For the second straight year, the RedHawks are packing their bags for Cleveland.
The Miami University men’s basketball team weathered a comeback from Kent State University in the waning minutes of the second half to earn a 71-64 victory and advance to the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The RedHawks will take on their rival Ohio University, who defeated Ball State University in its first round match-up. This is the second year in a row the ‘Hawks have advanced to the second round under head coach John Cooper.
“I’m really, really happy for our kids,” Cooper said. “Over the course of the season, this group could easily have tucked it in during some earlier times in the season. Yet still they’ve always found the resolve to come back and be competitive. And many games from a ‘man’ standpoint we’ve been outmanned, but they found a way to get a home [tournament] game and they found a way to take care of business.”
Junior guard Kris Brewer paced the Flashes with 15 points on 4-13 shooting from the field.
Both squads shot an identical 45 percent from the field. The difference was at the foul line, where MU converted 24-31 attempts compared to Kent State’s 14-17.
Play was relatively even for both teams in the first half. The RedHawks flourished in transition, forcing turnovers and pushing the ball down the court for attempts at the rim which often resulted in trips to the foul line. MU converted 13-18 free throws in the opening period.
But the offense became stagnant in the half-court and the ‘Hawks struggled to develop any rhythm. Miami managed only four assists against seven turnovers, but the story was not much better for Kent State who recorded four assists versus eight cough-ups.
On the RedHawks last possession of the opening half Sullivan was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 3.2 seconds remaining. He sank all three of his attempts to give the ‘Hawks the lead 33-31. On the subsequent possession the Flashes’ Brewer banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to seemingly reclaim the lead and the momentum for Kent State heading into the locker room, but after official review the basket was wiped away.
The ‘Hawks’ ball movement in the half-court was noticeably crisper in the opening minutes of the second half as they added to their lead. Leading the way for Miami was Moore, who scored 11 points in the first ten minutes of the second half as MU built a 52-42 advantage. The largest lead they held was 13 points.
The Flashes, playing for their postseason lives, refused to slink away quietly into the night, riding a 15-7 run to pull within two points 59-57 with four minutes to go. The half-court offense stalled once again in the waning minutes of the game, as the ‘Hawks took the air out of the ball and seemingly prayed for the clock to expire.