go on to lose to the No. 1-seeded Central Michigan Chippewas 61-58 in the semifinals.
MU and OU are now slated to meet for the third time this 2018-19 season. The teams split the regular-season series and each won away from home - first the RedHawks defeated the Bobcats 67-61 on Jan. 30 in Athens, then Ohio bested Miami 70-66 on March 6 in Oxford.
The 'Hawks fell behind early in both games but managed to recover from a 10-point deficit in January. A 23-point Bobcat lead proved too much to overcome two weeks ago, even as Miami shot 47 percent and 50 percent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
Junior guard Lauren Dickerson led Miami in points during this year's Battle of the Bricks series, and redshirt freshman forward Erica Johnson paced her team.
Of late, the RedHawks have found depth in their sixth woman, senior forward Kristen Levering. Levering has started the past three games in place of junior forward Savannah Kluesner, and the duo has given Duffy flexibility.
Though Levering tallied zero points against Toledo, Kluesner finished with 20 points against the Rockets, good for her sixth game scoring 20 points or more.
Ohio's Johnson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds only hours earlier against Northern Illinois on Wednesday. Three other Bobcats finished in double digits, proving their depth.
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OU's scoring depth - all five starters average double-digits - ranks its offense second in the MAC, but the Bobcats have to match up against Miami's No. 1 defense.
"It's really going to test our defensive efforts, and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to showcase our team one more time," Duffy said.
Miami holds the 57-33 all-time series lead over Ohio and is 7-1 at neutral sites. The RedHawks' latest neutral site win over the Bobcats was last year in the quarterfinals.
"I think our experience of being here last year has helped us with our veteran group," Duffy said. "We look a little different than coming in for the first time last year. I think we understand that the top-4 seeds are here now, and you're going to have to play a great basketball game to win."
Today's Battle of the Bricks rematch will be a chance at redemption for both teams. It's win or go home, and a spot in the championship game is on the line.
Tipoff: Thirty minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. No. 1 Central Michigan vs. No. 4 Buffalo game at The Quicken Loans Arena
TV/Radio: ESPN+/Miami IMG Sports Network
Record: 23-7 (13-5 MAC)
Offense: 67.9 ppg
Defense: 60.4 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Lauren Dickerson (guard, 5'3", 16.5 ppg)
Leah Purvis (guard, 5'6", 8.2 ppg)
Baleigh Reid (guard, 5'10", 3.7 ppg)
Kendall McCoy (forward, 6'0", 11.3 ppg)
Kristen Levering (forward, 6'2", 7.2 ppg)
OHIO UNIVERSITY BOBCATS
Record: 26-4 (14-4 MAC)
Offense: 78.2 ppg
Defense: 65.8 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Cece Hooks (guard, 5'8", 17.4 ppg)
Amani Burke (guard, 5'9", 13.4 ppg)
Dominique Doseck (guard, 5'8", 10.5 ppg)
Gabby Burris (forward, 5'11", 11.8 rpg)
Erica Johnson (forward, 5'11", 14.1 ppg)
NCAA NET Ranking: Miami (44); Ohio (33)