RedHawks remain hopeful despite losing streak

The last seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament is a very real possibility for Miami University’s men’s basketball team. The RedHawks couldn’t care less.

The final round of regular-season games will be held Friday and Saturday, and if the MAC tournament started today, MU would be the 11th (and final) seed and open at Buffalo on Monday night. A Miami loss at Ohio on Saturday would clinch the last seed.

“That’s fine. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to play somebody,” said RedHawks coach John Cooper, whose team is riding an eight-game losing streak and is 8-20 overall, 3-12 in the MAC.

“Akron and OU are the class of the league, but they’ve shown that they’re beatable,” Miami senior center Vince Legarza said. “We’re just trying to get going and get to Cleveland and make some noise. That’s what everyone’s thinking. We’ve all got a chance.”

Jon Harris (21) and Legarza (10) both had career-high scoring totals for MU in Tuesday night’s 72-58 loss at Akron (24-5, 14-1).

Harris was 8 of 12 from the field, 4 of 6 beyond the arc, while Legarza sank 5 of 7 field goals.

“That’s what you expect from a junior,” Cooper said of Harris’ performance. “He went and got some rebounds and everything. What I saw (Tuesday), that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

And what about Legarza, who added six rebounds in the best statistical game of his career?

“Good for him,” Cooper said. “He’s taking it on home the right way.”

Harris went 15 straight games without scoring in double figures. He broke that streak with a 16-point effort against Kent State last Saturday.

“I’m just playing with more confidence, playing more aggressive, playing loose,” Harris said. “Everybody’s been telling me to just relax and play, and I’ve been telling myself that every single day. I appreciate the guys sticking in there with me when I was struggling.”

Miami played without redshirt junior guard Allen Roberts on Tuesday. He injured his right knee last weekend, and it’s the same knee that sidelined him for the entire 2011-12 season.

Roberts is continuing to be evaluated. He’s listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.

Akron (1), Ohio (2), Western Michigan (3) and Kent State (4) have clinched their spots in the MAC tournament. The No. 5 seed will get a bye to Cleveland as well, and seeds 6-11 will play at campus sites Monday.

The RedHawks will travel to Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Ball State or Bowling Green in the first round.

Akron has won 20 of its last 21 games and spent some time in the Top 25. Yet the Zips haven’t been dominant on a game-by-game basis in the MAC.

“We’re not that much better (than everybody else). We’re just consistently better,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “We’d probably win the series, but any of those teams can beat us on any given night.

“The other thing is, we kind of play the same against everybody. So when we go to the MAC tournament, can we ratchet up anymore? We play hard most every night, so we can’t really ratchet up unless we play better individually. Some other teams in this league have been able to take that jump in the MAC tournament. It’s a little harder for us.”

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