After a promising 4-1 start to the season, the Miami RedHawks have lapsed into a four-game losing streak.
Three of the four straight losses have been by double digits, the latest of which came at the hands of Evansville Saturday.
’Hawks need the Windex
Saturday represented a problem that will be added to the laundry list Miami men's basketball has made for itself in the first nine games of the season: rebounding.
The first half came to a close with both sides gathering 14 rebounds apiece. But, of course, college basketball is made up of two halves.
The Purple Aces absolutely wrecked the RedHawks on the boards in the second stanza with a staggering 22-6 advantage. This, no doubt, also contributed to Evanville’s 10 second-chance points in the half, compared to Miami’s zero.
Miami’s defensive miscues could very well start and end on the glass, and without a doubt, will be a key to improvement going forward.
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sibande!
Despite the final score, junior guard Nike Sibande showed out with 28 points and seven rebounds. However, the best improvement for Sibande has to be his effort on the defensive end.
Instead of imitating a Spanish bullfighter and saying “Ole!” while allowing free rein to the basket, the Indianapolis native has taken the advice from his NBA workouts and stepped up tremendously, doing all the right things to make him a two-way threat.
Sibande is averaging one steal per game this year but is also forcing teams to foul him with his fast pace of play, drawing seven fouls against the Aces on Saturday afternoon. That feeds into Sibande’s offense. He’s shooting 83 percent from the line this season.
Scoring, rebounding, defensive effort and supreme athletic ability? Check, check, check and check. Sibande is showing improvement in almost every statistical category so far this year and has emerged as the clear top dog on the team.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Defense or offense?
Two hundred and thirteenth out of 353. One hundred and ninety-fourth out of 353.
Those are the rankings for Miami’s offensive and defensive ratings, respectively. So while putting up 87 points against a tough Missouri Valley opponent like Evansville is good, it doesn’t do much when you allow 101.
This all circles back around to the tale of two halves the RedHawks have been showing for most of the season.
It also supports another storyline of not having a player to appropriately challenge opposing bigs.
Miami’s offense looked more than okay Saturday, hitting over 50 percent from the field, 36 percent from the arc and knocking down 14 of its 15 free throws. Taking a look at just that, the game should have been a RedHawk victory. Until you dig a little deeper.
The second half included shooting a measly 22 percent from downtown. The RedHawks were blasted on the defensive side of the ball in the second half, as well, allowing over 65 percent on field goals and 65 percent from three. That’s a little ugly.
And while the ’Hawks actually won the turnover battle (seven vs. Evansville’s 14), they were only able to gain eight points off them.
The troubles continued in the second half, as freshman guard Dae Dae Grant wasn’t able to contribute on the offensive end, though his 13 points in the first half helped keep the RedHawks in the game.
Meanwhile, the Purple Aces’ forward DeAndre Williams destroyed the RedHawks with 37 points (17-of-18 shooting) and 10 rebounds in only his 10th collegiate game. He also swatted away three shots, while his guard teammate, Sam Cunliffe, came away with 21 points and a +16 plus/minus rating.
Dae Dae Grant is starting to find himself
Grant was a big-time scorer in high school. So when the former Mr. Lorain County was part of the RedHawks’ 2019 recruiting class, it was easy to see how he might be the next big thing in Miami basketball.
And while he did go scoreless in the second half Saturday, he started off red-hot with 13 points on a great shooting clip, which included his two 3-pointers.
It will be interesting to see how his playmaking ability develops as he continues to grow. Because of his scoring abilities, Grant might be a fine shooting guard instead of a lead guard, giving head coach Jack Owens more firepower, especially if Sibande gets his NBA call after this season.