BY MIKE SMITH
Exhibition games can provide many lessons, and the Miami RedHawks have some extensive homework following a 71-60 loss to the Division II Edinboro Fighting Scots Saturday at Millet Hall.
Miami, despite the absence of sophomore guard Jaryd Eustace (illness), led by 10 (37-27) at the half following a basket inside by guard Eric Washington.
Miami head coach John Cooper felt his squad should have been up by more, but squandered opportunities
"I can’t tell you how many layups we missed when we got the ball (at) point blank (range) in the paint," he said. "You can’t take for granted easy scoring opportunities."
It was still a nine-point MU advantage at 46-37 following two Washington free throws with 15:31 remaining. Edinboro, however, began to chip away at the lead and finally went in front, 51-50, on a jumper by Henri Wade-Chatman at 8:32.
Freshman guard Zach McCormick’s layup at the other end gave MU its last lead as the Fighting Scots subsequently pulled away thanks to some hot shooting down the stretch. Miami, meanwhile, was struggling from the field and at the line.
"They got some confidence (and) they started making shots," Cooper said.
Edinboro made 9 of 26 (34.6%) in the opening period but then converted on 16 of 30 (53.3%) in the second half. That included 6 of 12 outside the arc, and the Scots also hit 6 of 8 at the line. Edinboro outscored Miami 44-23 after intermission.
Point guard Eric Washington, a junior who previously played for Presbyterian before sitting out last year as a transfer, came through with a pretty solid first outing in RedHawk garb. He led the team with 16 points on 6 of 11 from the floor and 4 of 4 on free throws. He also had five rebounds, five assists, one steal and two turnovers in his 31 minutes on the floor.
"As the game went on, he really stepped up and started playing well, Cooper said, noting that Washington was with the team but missed a season of actual game experience. "I expect him to be solid."
"I always had confidence in myself. It was just a matter of time, Washington said. But as a point guard, winning and losing really determines if I had a good game. The stats can say whatever, but at the end of the day, I want to win."
No other RedHawk reached double figures, although forward Chris Bryant, a junior transfer from the College of Central Florida, tallied nine points on 4 of 6 from the field and 1 of 2 free throws. He also had seven rebounds.
After losing all-MAC forward Will Felder to graduation, Cooper brought in some height and experience among the 10 new members of this year’s squad. Still, the RedHawks broke even with Edinboro on the boards, each totaling 39 caroms.
The visitors also had a 14-12 advantage on points in the paint, but part of that came from turnovers, where EU outscored Miami 14-2 in the second half and 20-13 overall. Edinboro also had a 10-4 advantage in fast break points.
"We can’t have loose ball turnovers, and many of the turnovers we had were loose ball turnovers," Cooper said. "They had 20 points off turnovers. ... The turnovers are spread throughout the roster, which is troubling.
Edinboro took an early 5-0 lead before Miami went on an 11-0 run. The stretch included three of the four treys MU would make (on eight tries) in the first half. By the end of the game, Miami’s long distance game provided five hits in 20 attempts.
Edinboro rallied to briefly tie the contest at 15-all before the hosts edged back in front, eventually working the lead to 10 at the break.
". I think we learned a lot about the kind of intensity and fire you have to have for 40 minutes if you want to succeed in college basketball," said Sullivan, the only senior on Miami's roster. "We had it at times, but in the second half, it was just non-existent. So we’re just got to learn from it – start to understand the kind of energy you’ve got to have the whole game and be better next time."
The RedHawks open their 2014 season with three straight home games. The first is next Sunday (2 p.m.) when Southern Utah comes to Oxford. Evansville follows on Wednesday (7 p.m.) and Liberty on Saturday (3:30 p.m.).