The outcome was great. How Miami University’s men’s basketball team got there wasn’t so great.
It was a little over a month ago (Jan. 12) when the RedHawks traveled to Buffalo, built a 21-point lead, lost that lead in the last 10-plus minutes, then won by a point, 58-57.
“It was a game of utter dominations won by each team,” MU coach John Cooper said. “Their domination may have been better than ours because it only took them 10 1/2 minutes. There, somewhere in the middle, lies the tale of both teams.”
The Mid-American Conference East Division programs will square off again Saturday afternoon at Millett Hall. Miami is 8-15 overall and 3-8 in the MAC, a loser in seven of its last eight games. The Bulls are 10-15, 5-6.
“They’re playing better than we are right now,” said Cooper, who hopes to have a happy birthday today (he turns 44). “We’ve got our hands full.”
Game 1 of the series was marked by 2-of-19 shooting beyond the arc for the Bulls, who stormed back down the stretch behind their big men, Javon McCrea (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Cameron Downing (14 points).
Conventional wisdom would say Buffalo will come to Oxford and try to pound the ball inside.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is never assume anything about an upcoming game based on something that happened against that opponent in the prior game,” Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “We’re just trying to find a way to go forward consistently. We need to take a couple steps forward and not keep taking one or two steps back.”
The 6-foot-7 McCrea is one of the MAC’s top players, averaging 17.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The 6-9 Downing doesn’t start, yet is shooting 68.5 percent from the floor.
Cooper said he’s expecting an inside focus from Buffalo. “That’s what they’ll try to do, but that’s what everyone’s done against us,” he added. “There’s no secret.”
The RedHawks are finding wins hard to come by — seven of their losses have been by eight points or less. Witherspoon isn’t taking anything for granted.
“That team has played hard the whole season,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe they will not play hard against us. That’s pretty much a given.”
Buffalo at Miami, 3:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, 1450, 1230, 980, 101.3, 100.3