The RedHawks dropped their fourth straight game Saturday, losing to conference rival Ohio University 92-87 in overtime. It was Miami’s sixth straight loss to Ohio in their history of “The Battle of the Bricks.”
Despite overcoming what was once a 15-point deficit in the second half, the ‘Hawks (13-14, 6-8 MAC) couldn’t close out the game against the Bobcats (11-14, 4-9 MAC) in Athens. In three of the its last four games, Miami has lost by five points or fewer.
“I think the guys are competing, they’re putting forth the effort,” head coach Jack Owens said at his weekly press conference. “We just have to learn how to close the game.”
The RedHawks found themselves behind big in the second half, down 61-46 with 12:46 left. A pair of threes from freshman forward Dalonte Brown sparked a 10-2 run in favor of Miami, bringing the deficit to single digits.
The teams traded baskets until sophomore Bam Bowman made an incredible steal in the backcourt, and dribbled the length of the court to finish in traffic to bring the ‘Hawks within one at 78-77.
On the following possession, Ohio hit a free throw. Down two with 10 seconds left, the RedHawks attempted a three, which caromed off the rim. Freshman guard Nike Sibande grabbed the offensive board, got fouled and was sent to the line to shoot two.
Calmly, Sibande sunk both free throws and sent the game into overtime — where the RedHawks would ultimately fall to their rivals.
“For the first two possessions, we score or we have a lead, but then after that there’s just some errors that allow the other team to score,” Owens said. “From there, we somehow settle down and fight our way back into the game and find a way to make it interesting down the stretch, but we just didn’t finish the games.”
Despite leading in overtime 85-81 with 3:06 left, Miami went cold and the Bobcats ended the game with an 11-2 run.
Sibande had a standout performance, recording his first career double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Darrian Ringo became only the second player in program history to record 200 assists in a season, and is well on his way to breaking Eddie Schilling’s record of 214. With four games left in the regular season, Ringo sits at 202 assists on the year.
“The one thing Nike did was his will to win is there,” Owens said. “He’s one guy you can count on, when the shot’s not falling, to be able to influence the game.”
Next on the schedule for Miami is the Buffalo Bulls, who will enter Millett Hall on Tuesday boasting a Mid-American Conference-best 20-7 record (12-2 MAC).
Earlier in the season, UB defended their home court against the RedHawks, winning 82-66. Since that game on January 13, Buffalo has won eight of their last 10. Both losses for the Bulls were on the road, and by three points or less.
In order to have a fighting chance against Buffalo, Miami will have to run its offense through Ringo, while limiting his turnovers. Ringo had seven against Ohio, and a key turnover down the stretch in overtime.
The ‘Hawks first 18 points against Ohio came from six 3-pointers, however the offense stalled shortly after. With 12:49 and up 18-17, Miami only managed to score six points. The Red and White will need to establish its ability to score from behind the arc, and maintain it throughout the game if it hopes to beat Buffalo.
Streaky offense has plagued the RedHawks this season. However, the team should be encouraged by its ability to fight back into the game against Ohio. When trailing at halftime, Miami are now 1-10 this season.
“We have to continue to learn how to win the game and finish people off when we have the opportunity,” Owens said.
The matchup against Buffalo tips-off tonight at 7 p.m. in Millett Hall. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.