Miami University’s men’s basketball team is hoping for a little Millett Hall magic tonight.
The RedHawks are 5-2 on their home floor this season and may need some of that good karma as Mid-American Conference rival Ohio invades.
“Just saying OU’s coming up should be enough to motivate us,” MU redshirt junior center Drew McGhee said. “Everyone knows it’s a big rivalry game for us, and we don’t have the most positive emotion when the thought is OU.”
The Bobcats were an NCAA Sweet 16 team last season and returned all five starters from that squad. They’re 13-5 overall and 4-0 in the MAC, tied with Akron for first place in the East Division.
If Ohio is vulnerable, though, it’s on the road. The Bobcats are 12-1 at the Convocation Center and 1-4 elsewhere this year.
“That can be misleading because of the people they’ve played on the road,” said Miami coach John Cooper, with Ohio losing to Robert Morris, Memphis, Massachusetts and Oklahoma away from home. “But there’s very few teams in the country that play as well on the road as they do at home.”
First-year Bobcats coach Jim Christian said the key for his troops is “our effort, our mentality on the road. Our ability to take care of the ball and make jump shots. That’s kind of who we are.”
Ohio is the conference’s best shooting team and has three players scoring in double digits: D.J. Cooper (13.9), Walter Offutt (11.7) and Reggie Keely (11.4).
The Bobcats are a versatile crew with good size and speed. Cooper, a 6-foot senior guard and the MAC’s all-time assist leader, is averaging 8.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
“When we make jump shots and play hard, we’re pretty good,” Christian said. “When we don’t put pressure on the basketball, we let teams get comfortable. The formula hasn’t changed whether you’re playing at home or away. We are who we are. We’re not re-inventing ourselves at this point.”
While Ohio is riding a five-game winning streak, the RedHawks (7-9, 2-2) are coming off a 65-58 loss at Eastern Michigan. MU was 6 of 24 from 3-point range, and that doomed a pretty solid effort.
“I don’t like to lose, but that’s a game we can live with,” Cooper said. “I thought our effort was something we can build on.
“They’re not unbeatable,” he added of the Bobcats. “But we have to play extremely well and eliminate mistakes to have a chance to win.”
Christian is particularly impressed with Miami forward Will Felder. The 6-7 redshirt junior is getting 10.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest while shooting 54.7 percent from the field.
“Felder is a great player for them,” Christian said. “He’s an inside-outside guy. He’ll shoot 3s, he’ll post, he’s real athletic.”
Ohio at Miami, 7 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, 1450, 1230, 980, 101.3