The Miami University men’s basketball team (9-10, 5-3 MAC) rebounded from an eight-point halftime deficit to ground Eastern Michigan University (12-9, 4-4 MAC) 65-61.
Senior forward Will Felder sank what proved to be the game-winning shot with 24.5 remaining, giving the RedHawks a 63-61 lead. Felder initially had his shot blocked on the possession, but senior guard Quinten Rollins corralled the board and fed it back to Felder who capitalized on the second chance opportunity with a short jumper.
The ‘Hawks were carried by Felder and senior guard Will Sullivan. Felder garnered 17 points, most of them coming during the home stretch of the second half, as Miami pounded the ball inside to finish off the Eagles. He also tallied a career-high 15 rebounds. Sullivan buried five of six 3-point field goals en route to a game-high 19 points.
Sullivan said Miami knew to expect a tough game against the defensively stout Eagles.
“Coach [John] Cooper said to expect the kind of game where you’ve got to grind it out,” Sullivan said. “Even when things aren’t going your way you have to have the same kind of attack mentality. I thought throughout the second half we kind of stuck with it, stuck with our offensive principles against the zone and started clicking in the second half.”
The RedHawks were able to stay within striking distance of the Eagles during an ugly first-half that saw both teams struggle to execute their offenses and find the basket.
Miami did not hit its second field goal until 10:58 remaining in the first half. The RedHawks shot 30 percent from the field for the first half and went into the locker room down 30-22.
Cooper said the RedHawks struggled to find open looks against the 2-3 zone defense of EMU.
“We struggled early trying to get a feel for it,” Cooper said. “Trying to find areas where we could attack the zone … Jaryd Eustace was able to hit some threes. Will Sullivan hit threes. So that sort of kept us in the game.”
MU’s opening period effort was salvaged solely through the play of Sullivan, who nailed three 3-point field goals to keep the game from getting away from the ‘Hawks.
The RedHawks came out firing in the second half, nailing nine of their first 11 shots to open the period. Miami didn’t take its first lead until Sullivan converted a layup with 13:07 remaining.
Cooper attributed the second half improvement to the RedHawks becoming comfortable against the zone, resulting in crisper ball movement that led to open shots.
“Part of it is understanding that because the zone is so big and so extended you can’t let the ball stick,” Cooper said. “You’ve gotta get constant ball movement, you’ve gotta get guys that are cutting and filling spots.”
Miami outmuscled EMU 39-29 on the glass and sank eight of 16 3-point field goals. These were massive improvements from the loss to the University of Toledo last Wednesday in which the ‘Hawks were embarrassed on the boards and hit only one of 17 3-point attempts.
MU next suits up against the Northern Illinois University on the road. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.