Miami men’s basketball had a chance to break three losing streaks with a win over the Toledo Rockets on Tuesday.
But the RedHawks’ trip to Savage Arena didn’t go according to plan, and they fell 71-59 for their third straight road loss, fourth straight conference loss and 11th straight loss to Toledo (14-3, 2-2 Mid-American).
Miami (8-9, 0-4 MAC) battled back from a double-digit first-half deficit and cut it to one point with nine minutes left in regulation.
With Toledo clasping to its smallest lead (51-50) since the middle of the first, the Rockets stepped up their collective effort defensively, holding the RedHawks without a field goal for the final four and a half minutes and going on a 20-9 run to close the game.
The RedHawks made just one of their last eight shots from the field, including their last six.
“I think we just need to learn how to close out games more,” sophomore forward Dalonte Brown said. “When [the score] comes down tight and minutes get low, we’ve got to just close them out.”
Brown, a Toledo native and a graduate of Bowsher High School, returned to his hometown for the first time in his collegiate career and estimated over 100 family members and friends came to watch him play. He didn’t disappoint early on.
He scored Miami’s first eight points and gave the RedHawks their lone lead of the ballgame, 8-7 at the 14-minute mark in the first half.
“I tried to put on a show for them,” said Brown, who was visibly excited after hitting his first 3-pointer of the contest.
After his hot start, he cooled down, scoring only two points the rest of the way.
Once Brown’s shot’s stopped falling and the bench unit came in, Miami’s offense sputtered.
Only five RedHawks scored in the first half, and just three scored four points or more.
The Rockets capitalized and took a 39-30 lead into the break.
Besides Brown, sophomore guard Nike Sibande posted 14 first-half points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting effort from the floor.
Miami began its run in the budding stages of the second and worked the Toledo advantage all the way down to one (49-48) on a hookshot by junior forward Bam Bowman with ten minutes left.
After a layup by junior center Luke Knapke boosted the Rockets’ lead back to three, MU freshman guard Mekhi Lairy immediately dropped the deficit back to one with a mid range jumper on the next Miami possession.
“I thought we made some good adjustments and tightened it up defensively in the second half to be able to make that run to get back in the game,” assistant coach Jeff Rutter said. Head coach Jack Owens couldn’t be reached for comment after the game. “Then, unfortunately, there were a couple empty possessions offensively on our end. They cashed in on the other end, built that lead to 10, and we just couldn’t cut it anymore.”
Toledo went on an 11-2 stretch, pushing its lead back to double digits and ending the RedHawks’ chances.
The Rockets coasted to a 71-59 victory, their second straight after opening MAC play 0-2.
Sibande and Brown were the only two RedHawks to record double-figure point totals. Sibande finished with 26 — three shy of his career high — while Brown had 10.
Miami dished out a season-low four assists, and its leading passer, senior guard Darrian Ringo, didn’t have a single one.
With four double-digit scorers, Toledo was paced by senior guard Jaelen Sanford’s 19 points.
Miami now sits at 0-4 in conference play, its worst MAC start since 2016 when the team opened 0-7 under former head coach John Cooper. That team finished with a 6-13 MAC record.
Rutter said he thinks trying to improve every day is the team’s most important theme for the rest of this season.
“It’s really all you can do,” Rutter said. “I can guarantee you this: We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are hungry and are still very motivated and determined. They know just how close we are.”
Brown confirmed he and his teammates aren’t going to quit.
“We’ll keep working hard in practice and bringing our all, and we’re going to get a win sooner or later.”
Miami’s next chance to claim its first MAC victory is Saturday, when the Akron Zips come to Millett Hall. The game is scheduled to tip off at 3:30 p.m. and air on ESPN3.