Alex Butler

Sophomore Antonio Ballard and the RedHawks jumped back into the thick of the MAC east race Saturday. Ballard played 39 minutes in his second game back from injury.

Coach Charlie Coles is Miami University basketball. Coles etched his name at the top of the list of Miami coaching legends, claiming a 66-55 victory over the Kent State University Golden Flashes, the team coaches picked to win the conference pre-season.

It marked the 216th career victory for the RedHawks with the long-time coach at their reigns, tying him for first all-time with Darrell Hedric. As usual, the coach deflected the individual accolades and praised his team for a job well done.

“It means I’ve been coaching an awful long time,” Coles said. “It’s good, but I’ve been coaching a long time. I thank God for giving me my health this year. I thank my players most of all. Our starters played great. They just did a phenomenal job. I think we fought hard. I think our guys showed a lot of heart out there tonight and hopefully we can continue to do that this year.”

Senior forward Michael Bramos scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Although he is known for his ability to shoot from downtown, Bramos found more rim than net from three-point range. He finished 2-8 from distance but did shoot 6-14 from inside the arc. As a team, the Red and White shot only 18 percent on three-point attempts, most notably shooting a dreadful 0-6 in the second half.

The RedHawks were unable to ditch their pesky in-state rival until very late in regulation, holding them scoreless for the final 2 minutes of play. The experience and leadership was apparent throughout as Bramos and senior Tyler Dierkers both clocked in for all 40 minutes, with 39 minutes put in by the emerging sophomore Antonio Ballard.

“We kind of got together and said we didn’t want to lose this game,” Bramos said. “Everyone was held accountable with their own man and we shut them down. We knew it was going to be a tight game down to the last possession but we got the stop when we needed to.”

Senior Guard Eric Pollitz added 12 points to the stat sheet and dished out seven assists.

Ballard notched his first career double-double. The sophomore added versatility to a Miami team in need by scoring 13 points and snatching 11 rebounds.

“We had a lot of good looks, a lot of the shots that he took really just rimmed out,” Pollitz said. “We definitely got some guys some great looks. Kent state is a tough place to play. We were able to get to the rim more than anything tonight. That was the key. We just buckled down. The 5 guys out there and the guys on the bench just kind of got together and said we can get to the victory. This will be a big win for our team in terms of momentum going into the Bowling Green game.”

The Golden Flashes stirred up the ingredients to a RedHawk victory, claiming a 54-53 lead with five minutes remaining. The starting five of the Red and White would not be denied late as Ballard came up big in the clutch scoring 10 points with his teammates adding physical defense. Those 10 points were the only scored by either side to close out the game.

The Miami bench was outscored 20-0 but only played a combined 16 minutes on a night when the starting five displayed the ideal teamwork and determination preached by Coach Coles. The Red and White held onto a 36-30 rebounding edge while also dispersing 14 assists. Al Fisher led the Golden Flash attack with 14 points.

The RedHawks will continue their road trip with a contest against the Bowling Green State University Falcons at 7 p.m. Tuesday.