As the Miami University men’s basketball team hits the mid-point of its season, the RedHawks are in a three-way tie for first place in the MAC East standings.
With a conference record of 2-1, Miami sits with Ohio University, who recently defeated Charlie’s bunch in Millett Hall, and the University at Buffalo, who Miami tangles with at home Saturday. Along with this conference record, the RedHawks also earned a 9-6 overall record after playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Therefore, with all due respect to Clint Eastwood, I think it is time to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of Miami’s first half.
Miami’s senior forward is the team leader and has played like it. This season, he has averaged just fewer than 18 points and just fewer than four rebounds per game. What these stats do not show is how Bramos can single-handedly take over a game and put a victory in the RedHawks win column.
In December, Miami went on a four-game win streak where its average
margin of victory was 19 points. Bramos was the catalyst for these wins, averaging more than 27 points and shooting better than 54 percent during this stretch. As Miami winds through the winter months of MAC play and toward the MAC tournament in Cleveland, Bramos should be the major weapon in the offensive arsenal.
Miami’s play versus UCLA, Xavier and Dayton
The team’s overall positive from the first half of the season was the play versus UCLA, Xavier and Dayton, all on the road. As of Jan. 17, the ESPN/USA Today poll ranked UCLA No. 7 and Xavier No. 16 in the nation, while in-state rival Dayton sports a 16-2 record.
Despite this, the RedHawks played extremely solid in all three games and could have won all three. Miami was impressive in its second game of the season, losing a hard-fought battle to UCLA, 64-59. In the contest versus Xavier, Miami led at halftime before falling to the Musketeers by seven, 60-53. When the RedHawks traveled to Dayton, Miami forced the Flyers to play their kind of slow, defensive basketball, but could not come out victorious, losing 45-40.
While any RedHawk fan would have preferred victories in these games, they should still be seen as positives. As Charlie Coles leads his team further into MAC play, the lessons learned in these games should give Miami an advantage because they traveled to these teams’ home arenas and gave them all they could handle. Playing against talented opponents early in a season can make a squad like Miami better and more prepared when the pressure is on in March.
Kenny Hayes’ wrist injury
When point guard Kenny Hayes went down with a wrist injury before MAC play, many Miami fans knew just how crucial this was.
In the eight games Hayes played this season, he averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 assists per game. These stats do not begin to tell of the impact Hayes brought to the RedHawks offense. Hayes is a solid ball-handler who is not only capable of driving by defenders to score in the paint, but can also drain the three-point shot.
Hayes was a perfect compliment to Bramos because opposing defenses could not just focus their attention on No. 24 without getting burned by Hayes. In his absence, Miami will have to look to others to step up and help the offense.
Miami’s losses to Pittsburgh and West Virginia
Miami’s ugliest portion of the season thus far was its losses to Pittsburgh and West Virginia. These games weren’t just losses, they were outright beatings. The RedHawks lost these two games by a combined 65 points. In the game versus Pittsburgh, Bramos did not make a shot from the field, and only tallied two points.
What makes these losses disappointing is that the RedHawks went into both games with momentum. Before the Pittsburgh game, Miami made a great showing versus UCLA. The team had to be riding high knowing they played extremely well versus one of the nation’s best teams. Before traveling to Morgantown, W.Va., Miami enjoyed its best four-game stretch of the season. However, both these teams sent the RedHawks back to Oxford depleted and dejected.
The best thing Charlie’s crew can do is learn from the mistakes made in these two games. If this team can learn from the highs and lows of the first half of the season, they can ensure the season ends on a successful note.