Miami basketball: Another COVID-related cancellation gives RedHawks a chance to reset

Miami Redhawks forward Dalonte Brown scores against Western Michigan during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
Miami Redhawks forward Dalonte Brown scores against Western Michigan during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

Game slated for Tuesday vs. Eastern Michigan postponed

Jack Owens had mixed feelings about the Mid-American Conference’s postponement of Miami’s men’s basketball home game on Tuesday against Eastern Michigan.

On one hand, four COVID-related cancellations of games and four more postponements of MAC games had left the RedHawks savoring every opportunity to play.

On the other hand, the break gave the fourth-year Miami coach and his staff the chance to sort of reset a team that has lost three of its last four games, including an 88-64 clunker at Buffalo on Saturday that left the RedHawks 8-7 overall and 5-5 in the MAC. The RedHawks, who’ve been particularly stingy with turnovers this season, committed 14 against the Bulls while being outrebounded, 42-31.

The loss at Buffalo followed a 77-68 loss at Kent State last Tuesday.

“Last week at Kent State, we put ourselves in position to win the game,” Owens said Monday during a weekly Zoom media session. “For whatever reason, we didn’t play our best basketball at Buffalo. We need to be better in a lot of areas. We’ve got to clean some things up.”

Miami, which slipped from third place in the MAC going into last week’s schedule to seventh going into this week’s action, faces a daunting guantlet over the final four weeks of the season, starting with a game on Friday against second-place Akron (11-4, 9-3) at Millett Hall. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game originally was scheduled to be played on Saturday before being moved up to be televised on ESPNU.

The RedHawks are scheduled to play on Feb. 16 at first-place Toledo, which beat them, 90-81, in Oxford last month. Following that game is a trip to play on Feb. 20 at Northern Illinois, which goes into this week 11th in the 12-team MAC, before a home game on Feb. 27 against Kent State and visits to Bowling Green on March 2 and Akron on March 5.

Still unknown is the status of Miami’s home games against Ohio and EMU and road games at Western Michigan and Central Michigan, all so-far temporary pandemic victims. As if losing the games wasn’t bad enough, seeing matchups with the Michigan teams – which occupy three of the bottom four rungs in the MAC standings – while games against front-runners Buffalo and Toledo and Akron and Kent State remain in play might’ve left the RedHawks feeling a little snakebit, but Owens was trying to get his team to focus on what it could control while trying to make sure they were among the eight teams that qualify for the MAC Tournament.

The tournament is scheduled for March 10-13 at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Arena. That is a change from how the tournament has been conducted in recent years with all 12 teams qualifying and first-round games being played at the home arenas of the fifth- through eighth-seeded teams.

“Every game we play is important,” Owens said. “We don’t know the situations at other schools or with the teams we’re playing. We’re being told the (postponed) games will be made up, but the only things we can focus on are what we can control. Like I’ve said all year, we have to embrace the opportunities we can get. If the opportunity is not there to control on how they seed the tournament, the only thing we can control is blocking out and taking care of the basketball.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Akron at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPNU, 980, 1450