Sam Hitchcock

Sophomore Antonio Ballard shoots a fade-away jumper during Miami’s 28-point victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies. The win moved Miami to 4-2 in MAC play.

From the very start Wednesday night, it was evident to everyone in attendance which team was superior.

The Miami University RedHawks cruised easily to an 80-52 win over Northern Illinois University as Antonio Ballard, Michael Bramos and Nick Winbush all scored in double figures.

Miami started out strong offensively and defensively in the first half as it hoped to learn from last game’s first half lag against the University at Buffalo. The RedHawks built a nice lead with about seven minutes left in the period when they went a 17-4 run to head into the locker room up 40-20. What contributed to this first-half run, however, hurt them four days earlier against the Bulls.

“Against Buffalo we were not there defensively,” senior Eric Pollitz said. “But against Northern Illinois we knew had to be the aggressor and that if we could do that it would help us offensively. We needed this victory.”

The RedHawks shot 53.6 percent in that opening period, the highest they have shot all season in the first half.

Miami imposed its dominance of defense by forcing 17 turnovers in the game. At times the Husky offense had no real direction other than to pass the ball around and throw up a shot. The ‘Hawks also won the assist battle 16-6, which led to a series of easy baskets to help the lead quickly grow to a seemingly insurmountable total.

In the second half, the RedHawks seemed to be toying with the Huskies. The game looked much like an NBA All-Star game with players displaying extraordinary athleticism during alley oops finished by Winbush and Ballard.

But the RedHawks extended such a favorable lead so early in the contest that they didn’t want to let the last half go without more hard work and hustle.

“When you get into situations like this,” Winbush said, “it is hard to stay sharp and execute. But you want to always try to simulate that game experience so you don’t want to let that go to waste. We know there are areas we need to work on and although it got a little sloppy we think we did a pretty good job for a while at least of executing our game plan.”

Indeed, execute their game plan they did, as the RedHawks extended the game to a 30-point blowout and forced the Huskies into delaying their inevitable defeat with fouls.

Much of the second half the RedHawk reserves got playing time and gave the fans a look into the future.

But what ended up being taken away from this game was the fact that when the RedHawks come prepared from the very beginning, with an aggressive mentality on both sides of the ball, they are extremely difficult to beat. This has been true all season but there have been entire halves of play where the RedHawks have seemingly forgotten to participate.

Up next they continue their grind in the MAC as they travel to Michigan to face off against Eastern Michigan University, another struggling MAC team.

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