Seasoned Sycamores sink RedHawks
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Coaches often talk about their team finding an identity. It's especially true of younger teams, teams coming out of a significant roster turnover and/or teams playing under a new coach early in the season.
There's some of all that going on at Miami, where new Head Coach Travis Steele is working on molding the 2022-23 RedHawks. It's days like Saturday, however, that make it clear Miami's "identity" is not yet what Steele envisions.
The RedHawks fell to Indiana State 88-61 Saturday at Millett Hall. Most of the damage . . .
. . . came in the first half, during which ISU blitzed the home team 58-28. Statistically, Indiana State did it by shooting 59.4 percent from the floor, 57.9 percent on threes and 100 percent (9-of-9) at the free throw line. Conversely, Miami's offense stumbled after two straight games -- both wins -- in which the RedHawks had the hot hand early. MU hit 32 percent from the field and 25 percent on threes before intermission against Indiana State.
"That's the best they've shot all year, but . . . they got wide open looks," Steele said of the Sycamores. "Even guys that are non-shooters were banging in shots for them. . . . We were not taking away anything. (It was) an absolute joke on the defensive end."
Indiana State, which is three points short of a perfect 9-0 on the year, enjoyed early success. Part of the reason, Steele said, was related to MU's transition defense.
"Our transition defense that we've been working really, really hard at was awful. They scored 11 of their first 22 points, I believe, in transition."
He continued, "We're giving up way too many layups and we're giving up threes. We're giving up both."
ISU established a double digit lead (16-6) by the 14:53 mark and were up 35-24 when the Sycamores went on an 18-0 run. Xavier Bledson's 3-point goal at 1:44 put the visitors up 53-24. Indiana State went to the break with a 58-28 lead. Twenty-four of the Sycamore points came from Courvoisier McCauley, who hit 7-of-10 from the field, 5-of-7 treys and all five free throw attempts. The 6-5 senior guard is averaging 15.9 ppg on the year.
Steele noted ISU has made significant improvements in its program in the past year. Those improvements include size and experience. Both showed, especially in the first half against Miami's relatively young lineup. "They are big, and they are strong," he said of the Sycamores. "I thought we absolutely got bullied at both ends of the floor."
ISU shooting cooled down to 37.9 percent overall (33.3 on treys) after intermission and Miami outscored the visitors 33-30 for the final 20 minutes. The RedHawks sank 35.5 percent overall and 9.1 percent (1-of-9) from long distance during the final period.
For the game, Miami made just 3-of-19 shots outside the arc. The RedHawks had made 14-of-28 in a win over Jackson State Tuesday.
Speaking to the media afterward, Steele said his team needs to learn how to compete -- and win -- on those days when their own shots aren't falling. "We looked disjointed, disconnected. I saw a lot of blank faces," Steele said. "That's got to change."
Noting the RedHawks also had trouble with Marshall, Steele said MU is struggling against more physical teams. Adjusting to that style, as well showing poise under adversity, is part of what he expects to change in establishing a new "identity."
The RedHawks have one month until MAC play begins, but they can work on their metamorphosis in three games following exam week. They host Calumet College Sunday, Dec. 11 (1 p.m. ET) and will be at Cincinnati Dec. 14 (7 p.m. ET). Miami visits Bellarmine Dec/ 17 (4 p.m. ET).
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.