Wednesday, February 20, 2002

For Miami, it's make-or-break time in MAC


Faces BG tonight looking to move up

By Ian Duthie
Enquirer contributor

        The importance of tonight's game between Miami and Bowling Green is great as teams position themselves for the Mid-American Conference Tournament. With only four regular-season games remaining, the RedHawks (11-14, 8-6) must win if they want to finish among the top three in the conference.

        “It's definitely a big game,” said Miami coach Charlie Coles, whose team is in fourth place in the East Division, one game behind BG, 1 1/2 behind Ohio and 5 1/2 behind Kent State. “But every game is big (at the end of the season), and every time we play Bowling Green it's big.”

        Losers of two straight, the RedHawks are coming off a 16-point loss at MAC-leading Kent State but return home, where they have won eight of 10 games this season, including all six conference games.

        Bowling Green (19-6, 9-5) lost to Toledo 66-62 in overtime on Monday and had little time to prepare for Miami, which has been off since Saturday.

        A victory would place BG in a tie for second in the division with Ohio; a loss would drop the Falcons into a third-place tie with Miami.

        The Falcons edged the RedHawks 64-61 on Feb.2 at Toledo.

        “That was as fortunate a win as we have had here,” Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich said. “We were very, very fortunate to win and need a better effort on the road.”

        The Falcons have dominated the series of late, winning five straight regular-season games. But Miami has beaten BG twice in the conference tournament the last three seasons.

        The top three teams in the conference automatically earn a trip to Cleveland in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals; the other 10 must play in a first-round game at a campus site.

        With its 14-1 conference mark, Kent State sits atop the East and 10-4 Ball State leads the weaker West. No other West team has a winning conference record.

        The RedHawks have their work cut out for them. Of Miami's four remaining games, three are at home. But MU plays both division leaders, and its four remaining foes have combined to win 70 percent of their conference games.

        With only three conference games remaining, the second-place Bobcats (15-8, 10-5) look to sit in the best position. After a nonconference game tonight with North Carolina, OU plays three games at home, including the finale against Bowling Green, where OU has lost only twice this season. “We have been consistently bad on the road and good at home,” Ohio coach Tim O'Shea said.

        With four games left, Bowling Green is done with Kent State, but Miami and Ohio are left with home dates with the Golden Flashes. The Falcons' remaining opponents have a combined conference record of 28-29.

        With all the possibilities that remain, Miami is content to focus on tonight's game.

        “We just want to win the game that is ahead of us and let everything take care of itself,” Doug Davis said.

       



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