The Miami University men’s basketball team (9-12, 5-5 MAC) went into the locker room against the Ohio University Bobcats (17-6, 7-3 MAC) sitting pretty with a 15-point lead.
The good feelings would not last, however, as OU pulled no punches in a 50-point second half that left the RedHawks battered, bruised and defeated, 82-75.
Head coach John Cooper said Miami executed its offense with efficiency in the opening period, but the ‘Hawks were unable to do so in the second half.
“I felt that the game was really a tale of two halves,” Cooper said. “The first half, we were able to make shots, we did a really good job of penetrating and pitching and getting the ball into the right people’s hands and they were able to make them and we seemed to have a lot of energy.”
The ‘Hawks shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half and nailed seven of their 10 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. Freshman guard Jaryd Eustace was terrific from deep in the opening half, connecting on four 3-point shots on his way to a career-high 14 points.
MU finished the half leading 47-32. Unfortunately for the RedHawks that lead would not last, as a combination of a less effective offense coupled with a more relenting defense doomed Miami down the stretch.
Miami shot just 40.7 percent in the second half, hitting only one of eight 3-point attempts. On the other end of the court, Miami allowed the Bobcats to shoot 59.3 percent. OU’s comeback was keyed by the backcourt tandem of senior guards Travis Wilkins and Nick Kellogg, who scored 23 and 27 points respectively. It was a career-high for both players.
“I thought that their [OU’s] ability to put the ball on the ground and break down our defense and of course to make the extra pass [hurt us],” Cooper said. “Wilkins and Kellogg really stepped up big and knocked down shots and then [junior forward Maurice] Ndour became a factor inside and they opened up the game.”
Ndour finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
OU head coach Jim Christian praised the play of Kellogg and Wilkins.
“These two [Kellogg and Wilkins] probably get up more [shots] than anybody on the team,” Christian said. “So the game eventually rewards you, and that’s what happens. You’ve got to put the work in, and that’s why I feel so happy for them.”
The loss to OU marks the second straight road game in which the RedHawks surrendered a substantial lead in the second half. Cooper said finishing games on the road is one facet of the game the ‘Hawks still need to work on.
“Any time you go on the road, you talk about conference play … it’s hard to finish,” Cooper said. “One of the things for us and where we are in our program is it’s about getting better, it’s about understanding what you have to do to be successful, how you have to win games and what it takes down the stretch, the execution and all those kinds of things. We’re not quite there yet.”
The RedHawks next return home to take on the Bulls of the University at Buffalo (13-7, 7-3 MAC).
The matchup to watch for in this contest will be Felder versus senior forward Javon McCrea. The 6-foot-7 McCrea is second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring at 18 points per game and leads the league in rebounding at 10.2 per game.
Buffalo is in a three-team tie for second place in the MAC.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.