The Miami of Ohio Redhawks are trying to get a winning situation established under coach Jack Owens, but they are going to have to tighten things up on the defensive end if they are going to make a little noise in the Mid-American Conference. However, Owens has previously been an assistant at one of the better programs in the country at Purdue, so he knows what it takes to get it done.
The Wilberforce Bulldogs are hoping to be more competitive at the NAIA level then they were last season, and even though they are an extremely small school, they have already gone up against two capable squads from the MAC, and might be able to force (pardon the pun) a tempo that Miami does not want to play at. These teams get together on Saturday afternoon for a game that takes place at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio.
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ABOUT WILBERFORCE: Last year the Bulldogs, an NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) program, finished with a 10-15 record, although they closed fast, winning their last five and seven of their last ten. This season, officially, they are 3-6, with their last game having taken place on November 23, a 95-79 loss to the University of Indianapolis. That is the only home game that they will have had for a 34-day period. They return to the home floor on December 7 against East-West University. Not included on the official win-loss record are the two games they have played against Mid-American Conference teams. Because they are an NAIA Division II team, the NCAA classifies these games as "exhibitions." That doesn't mean they hurt any less, however. And they did those games back-to-back, with losses to Ohio University (97-61) and Toledo (99-58), both of which have an awful lot of firepower. They did hold the Bobcats to just 25% (six of 24) from beyond the arc. Of course, Ohio is a notoriously weak shooting team from the outside. Toledo hit 73% of their two-point shots against the Bulldogs. Jabril Hunter, a 6-4 sophomore out of Navasota, TX, is the team's leading scorer (12.8 ppg) and rebounder (5.3 rpg). Terence Gholston had 15 points and seven rebounds against Ohio before fouling out. But he was held scoreless in twelve minutes against Toledo. Deion Gatson, the team leader in assists, had eleven points and six rebounds against the Rockets. Among Division II NAIA teams, they are tenth in the nation in three-point percentage at 41.7%. On the official NAIA website, Wilberforce is listed as having an enrollment of 479 students.
ABOUT MIAMI OF OHIO: It is true that the RedHawks are coming off a 16-18 campaign, but head coach Jack Owens, the former Purdue assistant (for ten years) who is now in his second season, believes this next step in the process may result in some kind of post-season appearance. Miami may have scheduled some "exhibition" games against the likes of Midway and Wilberforce, but they haven't ducked good competition either in the non-conference slate, although Owens wishes they could have done better than they did in losses to Butler (90-68 in the opener) and Xavier (82-55 last time out). Without question, the most important person in this offense is Nike Sibande, who averaged 15.1 ppg on the way to being named MAC Freshman of the Year and is at 17.3 ppg this season. Sibande takes 32.4% of this team's shots when he is on the floor, and while there can be some benefits, it can also backfire as well. Against Xavier, for example, he hit just three of 14 shots, and the rest of the offense stagnated. The good part is that the RedHawks brought back seven of their eight leading scorers. The bad part is that while they are very accurate when they get to the line (77.8%), they don't get there enough. And they don't cause enough havoc on the defensive end, forcing turnovers just 14.7% of the time (338th out of 353 Division I teams) and allowing a whopping 58% field goal shooting from two-point range. This is a very deliberate team (average possession length of 19.7 seconds is one of the slowest in the country), and that may upset Wilberforce's attempts get into a quicker tempo.
1. It has been a long time since Miami of Ohio has had a winning record - you'd have to go all the way back to the 2008-09 season, in fact.
2. Wilberforce head coach Kevin Waters has been an assistant at Murray State and Kennesaw State, but his most colorful experience was as head coach of the Jacksonville Giants of the minor league American Basketball Association, where he won three championships steering teams that often scored over 200 points in a game, with a high of 222.
3. Wilberforce is an NAIA school, and specifically, a member of the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.), comprised of teams not associated with a conference. Other members include Crowley's Ridge College, Northern New Mexico and the University of the Virgin Islands.
PREDICTION: Miami of Ohio 83, Wilberforce 59 Bet Now
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