The Miami University women’s basketball team lost its season opener at home on Monday night to the Xavier Musketeers 87-68. The game was close until the Musketeers went on a 20-4 run in the last 5:21 of the third quarter.
Most of the RedHawks’ game was sloppy. Their 23 turnovers and 18 fouls opened the door for many Musketeer opportunities.
The ‘Hawks got on the board early with a backdoor cut layup from sophomore guard Maddie Cluse.
Cluse was spectacular on Monday, leading the team in scoring with a career-high 24 points. She had moments where she would take over the game. When Miami was down 9-5 in the first quarter, she went on a personal 7-0 run within a minute.
Sophomore guard Ivy Wolf sank a mid-range pull-up with nine seconds left in the opening frame to end the quarter tied at 14.
Wolf had a lot on her plate.
With star senior guard Peyton Scott still recovering from injury, Wolf played all but four minutes, because the RedHawks wanted to keep a ball handler on the floor. Scott scored 28 points in a 77-73 road victory at Xavier last year.
Wolf finished with 17 points and a career-high six steals. However, the demand on her to carry the load might have been too much, as she shot 5/19 from the field and 1/7 from three.
The RedHawks muscled together a 13-4 run, sparked by two tough finishes from Cluse around the basket, to go up 30-25.
However, sophomore Xavier guard Kaysia Woods hit multiple jumpers in a 10-straight point Musketeer response. Four RedHawks and two Musketeers made free throws at the end of the half made the halftime score 37-34 in favor of the visitors.
In a halftime interview with ESPN, Miami head coach DeUnna Hendrix said that turnovers and fouls were the reason why the team was behind.
The RedHawks had 15 first-half turnovers. Last season, the team averaged 17.8 per game.
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The match was close because the Musketeers were sloppy early on as well. They finished the game with 21 turnovers and 19 fouls.
The RedHawks did battle with the Musketeers for the first five minutes of the second half. Wolf
shook off two quick misses and locked in. Her defensive pressure forced multiple turnovers, which led to points, including two consecutive jumpers from her to go up 45-44.
However, when Xavier reduced the negative plays, they gained momentum quickly and made it challenging for Miami to come back. The Musketeers went on a 20-4 run to close the third quarter 64-49.
Foul trouble severely hurt the RedHawks in the third quarter. Cluse picked up her fourth foul 72 seconds into the third, and Hendrix kept her out until the fourth.
Without Scott and now Cluse, no one on the floor was able to string a couple of buckets together, especially once Wolf cooled off. The RedHawks missed their last five field goals during the Musketeer push.
Junior forward Sierra Morrow also checked out early in the third with four fouls, and the RedHawks defense felt her absence. Without North Iowa Community College’s 2021 leading shot blocker on the court, the Musketeers found more success in the paint.
Cluse checked back in at the beginning of the fourth, and it seemed like she could not wait to get back onto the floor. On the team’s first possession, she grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and converted on an and-one. Then she connected on two of her next three triples to cut the lead down to single digits at 73-64 with 6:20 remaining.
Unfortunately, Musketeer junior guard Mackayla Scarlett's hot hand scored 10 points on perfect efficiency in the final quarter to extend their lead to the end.
The RedHawks (0-1) are on an 8-game losing streak dating back to the end of last season. They look to bring back winning energy to the locker room this Friday at home against Vermont. Tip-off is tossed at 10:15 a.m. You can watch the game on ESPN+.