‘New season’ for Miami, which opens MAC Tournament vs. Kent State

Miami's Dae Dae Grant fires a shot during a game vs. Lamar earlier this season at Millett Hall. Miami Athletics photo

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Miami's Dae Dae Grant fires a shot during a game vs. Lamar earlier this season at Millett Hall. Miami Athletics photo

At first glance, some might consider Miami to be lucky.

The RedHawks’ 76-63 win over Eastern Michigan on Friday at Millett Hall guaranteed the seventh seed in the Mid-American Conference men’s basketball tournament that is scheduled to get under way on Thursday at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Arena.

That meant Miami would avoid meeting top-seeded Toledo in the first round. But facing second-seeded Kent State is no bonus.

The Golden Flashes are riding a 12-game winning streak going into the tournament. They bounced back from being 9-9 overall and 4-4 in the MAC to finish just a game behind the regular-season champion Rockets at 16-4 in the conference and 21-9 overall.

Nobody knows Kent State’s capabilities better than fifth-year Miami coach Jack Owens, who watched the Golden Flashes rush to leads of 11-1 and 36-12 on the way to a 50-24 halftime lead and 78-65 win on Feb. 1 at Millett Hall in Oxford. The RedHawks, playing without injured seniors Dalonte Brown and James Beck, were able to cobble together a 17-0 run fueled by three 3-pointers from 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Kamari Williams, but they still trailed by 13 after the run. Miami later cut the deficit to 11 points, but Kent State pulled away down the stretch in the only game between the two teams this season.

The Golden Flashes are led by 6-foot-1, 185-pound fourth-year junior point guard Sincere Carry, who’s in his first year at Kent State after transferring from Duquesne. The Solon, Ohio, native ranks fifth in the MAC with an average of 18.7 points per game, second with an average of 4.8 assists per game and first with an average of 36.4 minutes per game.

Justyn Hamilton, a 6-11, 208-pound fifth-year senior in his second season with the Golden Flashes after transferring from Temple, anchors the defense. Hamilton is tied with two other players for first place in the MAC with an average of 1.3 blocked shots per game.

“They’re good,” Owens said about Kent State. “Their point guard is a good player, but their bigs are good as well. They won here when we didn’t have Dalonte and James. We’re looking forward to seeing how we can compete in the tournament.”

The RedHawks (14-17, 8-12) have won their last two games, both against teams that finished below them in the MAC regular-season standings.

“I thought we had a good week with two wins, one on the road and the other on Senior Night,” Owens said. “That was a good way to send the seniors off and prepare for Cleveland. It was extremely exciting to send those guys out on a high note. It felt good. It was a good week and something we want to build off of as we transition into this week and prepare for Kent State.”

The Miami-Kent State winner wil meet the winner of Thursday’s nightcap between third-seeded and defending-champion Ohio and sixth-seeded Ball State in Friday’s semifinals.

The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Miami hasn’t reached a MAC Tournament semifinal since 2010 and hasn’t won a championship since Doug Penno’s famous buzzer-beating banked 3-pointer from the right wing in the RedHawks’ 53-52 win over Akron in 2007. That shot still is celebrated on the Millett Hall video board before RedHawk home games.

Owens believes Miami is on the right track to make similar noise in Cleveland.

“First of all, we’re playing the right way,” he said. “I like the way we’re moving the basketball on the offensive end. I like the way we’re sharing the ball. Our defense has been solid. We’ve been hanging our hat on our defense as well as getting better offense. If we continue to do those things on both sides of the ball, we’ll be in good shape.

“It’s a new season. We’re 0-0. We all understand that we have to win the conference tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament. This is a huge opportunity for us. At the end of the day, we have the opportunity to win the conference tournament and reach our ultimate goal.”

Miami junior Dae Dae Grant on Wednesday was named All-MAC honorable mention. He averages 17.6 points per game.

TODAY’S GAME

Miami vs. Kent State, 4 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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