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RedHawk women brace for first-place showdown at BG

It’s showdown time in the Mid-American Conference.

The Miami University women’s basketball team, picked to win the East Division this season, will head north tonight to face defending East champion Bowling Green at the Stroh Center.

“We are ready because we are led by two very talented seniors (Courtney Osborn and Kirsten Olowinski), our guards have been playing very well, and we’re very deep in the post,” RedHawks coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “We have a lot of different options to compete with them.”

MU (11-6) and the Falcons (12-5) are 3-1 in the East and tied for first place after Akron and Buffalo both lost Wednesday night.

Fantanarosa said BGSU has developed into Miami’s biggest conference rival “because of their most recent successes.”

“We have a lot of respect for their program, but after last year and where we are this year, we’re back to where we should be,” she continued. “Miami’s back to being a contender, and when you’re the top teams in the MAC, it becomes a rivalry.”

The RedHawks have won five of their last six games, but are on a seven-game losing streak against Bowling Green. MU’s last win over the Falcons was March 4, 2009 in Oxford.

“This is the defending champion, and it’s the toughest arena in the MAC,” Fantanarosa said. “They have a lot of returners. We have to see how much progress we’ve made from last year.”

“We’re still trying to fight adversity, but I’m really confident in where we are now,” Miami junior forward Erica Almady said. “We’re just going to keep taking steps up and no backward steps.”

Bowling Green is under the direction of first-year coach Jennifer Roos, an 11-year assistant in the program. The Falcons like to shoot 3-pointers (they’ve launched 353 and are shooting 32.9 percent this year) and have five players with double-digit makes.

Senior guard Chrissy Steffen (11.2) and redshirt junior forward Alexis Rogers (10.4) are BGSU’s top scorers. Rogers, a Lakota West High School graduate who started her collegiate career at Duke, is also the No. 1 rebounder (6.3).

“They’re still a very ball-screen team on offense and a physical, play-the-gaps type of halfcourt defensive team,” Fantanarosa said. “They get their energy from their 3-pointers. That’s been the staple of Bowling Green basketball. They penetrate and kick to set each other up.”

“Because we’re on the road, we’re not going to focus on the tempo as much as the fundamentals. Taking care of the ball is going to be No. 1.”

Bowling Green recorded 64-55 and 61-58 wins over the RedHawks last year. In those two games, the Falcons were 53 of 70 at the foul line — Miami was 16 of 21.

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