It's March and, in eight days, one loss will end the RedHawks' season. Now is not the time to start losing, but Miami has lost two straight.
Despite the losses, the women's basketball team has secured a Mid-American Conference tournament first-round bye and automatically advances to the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 13 in Cleveland.
"That's really, really important for us," head coach Megan Duffy said. "That was one of our main goals, when we went on our streak earlier in the year, was to get one of those top-4 seeds [...] We're really excited. It's just as important to get extra rest and, obviously, not have to play that first game on Monday and go right to the [quarterfinals]."
But before the RedHawks arrive at the Quicken Loans Arena, they will try to end the regular season with a win or two.
After a 67-58 loss to Kent State on the road last Wednesday snapped an 11-game winning streak, the 'Hawks travelled to Buffalo and lost 86-61 on Saturday. This marks the first time in Miami's 21-win season when it has lost consecutive games, and the loss in Kent was the team's first in 46 days.
"I think it knocked us on our heels a little bit about how good we have to be every night," Duffy said. "[We have to] get that fire back a little bit, and I think we were all disappointed in the result, but it's not going to, hopefully, define our season."
The two losses forced the RedHawks to relinquish the No. 1 spot in the MAC. The Ohio Bobcats - with their identical 12-4 MAC record - sit behind Miami only because the 'Hawks won the tiebreaker in Athens on Jan. 30.
It was the tale of two halves at the Convocation Center, as the RedHawks trailed through the first two quarters, and the Bobcats led 39-29 at halftime. But Miami stormed back in the second half and held Ohio to just three points in the fourth quarter.
The defensive effort that defined that comeback, and usually propels the RedHawks to victory, has been missing in the 'Hawks' last two games.
Against Kent State, Miami held the Golden Flashes to shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, but allowed them to shoot 53.9 percent in the second half.
Against Buffalo, the RedHawks were outscored 24-9 in the first quarter and the Bulls shot 55 percent from the field through 40 minutes. The 86 points the Bulls tallied that day are the most the 'Hawks have allowed since losing 95-73 to former No. 5 Louisville in November.
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"Our defense has been really good all year, and we didn't execute our defensive plan," Duffy said. "We gave up 86 points and [Buffalo] scored 31 points in transition defense and just uncharacteristic statistics that haven't been happening all year."
Luckily, Miami returns to Oxford and plays its final two regular-season games in Millett Hall. The RedHawks have only lost one game in their white jerseys this season, though the Bobcats have only lost one game on the road.
"A great way to finish the season is be in our own beds and prepare right here in our backyard," Duffy said.
The 'Hawks will need to take advantage of the homestand and find their defensive rhythm again, as Ohio averages second in the MAC in points per game with 78.8 - almost 11 points more than Miami's average (67.9).
Sophomore guard Cece Hooks leads the Bobcats' offensive efforts and ranks fifth in the MAC with 17.2 points per game. Her teammates, senior guard Dominique Doseck and junior guard Amani Burke, are one-two for best 3-point percentage in the conference, pushing Ohio to average 36.3 percent from behind the arc.
The RedHawks lead the MAC in 3-point defense and rank second in fewest points allowed per game, two statlines Miami will have to live up to in order to beat Ohio tomorrow and Akron on Saturday.
"They're really big on the 3-point line and how many threes they make a game, so we're going to have to really defend that and have a little bit of a better awareness of what's happening on the defensive end," Duffy said, wearing a "Beat OU" T-shirt.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Millett Hall
TV/Radio: ESPN+/Miami IMG Sports Network
Record: 21-6 (12-4 MAC)
Offense: 67.9 ppg
Defense: 60.7 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Lauren Dickerson (guard, 5'3", 16.1 ppg)
Leah Purvis (guard, 5'6", 8.0 ppg)
Baleigh Reid (guard, 5'10", 3.5 ppg)
Kendall McCoy (forward, 6'0", 11.7 ppg)
Savannah Kluesner (forward, 6'2", 13.9 ppg)
OHIO UNIVERSITY BOBCATS
Record: 23-4 (12-4 MAC)
Offense: 78.8 ppg
Defense: 69.3 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Cece Hooks (guard, 5'8", 17.2 ppg)
Amani Burke (guard, 5'9", 13.2 ppg)
Dominique Doseck (guard, 5'8", 11.1 ppg)
Gabby Burris (forward, 5'11", 11.8 rpg)
Erica Johnson (forward, 5'11", 13.6 ppg)
NCAA NET Ranking: Miami (47); Ohio (37)