The Miami University men’s basketball is in a groove, and the Rockets were not about to throw it off Saturday.
The RedHawks led from start to finish, using solid defense and strong bench play to defeat the University of Toledo 53-40, extending their current winning streak to four games.
Miami wasted no time in grabbing the momentum, building a quick 11-2 lead just seven minutes in. Senior forward Michael Bramos got off to a hot start, scoring seven of Miami’s first 11 points en route to a game-high 15 points.
“I got a couple of dunks in the beginning, and those high percentage shots helped me get going a little bit,” Bramos said. “We started off doing really well, turning turnovers into points.”
The RedHawks built a 30-15 lead at halftime, while holding Toledo to just 22 percent shooting from the field in the first half. Miami held Toledo’s leading scorer on the season, senior guard Tyron Kent, to just one point through the first 20 minutes.
Another big contributor for the ‘Hawks was senior guard Carl Richburg, who came off the bench to play 30 minutes and tally nine points, five assists and three steals. Miami’s bench outscored Toledo’s 22-7 for the game.
“Bench play is really important,” Richburg said. “Every once in a while the starters need a lift, or a little spark. Whatever we can do to provide that extra spark to the game or bring a different dimension to the team, that’s always going to be good and help us compete in the MAC.”
In the second half, Miami continued to play good defense and not allow Toledo any opportunities to make the game closer.
“We just stayed with the game plan and played good defense,” Bramos said. “They never really got any closer than 12 or 13 points, and we focused on keeping it that way. I think we were very successful in doing that.”
Adding to Miami’s balanced attack, senior forward Tyler Dierkers, last week’s MAC player of the week, contributed 10 points and 15 rebounds, his second double-double in three games. Sophomore forward Nick Winbush came off the bench to score 10 points in just 13 minutes.
Another statistic a key to the RedHawks’ victory was second chance points. Miami held the advantage in this category 11-0. Dierkers was a primary player in this aspect, as eight of his 15 rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Toledo was led in scoring by sophomore forward Mohamed Lo with a career-high 13 points. Kent finished with just five points on 2 of 11 shooting.
“We’ve just been looking at this season as a journey,” Richburg said. “We’re not really worried about the little things that come up throughout the year. All the team’s are banged up at this point, so we’re just putting all that stuff behind us and focusing on maintaining that urge to take the championship in Cleveland (in the MAC tournament).”
The victory kept Miami just one game behind the University at Buffalo in the MAC. The RedHawks will play Buffalo in the final game of the regular season in a game that could be crucial in terms of seeding for the MAC tournament.
The victory pulls Coach Coles within four MAC wins of tying the all-time record for conference wins.
The win also improves Miami to 9-4 since losing their second leading scorer, senior guard Kenny Hayes, to injury earlier this season. In his absence, other players on the team have had to step up to fill the void.
“It’s been more than just one person filling in,” Richburg said. “Me, Kramer (Soderberg), Nick (Winbush), Rodney (Haddix II), we’ve all done this together to try and pick up the slack. The starters as well have stepped up. If we all chip in as a team and come together as a group, then we should be able to find some balance. Kenny was a huge force, so we all have to step up in our own ways.”
Next up for Miami is a game at Central Michigan University Feb. 10. The next home game for the ‘Hawks is Feb. 14 against Western Michigan University.