The men’s basketball RedHawks are looking to shake off a disappointing Florida road trip after going 1-2 in the Gulf Coast Showcase last week.
As Northern Kentucky (5-3) comes to Millett Hall Tuesday evening, Miami (4-3) will seek a return to the winning culture head coach Jack Owens continues to try to build in Oxford.
“They play a lot of iso-basketball,” Owens said of NKU. “I truly believe we will shoot the basketball better than we did in Florida. We have to come out when we have an opportunity to win games … This is going to be a great test for us.”
The test might be more important to the future of the season than predicted.
Although the RedHawks’ record might not be immediately alarming to fans, the inconsistency of whether the team is able to make plays for one another has carried over from game to game. This plagued Miami in the Showcase, when, during the three-game span, the RedHawks combined for 18 assists (four, nine and five, respectively).
The issue of the ball sticking in players’ hands has been addressed by Owens more than once in the first seven games, but it remains.
The leading playmaker for the team is sophomore guard Mekhi Lairy (3.4 APG), who comes off the bench. This issue leads to the starting lineup having five players who come out ready to eat, but no one is there to set the table.
Success in transition has helped keep games close. Junior guard Nike Sibande has taken big strides on the defensive end, averaging a steal per game while also carrying the responsibilities of being the starting lineup’s primary ball handler.
Keeping the same defensive intensity against the Norse is key in defending their star 6-foot-7 senior forward, Dantez Walton, who leads NKU in scoring (16.6) and rebounding (7.0). Walton will most likely be matched up against junior forward Dalonte Brown, who has the potential to match Walton in every facet.
The Norse, however, will not be at full strength, as junior guard Jalen Tate broke his hand in practice and had surgery on it two weeks ago. Tate played in three games while pacing the team in assists and placing second in rebounds per game before being sidelined.
The RedHawks are also slowly recovering from early-season injuries, hopefully giving way to the chemistry that was seen as a strength when the year began.
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Sibande continues to build his resume for the NBA. His 20 points in 36 minutes of play are typical of his workhorse mentality. The team will need Sibande to keep up the intensity while the rest of the team looks to find its identity.
Isaiah Coleman-Lands has worked to become a catch-and-shoot spark off the bench, but his shooting percentages haven’t quite been up to par yet. He sits at 31 percent from the field and 30 percent from the arc in the first seven games. Coleman-Lands can go on a tear at any moment, but moving the ball and getting closer to the basket might serve him better to get out of his post-injury funk.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Millett Hall
TV/Radio: ESPN+, Miami Sports Network from Van Wagner, RedHawk Radio on YouTube Live
Offense: 75.4 ppg
Defense: 69.7 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Dae Dae Grant (guard, 6'2", 6.6 ppg)
Nike Sibande (guard, 6'4", 16.6 ppg)
Milos Jovic (guard, 6'4", 5.9 ppg)
Dalonte Brown (forward, 6'7", 13.6 ppg)
Bam Bowman (forward, 6'8", 8.5 ppg)
NORTHERN KENTUCKY NORSE
Offense: 76.6 ppg
Defense: 67.6 ppg
Player (position, height, key stat)
Bryson Langdon (guard, 5’9", 8.1 ppg)
Tyler Sharpe (guard, 6'1", 12.5 ppg)
Trevon Faulkner (guard, 6’4", 13.0 ppg)
Dantez Walton (forward, 6'7", 16.6 ppg)
Silas Adheke (forward, 6’10”, 5.3 ppg)