It was a triumphant return home for the Miami University women’s basketball squad.
The RedHawks played at Millett Hall for the first time since Dec. 4 on Thursday night and put on a show for a crowd of 491, leveling Mid-American Conference rival Ohio 78-56.
Hannah Robertson (21), Kirsten Olowinski (19) and Courtney Osborn (12) topped the point list for MU, which shot 60.4 percent from the floor and made all 15 of its free-throw attempts.
“It’s good to be home,” Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “(The players) really need routine, and we haven’t had routine in at least eight games. Going to class, shooting at a certain time, eating at a certain time … they’re almost conditioned on game day to be in this regimented thing, and at home, it’s the easiest to do it. So getting them in a routine again I think is very beneficial to the personality of this team.”
Fantanarosa used 11 players, nine of which played at least 10 minutes, as the RedHawks wore down the injury-plagued Bobcats.
Ohio was game, chopping a 36-15 deficit to 43-36 early in the second half, yet was simply overmatched. The Bobcats were forced to add players from the school’s volleyball and field hockey teams this week.
“We’re not making any more excuses for our circumstances right now. We’ve just got to go out and play,” Ohio coach Semeka Randall said. “I have the utmost respect for our basketball team tonight because I thought we competed for 40 minutes.
“Now was there some highs and lows? Absolutely. But I’m just really proud of our team in terms of the gritty performance. We’ve got players laying their bodies out on the line for us.”
The Bobcats had no answers for Olowinski down low. The 6-foot-1 senior from Erie, Pa., hit 8 of 11 shots and collected 15 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots.
It was the 36th career double-double for Olowinski, giving her sole possession of the school record she was sharing with Monica Niemann.
“It’s going to sound cliche, but I couldn’t do it without the team,” Olowinski said. “It’s one of those things if everyone’s playing well, it makes it easy for everyone. I think our chemistry is finally coming together.”
Fantanarosa said Olowinski is a blue-collar player that’s deserving of school records because of her consistent effort. She’s also the program’s all-time leading rebounder and is 15 boards away from 1,000.
“It’s taken her four years now to hear us,” Fantanarosa said. “She’s had the green light since her freshman year, and there’s a sense of urgency, a sense of ownership now in her offensive game. She’s a mismatch problem for other teams. At times she wants to look like she’s a role player, but she’s not a role player. She has too much in her game.”
Robertson’s offensive output matched her career-best effort. It was the second game back for the junior guard, who didn’t play on Jan. 5 or 10 because of an ankle injury.
“It felt good to get back out there and be playing with my teammates,” Robertson said.
“Hannah is just a warrior,” Fantanarosa said. “She brings so much heart to our team. She’s just a passionate, loves-the-game kind of player, and you can see it in her work.”
Robertson made up for several turnovers by burying a trio of treys in a three-minute span after Ohio closed the gap to 43-36. She sparked a 23-7 surge by MU.
“We kind of needed to take a breath and look at each other and say, ‘Hey, we could be playing a lot better than this right now,’ ” Robertson said of the Bobcats’ run early in the second half. “I think the important thing was not to panic at that point and just believe in our defense.”
Osborn had a generally quiet night for the RedHawks. She was 2 of 7 from the field and 6 of 6 at the line while notching eight assists and three boards.
Haley Robertson and Jessica Rupright scored eight points apiece, and Miami earned a 37-20 advantage on the boards. MU also committed 20 turnovers, nine more than Ohio.
“It’s nice that we were able to go deep into our bench,” Fantanarosa said. “At times we didn’t click because we’re playing everyone, but we haven’t had everyone at practice, so you’re going to have turnovers, you’re going to have missed assignments on defense. At the same time, we got better today. You got to see the tempo up, you got to see the percentages up, because we’re deeper and getting healthier.”
Randall was impressed with Miami’s quality depth. “They played everybody on the bench, and I think they even played a couple people that were in the stands,” the Bobcats coach said. “She did her job in terms of having a fantastic game plan against us.”
Kiyanna Black fired in 26 points and Erin Bailes added 10 for Ohio, which fell to 5-10 overall and 0-3 in the MAC East Division. The RedHawks are 10-6, 2-1.
One of the few negatives for MU came when sophomore guard Courtney Larson went down with 6:02 remaining. Fantanarosa said the extent of Larson’s injury was unknown, but she confirmed that it was her right knee, the same knee that caused her to miss the first five games of the season.
“She’s definitely emotional right now,” Fantanarosa said. “Hope for the best.”
Both teams return to action at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Miami will be at home against Eastern Michigan, while the Bobcats are set to host Bowling Green.