College basketball: Missed free throws doom Miami in loss to Western Michigan

Miami’s Dae Dae Grant puts up a shot agaisnt Western Michigan at Millett Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Miami Athletics PHOTO
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Miami’s Dae Dae Grant puts up a shot agaisnt Western Michigan at Millett Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Miami Athletics PHOTO

Despite losing Nike Sibande six minutes into the game to an injury and Bam Bowman limited by foul trouble, Miami was in position on Tuesday to beat Western Michigan.

Then the RedHawks stepped to the free throw line.

Miami missed 11-of-19 free throws, all in the second half, on the way to a 64-60 Mid-American Conference loss before a crowd of 1,245 at Millett Hall.

“We have to step up and make our free throws,” third-year coach Jack Owens said. “We have to control what we can control.”

True freshman point guard Dae Dae Grant set single-game career highs with 20 points and five assists while committing just one turnover in just under 33 minutes on the court. He stepped up his game when Sibande went out with an apparent leg injury.

“I didn’t feel like I had to take over, but I wanted to give my teammates a little bit more of a spark, offensively and defensively,” said the 6-foot-2 Grant, who was 3-for-6 on free throws. He spent time after the game shooting free throws.

“Dae Dae’s the best freshman in the league,” Owens said. “He’s talented, and he works hard. He’s got better days ahead.”

Fourth-year junior Precious Ayah came off the bench to score 10 points, all in the second half, while Bowman was strapped to the bench with foul problems. Milos Jovic, another fourth-year junior, also scored 10 points off the bench for Miami (9-13, 2-7 MAC East Division), which has lost two straight games and four of its last five.

The RedHawks forced Western Michigan (10-12, 3-6 MAC West) into 16 turnovers while committing only seven, leading to a 22-6 advantage in points off turnover, but that was negated by the Broncos going 22-of-30 on free throws. Western Michigan made more free throws than Miami attempted.

“I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” Owens said. “That’s not good for the game. You want consistency. When they’re not consistent, that’s when coaches have a problem.”

The score was tied seven times and the teams combined for nine lead changes, the last when 6-8 Brandon Johnson hit a jump hook to tie the game at 58 with 42.8 seconds left. Johnson was fouled and missed the free throw, but the RedHawks were called for a lane violation. Given new life, Johnson again missed the free throw, but the ball got stuck between the backboard and rim flange, and the Broncos retained control on the alternate possession rule. Johnson converted the opportunity for a 60-58 lead, and Michael Flowers clinched the win with four free throws in the final nine seconds.

The teams traded 10-0 runs to start the game, with Miami grabbing a 10-0 lead before the Broncos fought back. They traded the lead the rest of the way before Grant sank a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to give the RedHawks a 28-26 halftime lead. Grant, who scored 11 points in Miami’s 70-55 loss on Saturday at Northern Illinois, finished the half with 10 points.

The RedHawks will play four of their next five games on the road, starting Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio. Their only home game in that stretch is set for Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m. against Northern Illinois, which came away with a 70-55 win over Miami this past Saturday at DeKalb, Ill.

Rescheduled game: Miami's basketball home game against Central Michigan, which was postponed from Jan. 28 due to concerns about the coronavirus, has been scheduled to be played on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

Starting over: Miami is scheduled to begin preparations for its defense of its MAC football championship with the first of 15 spring football practices on March 8 at 3 p.m. The spring schedule is due to be capped with the annual showcase on April 18 at 1:30 p.m.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Miami at Ohio, 3:30 p.m., 980, 1450