Feb. 28, 2005
REDHAWKS AND BOBCATS COLLIDE IN REGULAR-SEASON FINALE: With third place in the Mid-American Conference East Division and a chance at a higher seed on the line, two of the MAC's oldest rivals collide for the 59th time when Miami University makes the trek to Athens, Ohio, to take on Ohio University Tuesday. Coming off only its second loss in the past eight games, Miami collides with a Bobcat squad that is trying to shake off back-to-back losses and has dropped five of its last seven. The RedHawks will have their work cut out for them, as Ohio owns an impressive 9-3 record in The Convo that includes a 6-1 MAC mark.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS: An up-tempo team that ranks fourth in the MAC in scoring (68.5) but last in scoring defense (77.5), Ohio shook off a shaky 2-6 start and has posted a 9-9 record since. Coached by sixth-year mentor Lynn Bria, the Bobcats won five of their first eight league games on the way to clinching home court advantage for the first round of the MAC Tournament but have struggled down the stretch, most recently absorbing a 35-point loss at Kent State (Feb. 23) and a 16-point loss at Ball State (Feb. 26.). Freshman guard Simone Redd has emerged since the start of league play and leads the Bobcats at 11.3 ppg, knocking down a team-high 32 3-point field goals and shooting 42.3 percent from the field. Senior forward Kristian Kirkpatrick adds 10.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg, while fellow senior Erin Isbell ranks among the MAC's rebounding leaders at 8.1 boards per game.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES: Miami faces its most-played rival for the 59th time Tuesday, when it travels to Ohio University. Since the series began with a 60-54 Ohio win in 1974-75, Miami has opened up a 42-16 series edge over the Bobcats. Miami has won 12 of the last 13 meetings versus Ohio--including a current 10-game winning streak--and has not lost to the Green and White since an 87-68 loss in Athens in 2000. While Miami has controlled the overall series, it has been difficult at The Convo, where the Red and White owns a 16-10 edge and has won its last two visits by an average of just 5.0 points per game, including an overtime escape in 2003.
THE LAST MEETING--Miami 75, Ohio 71 (Jan. 8, 2005): Miami stormed back from a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to shock Ohio and improve to 2-0 in the MAC. After Miami led much of the first half, Ohio seemed to sway the momentum and rallied for a 36-36 haftime tie. Miami trailed by a point with 13:29 to play, but the Bobcats exploded over the next 3:30, forging a 16-0 run that was aided by an 8-1 rebounding edge and three steals. Miami regained its footing with a 12-0 run and completed its comeback by knotting the score at 69-69 with 2:22 to play. A three-point play by Cindi Merrill would put Miami up for good and the RedHawks hit enough key free throws down the stretch to clinch the win. Nicki Motto led Miami with 22 points, including five 3-point field goals.
POSTSEASON POSTURING: With another wild MAC women's basketball race coming down to the final regular-season game, Miami's contest with Ohio Tuesday carries serious postseason implications. The RedHawks presently own a one-game lead over the Bobcats, but Ohio would tie Miami in the standings and jump the RedHawks' in the all-important MAC Tournament seeding with a win. Following is a breakdown of where Miami could find itself when the MAC Tournament brackets come out late Tuesday night:
No. 8--With a loss , Miami would tie Ohio in the final MAC standings, but a Kent State win over last-place Buffalo would give the Bobcats the seeding tiebreaker over Miami and drop the RedHawks to No. 8.
No. 7--With a win or Kent State loss to Buffalo Miami would clinch the No. 7 seed, which would pit it against Central Michigan if the tournament were seeded today.
No. 6--If Miami wins and Toledo loses at Eastern Michigan, Miami would jump the Rockets in the standings and move into the No. 6 seed.
GAMETIME SET FOR FIRST-ROUND GAME: The gametime for Miami's March 5 first-round MAC Tournament game has been set for 2 p.m. The RedHawks are hosting a first-round game for the first time since 2002, after having first-round byes the past two years, and have not traveled for a first-round MAC Tournament contest since the field expanded to include all 13 teams in 2000. Miami's likely opponents for the first-round game could include Central Michigan, Northern Illinois or Western Michigan.
TENACIOUS "Ds": Tuesday's game should provide plenty of excitement, as the MAC's two most aggressive defenses lock horns. Since the start of MAC play, Ohio has forced a league-high average of 20.4 turnovers per game, while Miami ranks second at 20.1 opponent miscues per outing. The teams also rank first and second in steals, with Miami swiping 11.67 steals per contest and Ohio making 11.53 steals per game. Perhaps in Miami's favor, is the fact that Ohio also is committing a league-high 21.6 turnovers per game in league play, while the Red and White is surrendering a league low 14.1 turnovers per contest.
SECOND CHANCES: Another area that could be key in Tuesday's contest is the offensive glass, where both Miami and Ohio have been very strong this season. The Bobcats lead the MAC in overall offensive rebounds at 16.65 per game, while Miami ranks a strong second at 15.04. Since the beginning of MAC play, however, the RedHawks have been the league's best on the offensive glass, averaging 15.80 offensive rebounds per game compared to Ohio's 14.60. Three of the league's best offensive rebounders since the start of MAC play will be on the floor in Ohio's Erin Isbell (2.93) and Miami's Kim Smith (2.87) and Laura Markwood (2.80).
ROADHAWKS: Miami must continue battling on the road, where it has posted a 50-63 (.442) record under head coach Maria Fantanarosa. Last season, the RedHawks went 9-6 when playing on an opponent's home court and 2-1 in neutral site contests. Miami, which owns a 6-8 mark way from Millett Hall, has posted a 3-4 road mark since the start of MAC play, including a four-game January road drought that ended with back-to-back road wins at Northern Illinois and at Western Michigan this past February. Miami is trying to win three straight road games for the first time this season.
WHAT'S NEXT: Miami begins its 19th MAC Tournament by hosting a first-round MAC Tournament game Saturday at 2 p.m. in Millett Hall. Under Maria Fantanarosa, Miami has hosted three first-round MAC Tournament games and won all three. The RedHawks have been the league's most consistent MAC Tournament presence over the past four seasons, making a league-best four straight MAC Semifinal appearances.