By R.L. Bynum
Chalk up this Miller clash to Walker.
Center Walker Miller scored 13 points Saturday as Monmouth pulled a 61–59 upset at Cincinnati to give the Bearcats their second consecutive loss under his brother, first-year Bearcats coach Wes Miller, and their first home loss.
Both played at Carolina as did King Rice, in his 11th season as Monmouth’s coach.
“We never thought we couldn’t win this game,” Walker Miller said. “We knew it was a great challenge and how good they are. But we are not going to be afraid of anyone.
“We’re going to come out and play hard,” he said. “And we think we can hang in there with almost anyone. These guys are fighters and we don’t care where we are; we just want to play. We’re a bunch of guys that love playing basketball and we just fight.”
Monmouth (5–1) has won five consecutive games since losing its opener at Charlotte 68–66 on Nov. 9, and is off to its best start since going 7–1 to begin the 1990–91 season.
Was Rice surprised?
“I don’t want to say surprised because these kids have just kept together,” Rice said. “I just stay out of the huddle sometimes and let them figure it out. I think our potential is unlimited.”
The Bearcats had one last possession with a chance to tie or win the game but couldn’t get a shot off.
“Nobody thought we could do this today,” Rice said. “Wes Miller is my brother. We’ve been connected since he was a junior in Chapel Hill and he’s one of my best friends.”
Cincinnati (5–2) pulled a one-sided 71–51 upset of No. 14 Illinois on Nov. 22 and lost to No. 12 Arkansas 73–67, with both games at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, before coming home to play the Hawks.
“We’ve got to be better,” Wes Miller said. “We’ve been better this year and I have to do a better job at preparing our team. The buck stops with me. I think we can take a step back and give credit to Monmouth. They played harder than us tonight. You got to give them credit and tip your cap to them.”
Wes Miller is in his first season at Cincinnati after going 185–135 in 10 seasons at UNC Greensboro. He played three seasons at Carolina after spending his freshman season at James Madison, scoring 342 points and 96 3-pointers in 93 games, 17 as a starter, with UNC from 2004 to 2007.
Walker Miller, a graduate student, has scored in double figures in all but one game, averaging 14.8 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per contest while starting every game. He scored 36 points in 140 minutes over 69 career games at UNC.
Rice played four seasons at UNC, scoring 861 points and dishing out 629 assists in 140 games, 83 as a starter, from 1987 to 1991.
Rice has won MAAC coach-of-the-year honors three times and has led Monmouth to three regular-season league titles.
One of Rice’s assistant coaches is former UNC star J.R. Reid.
Photo via @MonmouthBBall