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RedHawks to open MAC women’s tourney against Bobcats

The start of the Mid-American Conference tournament finds Miami University’s women’s basketball team staring at a very familiar opponent.

The RedHawks ended the regular season with a 66-61 victory at Ohio on Wednesday. Now the Bobcats are invading Millett Hall today to kick off postseason play at 2 p.m.

“It’s an OU team that does not quit,” MU coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “We have to make sure that we’re very respectful of their athleticism, and that’s in transition, that’s with their penetration, that’s with their rebounding.”

It’s not a great matchup on paper. Miami (18-11) is seeded sixth and buried OU 78-56 in Oxford on Jan. 17. The Bobcats (6-22) are seeded 11th after tying Kent State for last place and winning a coin flip.

Yet Wednesday’s contest was competitive enough to give Ohio a jolt of confidence.

“It gave us a little bit of hope,” said Bobcats coach Semeka Randall, whose team has lost 15 of its last 16 games, beating only Kent during that stretch.

“But with Miami, you’re talking about two phenomenal players (in Courtney Osborn and Kirsten Olowinski) and the rest of the players follow their lead, so we realize we’re not going over there to just play anybody,” she added. “We’re going over there to play somebody that could easily get in the MAC championship game and do some special things.”

Both teams have been fighting the injury bug all season. The RedHawks have gotten freshman center Jessica Rupright back from a concussion, but starting forward Erica Almady (concussion) and sixth man Kristin Judson (foot) are out, and Fantanarosa isn’t sure when they’ll be ready to play again.

Osborn (18.4 ppg) and Olowinski (11.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg) are Miami’s foundation. Haley and Hannah Robertson are in the starting lineup as well, and Fantanarosa said freshman forward Hannah McCue will also start today.

“This is the hand we’re dealt, so how do we put ourselves in a position to be a little more successful? Our energy,” Fantanarosa said. “We’ve got to be very positive, very confident, very supportive of each other, but taking individual responsibility.

“I think this team has the mental ability and the physical ability to make a run. If we can keep them very focused on the task in the present, good things will come. If we start to look ahead or we don’t take care of the details, the injuries are going to get us and we’re going to be a little short.”

Ohio’s top scorers are junior guards Erin Bailes (10.9) and Shavon Robinson (10.2). The Bobcats are allowing 66.9 points per game.

Today’s victor will advance to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. and face the winner between No. 7 Buffalo (10-19) and No. 10 Northern Illinois (7-22).

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