The Miami University basketball team hosts the Timberwolves of Northwood University in its lone exhibition game Wednesday, before the start of the regular season on Nov. 8 at the University of Notre Dame.
Head coach John Cooper said the final result of the game is not as important as trying out different lineups and seeing his team execute against a real opponent.
“I’m not really looking at the score,” Cooper said. “I’m looking at our execution – are we executing our set plays, are we executing in defense? Typically that’s where you get your slippage, you get your slippage in games, so I’m looking for guys that can take what we’ve done on the practice court and then apply them in the game and still be disciplined enough to do the things that we’ve taught.”
The RedHawks finished 9-22 last season in Cooper’s first year at the helm. Despite last year’s underwhelming record which would seem to indicate the ‘Hawks are at the start of a long rebuilding project, Cooper pulled no punches when he talked about the goals for this year’s team.
“We come into the year with the same goals,” Cooper said. “It’s simple – we want to win the MAC [Mid-American Conference], we want to win the MAC tournament, and we want to compete in the NCAA tournament. Not just get into it, but we want to compete.”
Senior forward Will Felder agreed with his head coach.
“The first [goal] obviously is to win the [regular season] MAC championship,” Felder said. “The second one would be to win the MAC tournament and then to go to the NCAA tournament. Those are our goals in order for this year.”
Cooper said the team will rely on its veteran players to provide leadership both on and off the court to guide a team that will need numerous players to play bigger minutes than they ever have before.
“We have so many new faces,” Cooper said. “Our seniors have got to step up and they’ve gotta increase their role. That may not mean that they score more, it may not mean that, but just the sheer nature of them talking and being vocal and making sure that we’re doing the things that we wanna do … that’s important.”
Felder is one of the veteran players Cooper will be relying upon to provide leadership to his younger teammates. Felder earned Honorable Mention All-MAC honors last season as he posted 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Felder said he embraces the role of leader.
“Me being a senior this year the obvious role is leadership,” Felder said. “Then being a post player, to help down low. Last year we had kind of a hard year for rebounding so definitely I’m one of the guys that’s being looked to help that situation.”
Cooper said he was pleased with where his team is at this point in the process.
“Obviously it’s still very early and we’re not tested,” Cooper said. “One of the things that I will say to this point that I’m happy with this group is that we’ve picked up things pretty quickly as a group and I think early on here I think this is a group that seems to really enjoy each other and that we care. And that’s the start of it.”
Opening tip is set for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday.