As the Ohio Bobcats put the finishing touches on the RedHawks on Friday night, Miami’s fate was already sealed.
It will open the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Akron on Monday, because Northern Illinois beat the Ball State Cardinals minutes before the closing buzzer of the RedHawks-Bobcats matchup. To clinch a first-round home game, Miami needed Ball State to get the win over the Huskies.
The RedHawks (15-16, 7-11 MAC) are the ninth seed.
Jason Carter did Miami in during the second half of Ohio’s 66-57 victory at the Convocation Center. The redshirt sophomore forward scored 21 of his 26 points in the final period, helping the Bobcats put up 41 points after halftime.
The RedHawks held a 32-25 lead at intermission but couldn’t muster much offense after it.
With a team-high 22 points, sophomore guard Nike Sibande achieved a milestone, becoming the first sophomore in Miami history to reach 1,000 career points. He has averaged 15.5 points per game in his two seasons in Oxford.
Unfortunately for Miami, Sibande didn’t receive much assistance on Friday. Besides his 22 and freshman guard Mekhi Lairy’s career-high 16, no RedHawk had more than seven points.
Junior forward Bam Bowman, typically a reliable scorer, finished with only three points. He shot 1-of-15 from the field.
Many of his teammates endured similar struggles, as Miami hit just 28.4 percent of their shots.
Ohio (14-16, 6-12 MAC) was on pace to end up with a similar percentage after making 31 percent from the field in the first half. But, with Carter’s emergence after the break, the Bobcats heated up to the tune of 47.8 percent in the second. They finished 20-of-52 (38.5 percent) from the field.
Two minutes into the second, the RedHawks took their largest lead (37-25) on a Lairy 3-pointer. That bucket was Miami’s last for the next seven minutes, as the Bobcats went on a 15-4 run to pull within one point. The RedHawks’ only scoring during the drought came from four Lairy free throws.
With an 8-2 stretch, Ohio took its first lead, 52-51, with four minutes remaining. The Bobcats ended with a 14-4 run to close out a 66-57 victory.
Miami now turns its attention to the eight-seeded Akron Zips (16-15, 8-10 MAC), a team it’s played twice this season. The two teams split the series, with each picking up a win on its home court.
Like the RedHawks, the Zips are coming off a Friday loss. They fell 68-65 at Kent State, pinning their 10th defeat to a 1-10 road record. They’re 13-3 at home this season.
Akron starts four players with double-digit scoring averages, but its main threat against Miami has been junior guard Tyler Cheese.
Cheese scored 17 points in his team’s first meeting with the RedHawks in mid-January. In their second matchup, on Feb. 23, he dropped a season-high 27. He contributes an average of 11.5 points a game.
Miami opens its MAC Tournament schedule at 8 p.m. on Monday evening. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN+.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and travel to Cleveland for a noon showdown with top-seeded Buffalo at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena. Neither squad has beaten the Bulls this season.