Miami basketball back on the floor after 12-day, COVID-related layoff

RedHawks will host Northern Illinois on Saturday

Miami men’s basketball coach Jack Owens is in the unusual position of needing to learn almost as much about his team in the middle of the season as he needs to learn about the RedHawks upcoming opponent.

After a 12-day layoff mandated by following COVID-19 protocols that postponed three games, the RedHawks returned to the practice floor on Saturday to get back in shape and prepare the 2020-2021 season with a 1 p.m. Mid-American Conference home on Saturday against Northern Illinois.

“We’re excited about getting back and getting the opportunity to play on Saturday,” the fourth-year coach said during a Zoom media session on Monday. “We’re looking forward to getting it going.”

The RedHawks on Dec. 21 paused team-related activities to follow similar protocols. Owens was gradually increasing the team’s practice schedule, expanding from 25 percent of the normal practice time on Saturday to 50 on Sunday. He anticipated a 75-percent session on Monday before returning to full sessions starting on Tuesday.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “It takes time. Guys are working hard. They were able to get in some shooting this morning. I was impressed. A couple of the guys came back game ready. The rest of the guys will work hard this week to get back to being game ready, but when you’re off for 10 days, it’s hard. There’s nothing like game conditioning.”

Owens hopes to have a better idea by the end of the week if conditioning will impact his game rotation.

Miami (3-3, 0-1 MAC) already has seen non-conference games against Defiance and Bellarmine cancelled twice due to following COVID-19 protocols. MAC home games against Ohio on Dec. 29 against Ohio and Jan. 5 against Bowling Green have been postponed, along with a road game at Central Michigan scheduled for Jan. 2. Those games have yet to be rescheduled.

Owens and the RedHawks aren’t quite sure what they’ll see Saturday from Northern Illinois (1-7, 0-3 MAC), which fired coach Mark Montgomery on Sunday and promoted associate head coach Lamar Chapman to interim coach. Owens hopes to glean information about the new-look Huskies while their game at Ohio on Tuesday.

“We’ll see if they make any changes,” he said. “We’ll definitely have a better idea after tomorrow night.”

Owens also hopes that his players haven’t gotten too rusty during the time off. The RedHawks go into the week averaging 9.5 turnovers per game, the MAC’s lowest, and committed 10 in their 69-68 non-conference loss on Dec. 19 at Bradley – their last game before the hiatus. Owens was pleased about most of Miami’s play, but he was disappointed in the turnovers.

“I want us to build off that last game,” Owens said. “We made some costly turnovers that allowed Bradley to get back in the game and win it. I want to get back to having that assuredness with the ball and giving us a chance to win.”

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