Jumping out to a big lead early in the first half, the Miami University women’s basketball team survived a late second half push by the University of Akron Zips to win its second straight Mid-American Conference game 63-49 Wednesday night at Millett Hall.
Miami opened up a 23-point lead in the first half, thanks to Akron’s cold shooting and costly turnovers. The Zips didn’t make a basket until 10:34 of the first half and turned the ball over 23 times during the game, leading to 23 Miami points.
“I felt tonight that our defense created our offense,” Miami Head Coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “For most of the game we played with a good defensive effort and strong offensive execution.”
As they have been all year, the RedHawks were led once again by senior Amanda Jackson and junior Jenna Schone. Although neither lit up the scoreboard, Jackson had 14 points and Schone 15; both played key roles in getting their teammates involved. Schone had 11 assists, tying a career high, while Jackson constantly drew two Akron defenders whenever she had the ball.
“Whether I hit a shot or get an assist it’s all equal,” Schone said. “Getting points on the board just pumps me up.”
Schone’s ability to pass the ball around opened up the game quickly for the RedHawks, Fantanarosa added.
“(Schone is) very unselfish with the ball,” Fantanarosa said. “When she can set up people she makes the whole team better. She can score in different ways, not just with her shooting.”
Despite shooting just 29.5 percent from the field for the game, Akron chipped away at Miami’s 23-poing lead during the last few minutes of the first half and the second half. In the RedHawks’ first game back since Winter Break, the team shot 30 percent from the free throw line, a stat Fantanarosa was not pleased with. Also discouraging was Akron’s 55 boards, including 22 offensive rebounds, compared to Miami’s 43 total rebounds.
“We always worry about their focus during the first couple of games back (from break),” Fantanarosa said. “We have good shooters and I know they’ll bounce back.”
The Zips would close to within nine late in the second half, however, strong supporting play from junior Ashley Hawkins and sophomore Courtney Reed would hold off the Zips for the rest of the game.
“Hawkins tonight played great defense,” Fantanarosa said. “She made them very tentative tonight and brought great defensive momentum to the team. I challenged the rest of the team to step it up defensively tonight.”
The increased role in players other than Schone and Jackson has grown over the past few games and has taken pressure off of the two leaders to score every time down the floor.
“When (the supporting players) are able to step up, it opens the whole floor,” Jackson said.
With her 14 points Wednesday night, Jackson needs just 93 points to pass Heather Cusick as Miami’s all-time leading scorer.
“It’s in the back of my head,” Jackson said. “What I care about is whether or not we get the win. I worry about that other stuff after the season.”
The RedHawks will be in action again this Saturday when they travel to Athens, Ohio to take on the Ohio University Bobcats.