Merlin’s Musings- Miami (OH) Edition

Another Monday night, another game at the beautiful Peterson Events Center here on Pitt’s campus. This game, however, should play out very differently than the beatdown of Fairleigh Dickinson, with the Miami (OH) RedHawks coming off a near-upset of #4 UCLA, losing 64-59 after they had a chance at a game-tying three in the closing seconds of the game. With that result in mind, here’s my Musings for tonight’s game: 

1) Three Point Shooting: The RedHawks enter tonight’s game having shot 10-for-20 from beyond against Wright State and 7-for-15 against UCLA, so this is clearly a team that loves to shoot the long ball, and with great success. Fairleigh Dickinson did shoot well from beyond the arc as well (9-for-19), but this is a facet of the RedHawks offense that can not be overlooked. The Panthers will need a few threes of their own to stop the RedHawks from gathering any momentum, so look for Ashton Gibbs and Jermaine Dixon to try and bury the long ball.

2) Experience: While the FD Knights didn’t have too much of it, the RedHawks start three seniors, a redshirt junior, and a sophomore, so everybody on this team has plenty of basketball experience. This is clearly not a team that will fold just because they’re playing a tough team, and expect wing Michael Bramos and guard Kenny Hayes to take shots and try to control the tempo. The RedHawks have a strong supporting cast, getting points from up and down their roster, so the Panthers need to be strong even when the 2nd units are getting their playing time.

3) Rebounding: A strength lately for the Panthers, this is a huge weakspot for the RedHawks, who were outrebounded in both of their first two games. If the Panthers want to control this game and the tempo, they are going to need to beat the RedHawks on their offensive glass and run the fast-break, forcing the RedHawks to get out of the slow tempo they prefer and run a full-court system. If this game turns into a track meet, it gives the Panthers a huge advantage, but they will need to play great defense and get rebounds early to force that tempo.

4) DeJuan Blair: While this definitely links to point #3, DeJuan is going to have to have another incredible game. He will be primarily matched up against 6’8″, 220 pound senior Tyler Dierkers, a senior who averaged 6.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg last year. Blair should easily grab 13-15 rebounds and his inside scoring will force Miami into foul trouble, as well as draw defenders inside for better three-point looks. If the Panthers win the rebound game by a large margin, as they are apt to do, this game will not be as close as UCLA’s.

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