The Miami University men’s basketball team (12-18, 8-10 MAC) hosts Kent State (16-15, 7-11 MAC) in the Mid-American Conference Tournament first round Monday. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The winner between the No. 8 seed RedHawks and the No. 9 seed Golden Flashes advances to Cleveland to face the victor of the matchup between No. 5 Ohio University and No. 12 Ball State University.
The two teams split the season series, with the ‘Hawks defeating Kent 73-61 on their home floor in their last matchup on March 4.
Miami head coach John Cooper said the Flashes will use that result as motivation in this upcoming contest.
“Obviously we just beat Kent State,” Cooper said. “Kent State has that sitting right there in their memory bank, trust me. So they’ll be ready to play. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. You have got to beat someone.”
In that Miami victory, senior forward Will Felder scored 24 points – his career-best as a RedHawk – and also pulled down nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Willie Moore was second on the ‘Hawks with 14 points.
The improved play of Moore late in the season has been a welcome sight to the Red and White, and it could not have come at a more opportune time. Moore scored a career-high 24 points in Miami’s loss Saturday to Ohio University, and is averaging 19 points in his last two games.
Moore credits his recent hot stretch to his hard work in practice paying off.
“I’ve just been staying involved, staying in the gym,” Moore said. “Just letting the game come to me finally and hitting open shots when they come.”
The Golden Flashes have lost two games in a row to close their season. They are led in scoring by junior guard Kris Brewer, who averages 11.7 points per game but shoots only 38 percent from the field. Second is junior guard Derek Jackson at 11 points per game.
Kent is in the middle of the MAC pack in almost every offensive and defensive category. The lone exception is 3-point shooting, where at 35 percent the Flashes rank third.
It has been a trying season for the ‘Hawks, but Cooper said he believes his team has improved over the course of the year.
“I think we’ve got better,” Cooper said. “I think this group started understanding what we needed to do to be successful … Are we always the team that makes the smartest decisions at times? No, we don’t. We break down, we do things we shouldn’t do. But it isn’t because of a lack of effort.”
Leading the RedHawks in both scoring and rebounding is Felder at 14.6 points and 6.9 boards. Second is Geovonie McKnight at 9.7 points per game.
Senior guard Quinten Rollins has been particularly impressive for Miami down the stretch run. Over the last four games Rollins has posted averages of 10 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.5 steals.
The RedHawks will need contributions all across the board if they hope to parlay Monday night into a trip to Cleveland.
Fans can listen to the game on the sports channel at redhawkradio.com.