The last time Miami won three consecutive Mid-American Conference road games before last week was in the 2010-2011 season.
The last time the RedHawks won four straight MAC road games was in the 2008-2009 season. They can match that stretch on Tuesday when they travel north on Interstate 75 to meet Bowling Green for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
A win over the Falcons could mean more than just making a bit of history. It also could help Miami (11-10, 8-8) improve its seeding for the MAC Tournament, which is scheduled to start on March 11 at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
The RedHawks go into the week in seventh place in the MAC standings. Bowling Green is sixth with a 10-7 record. If Miami can win at Bowling Green and on Friday at Akron and the Falcons also lose to Ohio at home on Friday, the RedHawks would finish with a 10-8 conference record and .556 winning percentage while Bowling Green would be 10-9 with a .526 winning percentage.
Jack Owens was trying on Monday to avoid worrying about the tournament. The fourth-year Miami coach was more concerned about simply playing Bowling Green, a team the RedHawks beat, 96-77, on Jan. 21 in what might’ve been their best game of the season,
“We know going in that it’s going to be a hard-fought game between two good teams that match up well against each other,” Owens said during a Monday Zoom interview. “They’re playing a lot better. They’re pressing a lot more and running and getting the ball out.”
Miami clinched a MAC Tournament berth with a Thursday win at Western Michigan, the RedHawks third road win in six days after a four-game losing streak. Granted, the three opponents – Miami also played at Central Michigan and Northern Illinois – went into this week a combined 12-45 overall and 6-34 in the MAC, but anybody with just a rudimentary knowledge of the conference knows winning on the road against any team is a challenge. Owens credited “togetherness and focus” with Miami’s ability to handle the gantlet.
“We were able to cash in,” he said. “We were on point. We have a group of guys who want to win. At this point, we have to find ways to get wins. Home or away, it doesn’t matter. We have to find energy and ways to pull out wins.
“We played at 5 (p.m.) on Tuesday and at noon on Thursday. I was proud of our guys. They dug deep.”
Senior forward Dalonte Brown has reached double figures in each of Miami’s last four games and is averaging 14.8 points per game over that run. Junior guard Mekhi Lairy is right behind with an average of 13 points per game over the last four. On the other hand, sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant has scored a combined two points over Miami’s last two games after pouring in 26 at Northern Illinois and 25 at Central Michigan.
“I have no worries or concerns about him bouncing back,” Owens said about the 6-foot-2 sophomore, who leads Miami with an average of 13.5 points per game. “He’s a high-level jump shooter. I expect him to come out and play well. I expect him to bounce back. We’ll be looking for ways for him to bounce back. It’s been that way all year. He drives as much as any guard in the league, but he’s a three-level scorer.”
The RedHawks are scheduled to wrap up the regular season with a 7 p.m. game on Friday at Akron. The Zips go into the week tied with Kent State for second place in the MAC. Both teams are 12-5, two games behind 14-3 Toledo, but Akron owns the tiebreaker edge by virtue of having swept the season two-game season series against the Golden Flashes.
The Zips knocked off Miami, 83-76, at Millett Hall in Oxford on Feb. 12, but they’ve lost two straight games going into a challenging matchup at fourth-place Buffalo on Tuesday. They weren’t Owens’ concern on Monday.
“We’re focused on finishing strong in the conference race,” he said. “It’s good to know that we’re in the conference tournament. It’s a credit to the guys that we’re one of the eight teams in the conference tournament, but our main goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. It’s new this year that not everyone gets to the conference tournament. We’re happy to have the opportunity.”
Miami at Bowling Green, 7 p.m., 980, 1450
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