The Miami men’s basketball team fell to Eastern Michigan 58-48 in a defensive struggle at Millett Hall on Saturday. Miami’s offense couldn’t buy a basket for large stretches of the contest, including an excruciating 1-for-26 shooting spurt that lasted over sixteen minutes.
“I thought we started the game out okay defensively,” MU head coach Jack Owens said. “Offensively, the entire game, we just couldn’t get in the flow. Of the things that we worked on in practice, we didn’t have a lot of carry-over there.”
Miami shot a season-low 30.4 percent from the field and scored only 18 points in the second half — its lowest scoring output in a half this season.
Eastern Michigan cracked the scoreboard first, when a midrange jumper by junior center James Thompson IV found twine to make it 2-0. The RedHawks responded on their ensuing possession, as a three-point basket by freshman forward Dalonte Brown gave them an early 3-2 lead. Separation was hard to come by for either team over the next seven minutes, with two Miami four-point leads being the biggest advantages during that time frame.
With 4:16 remaining in the half, the Eagles took their first lead in almost ten minutes on a layup by Redshirt freshman forward Ty Groce that made it 26-24. After two free throws by Brown knotted the score, Eastern Michigan took another lead on a triple by Redshirt junior forward Jordan Nobles.
Brown added another free throw and junior guard Darrian Ringo made a buzzer-beating three to give Miami a hard-earned 30-29 lead at half.
Brown, who had 14 points by halftime, seemed to be the only RedHawk who could find the basket for much of the first. Other than Brown’s 14 and freshman guard Jalen Adaway’s seven, only three Redhawks scored in the first, combining for nine points.
Thompson IV led the Eagles with 10 first-half points.
After over two and a half scoreless minutes, Miami scored first in the second half when freshman guard Nike Sibande converted two free throws to push the RedHawks’ lead to 32-29. The ‘Hawks then surrendered a 13-0 run, allowing the Eagles to take a 42-32 lead.
Eastern Michigan would hold that lead for the rest of the game. The key run occurred during Miami’s 1-for-26 shooting drought that wasn’t broken until freshman guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands knocked down a triple to make it 42-35.
The Red and White embarked on the comeback trail, pulling within two, 45-43, with 8:26 left in regulation. The ‘Hawks fought to keep the lead under five until 1:17.
“Just like any other game, we tell ourselves — whether we’re down or up — that we’re going to win the game,” Brown said about the team’s mindset late in the game. “Being down by three, we actually had momentum for a second before a timeout, so we really thought we were going to win the game, but came up short.”
At that 1:17 mark, Redshirt junior Elijah Minnie hit a dagger three to push the Eagles’ advantage to six. Eastern Michigan finished on a 5-1 run and clinched a 58-48 win.
“[Minnie’s three] was a huge shot,” Owens said. “Give Eastern Michigan credit — they made a big shot to make it a two-possession game.”
The Eagles employed an unusual zone defense that utilized their size advantage. They started four players over 6’7” compared to Miami’s two.
“That zone is something we’d never seen this year,” Owens said. “I don’t think anyone else in our league can have a zone like that, where they’re so long. But at the end of the day, [their size] is not an excuse to not execute your offense.”
The defensive look and its resulting success allowed Eastern Michigan to outpace Miami 20-6 on points in the paint.
Brown finished with a team-high 17 points. Nike Sibande — the only other RedHawks who reached double-digits — scored 10. Darrian Ringo had six assists and five steals, and Jalen Adaway added eight rebounds.
Thompson IV posted a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double, but Redshirt junior guard Paul Jackson led the Eagles with 15 points.
The Eagles have won the last five meetings with the RedHawks, but Miami still leads the all-time series 49-26. The two teams will meet again on Feb.13 in Ypsilanti.
Miami will look to rebound tonight when it welcomes Akron to Millett Hall. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be available for streaming on ESPN3.