College Basketball: Miami’s comeback bid falls short vs. No. 21 Buffalo

One Millett Hall usher estimated Friday night’s crowd for Miami’s showdown with No. 21 Buffalo was the largest since the Wally Szczerbiak days two decades ago.

He was just slightly off. The crowd of 3,026 was Miami’s largest at home since Wally Szczerbiak Night drew a crowd of 3,525 to the RedHawks’ game against Toledo on Feb. 9 of last season.

Friday’s pro-Miami crowd was in for disappointment. The multi-talented Bulls opened the game with a stunning 18-0 run and held off several spirited RedHawk comeback efforts to escape with a 77-69 win and clinch a share of the Mid-American Conference East Division championship.

“I thought we dug ourselves a huge hole, but we found a way to bounce back,” second-year Miami coach Jack Owens said. “At the end of the day, you can’t get down that much.

Sophomores Dalonte Brown and Nike Sibande each scored 15 points and junior Bam Bowman put together a double-double, tying his career high with 13 rebounds and scoring 13 points, but Miami went just 4-for-20 on 3-pointers, including 1-for-11 in the second half, and managed just six assists while committing 14 turnovers.

“I just felt like we weren’t together,” Bowman said. “The crowd being here got our adrenaline flowing, and we weren’t ourselves. Once we picked it up, we were able to get back in the game.”

Miami went on to fall behind by 18 again in the first half, cutting that deficit to two points early in the second half, and 15 with 8:30 left in the game. The RedHawks, whose 24-point loss at Buffalo on January 12 was their worst of the MAC season, trimmed that deficit to three points with 2:30 left on two Brown free throws and Sibande missed a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:45 left before Buffalo (26-3, 14-2) pulled away.

“I’ve never been a part of a game like that, but I knew we were never out of it,” Owens said. “From a talent standpoint, we measure up to them. I could see it coming.”

Owens credited Buffalo’s intense man-to-man defense with disrupting Miami’s offense.

“They do a great job of getting into the passing lanes,” Owens said. “Once we settled down, we were able to get guys going to the rim.’

Miami (15-14, 7-9) went into Friday’s game tied with Eastern Michigan and Akron for sixth in the overall MAC standings. The top four teams earn MAC Tournament first-round byes and the next four host first round games. EMU is scheduled to play at Northern Illinois and Akron is due to play a home game against Ohio, both on Saturday afternoon.

The RedHawks are scheduled to wrap up their regular-season home schedule on Tuesday against Kent State at 7 p.m. Seniors Darrian Ringo, Abdoulaye Harouna and Aleks Abrams will be honored in pre-game ceremonies. Miami’s last regular-season game is scheduled to be played at Ohio on Friday at 7 p.m.

Miami lost at Kent State, 70-67, on Feb. 5 and beat Ohio, 79-59, on Feb. 9 in Oxford.

The Bulls rode a six-game win streak into Oxford and came out red hot. They led, 18-0, by the first media timeout. Not only were the RedHawks scoreless, but they also had zero rebounds and had committed three turnovers. Miami didn’t score until Bowman tipped in a Sibande miss almost five full minutes into the game.

Miami regrouped to the cut the deficit to eight points halfway through the half. Buffalo built another 18-point bulge before the RedHawks closed the half with a 16-2 run to trail by only four, 37-33, at halftime. Sibande, who went into the game needing 52 points to become the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore, scored all five of his first-half points during the run.

Somebody asked Bowman what the RedHawks need to do differently if they play Buffalo again.

“Our start has to get better,” he said. “We were sluggish. We weren’t ready for their pressure.”


Kent State at Miami, 7 p.m, 980, 1450

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