Playing the two teams picked to finish at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference West Division at home to open the conference season seemed promising for the Miami RedHawks.
Losing both in the span of four days has them, according to Darrian Ringo, “mad.”
Miami fell behind midway through the first half on Tuesday night at Millett Hall and never got back in the game, trailing by as many as 16 points on the way to an 83-70 loss to Northern Illinois before a crowd of 1,166.
Coupled with a 72-66 loss to Central Michigan on Saturday, the RedHawks are 0-2 in the MAC for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.
“We’re definitely mad that we lost the first two,” said Ringo, the senior point guard who scored a season-high 14 points and tied his season high with six steals. “We just have to keep our heads up and keep working.”
Sophomore guard Nike Sibande overcame missing five of 12 free throws to lead Miami (8-7, 0-2) with 16 points. Classmate Dalonte Brown added 12 and junior forward Bam Bowman finished with 10 for the RedHawks, who made just two of 16 3-point shots in the second half and eight of 27 (29.6 percent) in the game.
“We had a couple of rhythm shots that didn’t go down and we missed the front ends of some one-and-one (free throw situations),” second-year coach Jack Owens said.
“That’s on me,” Ringo said. “I’ve got to do a better job of finding my teammates and getting them better shots.”
The Huskies, who were projected in a preseason MAC coaches-media poll to finish fifth in the six-team West Division, were coming off a 72-66 overtime win at Ohio in the MAC opener on Saturday. Their schedule included two losses to Northern Kentucky, 88-85 in two overtimes at home on November 9 and 65-62 at NKU on December 20, four days after the Norse knocked off Miami 72-66.
Junior guard Eugene German was leading the MAC with averages of 20.5 points and 3.2 3-pointers per game. He ranked second with a .447 3-point percentage. He finished with 23, one behind team-leading Dante Thorpe. Levi Bradley scored 16 and Lacey James 10, helping the Huskies enjoy a 38-26 advantage in points in the paint.
The RedHawks took a six-point lead on Mekhi Lairy’s floater with 14:01 left in the first half, but NIU pieced together a 12-3 run for a 17-17 tie with 9:47 left before halftime and taking the lead for good at 22-20 on Thorpe’s layup two minutes later.
The RedHawks will travel to Buffalo on Saturday. They’ll face a Bulls team that’s ranked 19thin the Associated Press Top 25 poll was picked in a preseason poll to win the East Division and the conference tournament.
“Coach told us to keep our heads up,” Ringo said. “He said we’ve got to fix some things, but we’ll be alright. These are tough times, but there’s a lot of basketball left. I still think we’re one of the best teams in the MAC.”
“It’s tough,” Owens admitted. “You want to win every game. We have a big task on Saturday and again on Tuesday. We’ve just got to work to continue and get better. It’s our job to keep them together. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”