Sometimes records can be deceiving.
On paper, Ohio's matchup against Miami on Tuesday night should be a blowout. The Bobcats have won three in a row, including four of five. The RedHawks have won just one of their last seven and two of their last seven. But things, especially for this year's Ohio team, have never come easy.
Since the 2010-2011 season, Ohio is 4-2 in Oxford, but that includes last year's two-point win and 2014's overtime victory. Simply, it's never as easy as it looks in a rivalry game.
“It seems like every time we’ve been there, at some part of the game we start throwing the ball around, they get deflections," coach Saul Phillips said at practice Sunday. "They fly around on their home court, their defensive energy is terrific at their place."
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Millett Hall in Oxford on Tuesday night.
It's the first matchup of the season for the two rivals, but they'll have to get acquainted with one another quickly. Ohio (17-8, 9-5 Mid-American Conference) and Miami will play each other twice in the last four games of each team's season. The two games will take place just 10 days apart.
“Take care of those (two) games, you’re guaranteed at least a decent finish," Phillips said. "Let’s win the first one first, we’ll see where we go from there.”
The first game of the series will be the last in Oxford for seniors Kenny Kaminski and Drew Crabtree. Kaminski is 2-0 against the RedHawks; Crabtree is 6-1.
“I love playing Miami, I like playing at their court," Crabtree said. "For some reason, I feel like I jump higher there. So I like that. It’s always the fan favorite here, everybody wants to get rowdy against Miami. It’s an awesome environment to play in.”
Crabtree might not play, but he's still just as invested in the rivalry as everyone else. He's seen two different coaches come in to Athens, but the rivalry's meaning has stayed the same.
“My freshman year I had coach (Jim) Christian, the seniors I had my freshman year were huge into the rivalry," Crabtree said. "They were like, ‘We can’t lose this game, there’s no way we’re losing’ all that stuff. It was pretty intense.”
Ohio is currently second in the MAC standings, but leads Buffalo (15-12, 9-5 MAC) only due to a tiebreaker. Ohio is also only a game ahead of Ball State, and two against Kent State, Toledo and Western Michigan.
The Bobcats season will come down to the RedHawks, both literally and figuratively. Ohio's last game of the season is at home against Miami (10-17, 3-11 MAC). With a sweep of its rival, Ohio will be sitting in at least fourth headed to Cleveland.
If Miami plays spoiler? Well, that'll just be another chapter in the rivalry.
"If it’s a t-shirt worthy game, you know something is up," Phillips said. "They don’t print t-shirts for us versus Urbana.”