Miami coach on daunting schedule to end season: ‘Just stay the course’

Miami Redhawks guard Dae Dae Grant drives on Western Michigan guard William Boyer-Richard during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
Miami Redhawks guard Dae Dae Grant drives on Western Michigan guard William Boyer-Richard during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

As if Miami’s season-ending men’s basketball schedule already wasn’t daunting enough, the Mid-American Conference piled on last week.

The MAC announced on Wednesday that RedHawk road games at Central Michigan and Western Michigan, which were postponed from earlier in the season because of coronavirus-related protocols, had been rescheduled for this week. Miami is scheduled to face Central Michigan on Tuesday and stay in the state to face Western Michigan on Thursday.

Suddenly, a schedule that called for four road games out of the RedHawks’ last five became six of the last seven. The only home game in the mix is Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. matchup with Kent State, which goes into the week 14-5 overall, 11-4 and in third place in the MAC, including a 83-76 win over Miami on Feb. 12.

Apparently to be left unplayed are scheduled home games against Ohio and Eastern Michigan, both postponed from earlier in the season.

“It changes a lot of things, not just from the basketball standpoint, but from the academic standpoint as well,” fourth-year Miami coach Jack Owens said during a Monday Zoom media session about suddenly squeezing in two road games in the last two weeks of the regular season. “You have to figure out how to set up study tables on the road and stay on course. You have to factor in practice. At the same time, we’re excited to be playing. It’s not ideal to be playing as many road games as we’re scheduled to play, but we’ll take each and every opportunity we have and make the most of it.”

Miami (9-9, 6-7) at least showed signs of being able to successfully navigate the road this past weekend. Sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant scored 26 points, two shy of matching his career high, and senior forward Dalonte Brown logged his second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds as the RedHawks journeyed to one of the MAC’s farthest-flung outposts – DeKalb, Ill. – and edged Northern Illinois, 69-64, on Saturday. The win completed a regular-season sweep of a Huskies team that goes into the week with the MAC’s worst record and left Miami with one more conference win than last season.

The 6-foot-7 Brown has reached double figures in rebounds in each of the RedHawks’ last three games, and with limited practice opportunities, Owens hopes the Toledo native can use the last five regular-season games to finish his Miami career with a flourish.

“Just stay the course,” Owens said. “We’re not practicing as much, so it’s going to have to be in games that we have to continue to stay the course. I thought Dalonte set the tone by crashing the boards and rebounding at a high level. Dae Dae Grant played extremely well. Isaiah Coleman-Lands does things that don’t show up on the box sheet. Mekhi Lairy played at a high level, and Precious Ayah did some good things.

“Guys are playing hard at a high level, and that’s what it takes.”

Miami goes into the week seventh in the 12-team MAC standings, owning a one-game lead over Ball State by virtue of an 81-71 win over the Cardinals on Jan. 19 at Millett Hall. The top eight teams qualify for the MAC Tournament, which is scheduled to open on March 11 at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The RedHawks have faced four of the five teams remaining on their schedule, losing at home to Akron and on the road at Kent State and logging home wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan. The only team they haven’t faced is Central Michigan (6-12, 2-9), which hasn’t played since Feb. 6.

“We’ll dive into the film and do the best we can as regards to preparation – like everyone else who’s dealt with COVID,” Owens said. “It’s about us competing and playing at a high level.”

TUESDAY’S GAME

Miami at Central Michigan, 5 p.m., 980, 1450

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