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Cooper turns to freshmen in Miami’s starting lineup

John Cooper used a new-look starting lineup Wednesday night, and it seemed to help his Miami University men’s basketball team.

Freshmen Geovonie McKnight and Reggie Johnson replaced Allen Roberts and Jon Harris in the starting five against Western Michigan at Millett Hall, with regulars Quinten Rollins, Will Sullivan and Will Felder staying in the lineup.

The Broncos emerged with a 72-68 victory, but was Cooper sending a message to Roberts and Harris?

“I wasn’t looking for anything, and I’m not looking to send any messages either,” the MU coach said. “I’m going to play the guys that are doing on a consistent level what we’re trying to get done. It doesn’t just happen on just one end of the court. It happens on both ends of the court, but you also have to bring the right mentality on a day-in, day-out basis.

“More than anything, (you have to) hold guys accountable. I’m held accountable. At some point, if we keep having years like this, then I’m going to get a call into the office. So they have to be held accountable also.”

It was the first collegiate start for McKnight, who collected nine points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. He found out he was starting right before the game.

“I just try to play the same, coming off the bench or starting,” McKnight said. “It doesn’t really matter to me.”

The down side: The RedHawks shot 38.6 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from the 3-point arc and 63.3 percent from the foul line. They also committed 19 turnovers.

“We had some plays down the stretch that we didn’t execute and it cost us,” Felder said. “I gave up one big offensive rebound that I feel like was pretty big in the game. It’s plays like that that make you lose by one or two points.”

“I’ve seen some things happen that I just never see happen, whether it’s us missing layups, whether it’s us driving through the middle of the floor for a layup and we lose our balance, all those things,” Cooper said. “Sometimes they say what can go wrong will go wrong at times. Some of our turnovers are just baffling.”

Finding a way: WMU coach Steve Hawkins turned to baseball analogies when describing his team’s play.

“For us, it was kind of like a pitcher not having his best stuff,” Hawkins said. “We really didn’t have it all night long, but that had a lot to do with Miami. I thought Miami had us on our heels all night. The other thing was, we didn’t get a lot of hits, but the ones we got were with runners on base. When we didn’t turn it over, we were able to score.”

Foul-plagued Shayne Whittington, the Broncos’ 6-foot-10 center, managed 13 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes. He converted a field goal and two clinching free throws in the last 53.2 seconds.

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