Miami goes cold, falls at home to Central Michigan

Miami University's Mekhi Lairy celebrates a three-pointer during their basketball game against University of Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall on Miami University campus in Oxford. University of Cincinnati won 59-58. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Miami University's Mekhi Lairy celebrates a three-pointer during their basketball game against University of Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall on Miami University campus in Oxford. University of Cincinnati won 59-58. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Facing a Central Michigan team on a five-game losing streak on Thursday, the Miami RedHawks could seriously think about helping themselves in the race for a berth in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Instead, it was the visiting Chippewas who helped themselves.

After trailing by four points at halftime, Central Michigan (7-19, 6-9) led by as 20 points in the second half while leapfrogging over Miami into seventh place by percentage points in the MAC standings with a 83-69 win.

The Chippewas sank seven of their first 10 second-half 3-pointers and finished 8-of-13 after halftime.

“We just didn’t get stops,” said fifth-year senior forward Precious Ayah, who just missed a double-double with nine points and a season-high 14 rebounds. “They’re a pretty good team. We have to find a better way to stop them from scoring.”

While Central Michigan got hot, Miami went cold. After shooting 38.2 percent from the field in the first half, the RedHawks dropped off to 28.1 in the second half. They also slipped to 29.4 percent on 3-pointers after halftime after connecting at a 40.0 percent clip in the first half.

“Give credit to them,” fifth-year Miami coach Jack Owens said. “They made shots. We had some quality looks that didn’t drop. We did some good things against their zone, which we haven’t seen much of until tonight.”

Senior guard Mekhi Lairy scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to help the RedHawks trim the lead to 11, but it wasn’t enough to slow down suddenly red-hot Central Michigan, which shot a blistering 70.8 from the field – including 61.5 percent on 3-pointers – after halftime.

Junior guard Dae Dae Grant scored three of his 16 points in the second half for Miami.

Miami (12-16, 6-11) went into the game seventh in the MAC, a game behind idle Ball State (12-15, 7-9). Central Michigan was eighth with Northern Illinois ninth and Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan tied for 10th.

The top eight teams qualify for the MAC Tournament in Cleveland.

“It’s not over yet,” Ayah said. “Don’t count us out. We have a chace to get this game back next week.”

After scoring 33 points in the first half, the Chippewas put together a 33-3 run to take a 66-46 lead with 8:27 left in the game.

The RedHawks travel to Toledo on Saturday. The Rockets are tied with Ohio for first place in the MAC and edged Miami, 75-72, at Millett Hall on Janu. 11. The RedHawks then play at Central Michigan on Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season at home against Eastern Michigan on March 4. Miami lost to the Eagles at Eastern Michigan, 85-75, on Jan. 29.

Grant scored 13 points to lead Miami to a 37-33 halftime lead. The RedHawks went into the halftime locker room with 10 assists on 13 made field goals.

Ayah, whose previous season high in rebounds was 12 rebounds Miami’s 94-78 win on Feb. 12 at Bowling Green, had eight by halftime on Tuesday.

Senior forward Dalonte Brown, who went into the game one behind Chet Mason on Miami’s career rebounds list, had six by halftime to leapfrog into fifth place on the list. Mason played from 2002 through 2005. Dick Walls, who played from 1951 through 1953, is fourth with 978 career rebounds. Brown finished with seven rebounds.

Brown scored six points, boosting his career total to 1,504 and leaving him 12 short of moving past Michael Bramos into sixth place on the program’s career scoring list. Bramos scored 1,515 while playing from 2006 through 2009.

Brown also went into the game with 527 career field goals, three behind 10th-place Wayne Embry, who connected on 530 shots while playing from 1956 through 1958. Brown made two field goals.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Miami at Toledo, Noon, ESPNU, 980, 1450

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