ATHENS, OH - There are times when the Miami RedHawks look like the vacationing family that is driving on fumes while searching for a gas station far away from home. Making progress on the trip becomes secondary to finding fuel.
John Groce's Bobcats are 9-1 at home
The Miami offense slowed to a crawl in the second half again Thursday as Ohio pulled away for a 75-56 win at the Convocation Center. That venue has been next to gold for the Bobcats, who are one point away from a perfect record at home. The only blemish is a loss to Bowling Green.
Miami, meanwhile, once again stumbled while finishing a stretch in the schedule which put the RedHawks on opponent hardwood five times in six games. As in their ESPN Bracket Buster game at Evansville last week, the RedHawks crashed in the second half. They connected on just five field goals and scored 19 points against Ohio after intermission.
The Bobcats picked up their only conference road win at Miami earlier this season as Jerome Tillman scored 35 points in that contest. If the RedHawks were going to have a shot at victory in Athens, they couldnt afford an encore by the MACs leading scorer.
Tillman, who averages 18.6 points per game, scored only 13 Thursday, but it was a night when the Bobcats didnt really need a stellar evening out of the 6-6 senior forward.
Five Bobcat players registered double figures in the win. Leading the way was freshman guard Steven Coleman. He hit 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 4 behind the arc, to pace all scorers. Tillman and Justin Orr netted 13 each, while Michael Allen and DeVaughn Washington both chipped in 10 points.
Ohios win boosted the Bobcats above .500 at 14-13 overall and 7-6 in conference play. The loss dropped Miami (15-11 overall, 8-5 MAC) one game behind MAC East leaders Akron, Bowling Green and Buffalo. Miami plays the latter two, along with Kent State in its final three games. Kent State and Bowling Green are home games for the RedHawks.
While Miami is only a game off the MAC East leaders, it is also just one game ahead of cellar-dwelling Ohio, and the Bobcats won both games with Miami. It was the first Ohio sweep of a regular season series with the RedHawks since the 1999-2000 season.
Making matters worse for Miami is the potential loss of guard Eric Pollitz. The senior took over starting point guard duties for Kenny Hayes (lost for the season) in December. Now Pollitz, a key defender as well as offensive game manager, is watching action from the sidelines.
The score was tied at 29-all in the first half when another player fell onto Pollitz leg. He was taken to the locker room and returned after halftime on crutches. Ohio, meanwhile, outscored Miami 46-27 after Pollitz left the game.
Its February 26th, so it would be hard to get him back even if he doesnt need surgery, Miami associate head coach Jermaine Henderson said. Were hoping for the best. Once we get back home, well re-evaluate it and go from there.
While Pollitz may be getting far more rest than he could have wanted, his loss might intensify a playing time issue for several other RedHawks. Fellow seniors Michael Bramos (36.23 mpg) and Tyler Dierkers (36.15 mpg) are ranked first and second in MAC game minutes played. With the RedHawks recently struggling in second half play, it could indicate a degree of fatigue.
Even if were a little tired, there is still a threshold that we have to push through to get ourselves to the finish line, Henderson said. Weve got two huge games coming up (at home) . Weve got to gear up and recharge.