With 15:40 remaining in the RedHawks’ Saturday matchup against Purdue Fort Wayne, Miami head coach Jack Owens yelled, “Help me!”
In that moment, he was trying to persuade a referee to make a call in his favor, but as the game went on, Owens needed all the help he could get.
Nike Sibande and co. gave it to him.
The sophomore guard poured in 16 second-half points to lead the RedHawks to an 85-79 victory over the Mastodons (6-6) at Millett Hall.
Miami’s win streak now sits at a season-high three games.
“I’m just proud of them,” Owens said. “Obviously, it’s finals week. I’ve got guys who have 15-page papers due, exams and everything else they’re going through. I’m just proud of them. It wasn’t pretty.”
Senior guard Darrian Ringo dished out seven assists and raved about Sibande and his other teammates after the game.
“They’re making my job very easy,” Ringo said. “Very easy.” He looked at Sibande and laughed.
The RedHawks (6-4) faced the challenge of defending redshirt senior guard John Konchar, and they didn’t have much luck early in the game.
A Konchar jump shot gave the Mastodons their first points of the contest and put them up 2-0. Miami battled back and never trailed for the rest of the half after a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Dalonte Brown gave his team a 9-6 lead.
Konchar finished the first with 17 points.
With 8:19 left in the first, the RedHawks took a 35-23 lead — their biggest of the game.
Purdue Fort Wayne drew closer as the half came to a close, but Miami maintained a 45-44 advantage at the intermission.
The second half is when Sibande took flight.
After tallying only eight first-half points, he scored 16 in second period.
“I’d say my teammates just opened up the floor for me and helped me get to the spots and [I] just hit the shots,” Sibande said. “I give credit to all my teammates for helping me.”
But his production didn’t shake the Mastodons.
Purdue Fort Wayne actually claimed a 64-63 lead — its first since the game’s early going — with a layup by freshman guard Jarred Godfrey. It held the advantage until junior forward Bam Bowman hit a three with six minutes left.
A Konchar free throw, once again, handed the Mastodons a one-point lead with three-and-a-half minutes to play.
As the final lead change in a game that featured seven of them, a Sibande free throw put the RedHawks ahead for good.
They staved off the Mastodons’ comeback attempt and won 85-79.
Miami lost the rebounding battle 39-27 and made only 10 of its 19 free throws.
“The one thing is we have to do a better job at the free throw line,” Owens said. “A week ago, we were the No. 1 free-throw shooting team in our league, and now we’re not that, I’m pretty sure [after] going 10-for-19 tonight.”
Sibande’s 24 points were edged by Konchar, who notched a double-double with game-highs in points (28) and rebounds (14).
“Whew” was Owens’ first response when asked about Konchar.
“Man, I don’t know who to compare him to,” Owens said.
Brown corralled a Miami-high seven rebounds and scored 21 points.
Miami made a season-high 15 threes.
The RedHawks will go eight gameless days before heading to Highland Heights, Kentucky, on Dec. 16. They’ll take on the Northern Kentucky Norse in a contest scheduled for 7 p.m. It will air on ESPN3.