First place on the line for Flashes

Matt Goul

Junior Jay Youngblood shoots during a game earlier this season.

Credit: Andrew popik

Miami coach Charlie Coles was at odds with how good his team was after it took a 68-49 loss to Kent State on Jan. 8 at the M.A.C. Center.

“I don’t know what it was, but it was good for Kent and bad for us,” Coles said after that game. “I hope we’re not that bad. I just hope we’re not.”

The RedHawks were not. The RedHawks (17-8, 11-5 Mid-American Conference) won eight of their next nine, taking a firm grip on the MAC East lead. The RedHawks still lead the division and possess the best record in the conference but by only one game.

The Flashes (18-10, 10-6 MAC) were three games behind Miami a week ago, but two straight wins for them and two losses for the RedHawks changed that. The Flashes have a chance to take a share of the lead at 7 tonight at Miami.

“They’re a better team,” junior point guard DeAndre Haynes said. “Everything’s starting to work out good for us. We just need to play basketball, go out and have fun. We can’t take Miami for granted. Just because we beat them once, we still have to go out and there and follow the game plan to get it done.”

Miami’s last two losses included a defeat by one point and another in overtime. Bowling Green’s 57-56 win Sunday set up tonight’s showdown. Miami led throughout at Bowling Green until less than two minutes remained. Both of Miami’s last two losses were on the road.

That still does not lessen the pressure, which has been growing on Miami.

Four teams are within a game of the MAC East lead with two to play. Should Kent State win tonight, as many as five teams could have claim to the best record in the MAC, too. West Division leaders Bowling Green and Western Michigan also play. Buffalo is at Ohio, bumping one of the two from the second-place jam in the East.

The last game will not be an easy task if Kent State gets past this one, either. Ohio comes to the M.A.C. Center for senior day Saturday night. The Bobcats dominated the Flashes for an 80-54 thrashing, but the argument for Ohio’s ability to get another win on Kent State’s could be similar for Kent State’s at Miami.

“It’s late in the year now,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “It’s two different teams, and that was earlier in the MAC season.”

Miami’s top two players, guard Chet Mason and forward Danny Horace, struggled to combine for nine points in the first encounter.

Horace leads the MAC in rebounding, pulling down about nine per game.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Matt Goul at [email protected].