One team will savor a much-needed victory Saturday night at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena. For the other, the search will continue.
Miami (7-12) and CMU (9-11) are set to square off in a Mid-American Conference men’s basketball matchup of struggling squads. The RedHawks have lost four straight games — the Chippewas’ losing streak is three.
“The key for us is that we’ve got to take care of ourselves and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do,” MU coach John Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re not locked into our roles.”
First-year Central coach Keno Davis has six freshmen on his roster and said he’s focusing on the long haul.
“We know it’s a process,” Davis said. “I think it’s important for any team, but especially a young team with a new staff, that you don’t get too high after the wins or too low after the losses. You have to focus on improvement and effort, and we’ve pretty consistently been able to show that. I like what I’ve seen from my team.”
CMU has just one double-digit scorer, senior guard Kyle Randall (16.7). The Chippewas are putting up 24.5 treys per game and shooting 32.2 percent from that distance, with Randall and freshman forward Blake Hibbitts combining for 77 makes.
It’s a game that features teams with similar styles. Both prefer full-court, up-tempo basketball.
“It’s something that I want this program to be about,” Davis said. “You’re seeing some glimpses from us.”
Other facts to consider: These are the two worst teams in the MAC in scoring defense (70.6 for Central, 70.4 for Miami). And both coaches indicated that lineup changes are not out of the question.
“When you’ve got younger guys that you’re trying to motivate and keep them going in practice, sometimes changing that lineup may be re-energizing and motivating as well,” Davis said.
Cooper started his two freshmen, Geovonie McKnight and Reggie Johnson, in Wednesday’s 72-68 loss to Western Michigan. Everybody but Josh Sewell — “Coach’s decision,” Cooper said — saw action, and that included Jared Tadlock, who hadn’t played since Dec. 30.
“He earned it,” Cooper said of Tadlock, who won’t be at CMU because of a death in his family. “You try to put kids out there that try to do what you ask them to do, and he had. He went in and played hard.
“I always say there’s no such thing as sending a message. You earn your playing time. You show the coaches every day in practice that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s all it is. I don’t make this some grand deal here because it’s really not. It’s your track record, what you’ve proven, your attitude, your focus.”
Cooper liked his team’s effort against WMU, but said communication and attention to detail must improve.
Miami at Central Michigan, 7 p.m., 1450, 1230, 980, 101.3