Avoiding foul issues would help MU chances at NIU
By MIKE SMITH
With five games to go, the Miami RedHawks are three wins out of the eighth -- and final -- spot in the upcoming MAC tournament. Aside from tournament participation, the RedHawks would certainly like to close the campaign with a few wins.
The next chance to do that comes Saturday against a Northern Illinois team that is currently tied for fifth (with Ohio) in the MAC standings. Although the Huskies lost at Ball State Tuesday. NIU is 6-3 over its last nine.
Here are some more notes on the matchup . . .
~~ Northern Illinois led most of the way in the team's first meeting back on Jan. 17 in Oxford. Miami did manage to pull in front 40-39 heading into intermission. However, the Huskies soon retook the lead and were up 71-59 with 5:52 to play. A late Miami run pulled MU within two (77-75) with 26 seconds left, but Northern Illinois scored the game's last four points on free throws.
~~ Sophomore guard David Coit led the Huskies against MU, scoring 21 points. Three other NIU players reached double figures, including Zarique Nutter, who had 16 points and a team-high eight caroms.
~~ Miami's Morgan Safford led all scorers with 27 points and also recorded 10 rebounds. Safford was injured last Saturday and missed Tuesday's lost at Toledo. However, he is expected back against NIU.
~~ Anderson Mirambeaux made 8-of-10 shots from the field on the way to 18 points in 26 minutes. He fouled out with 4:01 to play. The senior has fouled out of four games this season, including the last two outings. He has had at least four fouls in five of the last six games.
~~ Three RedHawks are averaging double figures, led by senior guard Mekhi Lairy (17.6 ppg). Safford is contributing 15.6 ppg, while Mirambeaux is at 13.5 ppg.
~~ Freshman Ryan Mabry has reached double figures in four of his last six games. He is one of the team's key perimeter threats, but has been inconsistent and hit just 1-of-7 trey attempts Tuesday at Toledo.
~~ NIU's Coit is averaging 2.9 threes per game, second best in the MAC and 32nd nationally). Coit made six triples against Ball State and now has 75 three-point goals this season.
Miami can ill-afford losses among its experinced trio of Lairy, Mirambeaux and Safford, so keeping them on the court is key. That means avoiding foul trouble, although most opponents are stressing the MU defense and getting to the line. Against Toledo Tuesday, the RedHawks drew 28 fouls and UT capitalized by making 30-of-36 at the free throw line. Miami, which leads the MAC in free throw percentage also hit 83.3 percent of its charity tosses, but only had six chances -- one in the second half.
Northern Illinois made 16-of-26 free throws against MU in the first meeting. The RedHawks hit 15-of-18.
Both NIU and Miami are near the conference bottom in rebounding, and the Huskies owned four more caroms in the last meeting.
Miami ranks sixth among MAC teams in turnovers (13.5 per game), while Northern Illinois is 10th (14.2 per game).
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.