Nike Sibande played on Saturday with what Miami men’s basketball coach Jack Owens described as a “heavy heart.”
“He’s got a family member who’s not doing very well,” Owens said.
The sophomore guard shook it off well enough to score 16 of his 24 points in the second half and Miami overcame a rebound disadvantage and free throw issues to hold off Purdue Fort Wayne for an 85-79 men’s basketball win on Saturday.
Dalonte Brown scored 21 points and Darrian Ringo added 13 with seven assists for the RedHawks, who led by as many as 12 points while improving to 6-4.
Sibande gave Miami the lead for good at 75-74 with two free throws with 3:31 left in the game. He followed with a 3-pointer, one of the RedHawks’ season-high 15 3-pointers.
“I have to credit my teammates for opening up the floor for me,” Sibande said. “I was getting to my spots and making my shots.”
Fifth-year senior John Konchar, who reminded some veteran observers among the 1,451 in attendance at Millett Hall of 1960s-1970s icon Pete Maravich, scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead both teams.
“I don’t know who to compare him to,” Owens said. “One thing he does really well is rebound the ball. He’s a really good player.”
The RedHawks were being outrebounded, 31-16, at one point before finishing with 27 rebounds to Purdue Fort Wayne’s 39. Miami also made just 10 of 19 free throws and missed several down the stretch, helping the Mastodon’s stay in the game.
“We’ve got to do a better job on free throws,” Owens said. “Just a while ago, we were the best free throw-shooting team in the (Mid-American Conference). Now, we’re not. We had been redounding well since the Xavier game, but we didn’t today. We were happy to come out with a win.
“These guys are dealing with a lot with finals week coming up. A lot of them are working on papers.”
The win was Miami’s third straight and fourth in the last five games and holding off the Mastodons could be a boost for the RedHawkss confidence.
“We have to focus on getting and keeping the lead,” Ringo said. “Sometimes, we get leads and lose them and end up losing the game.”
Purdue Fort Wayne (6-6), which plays in the Summit League, previously was known as Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
The RedHawks are off this week for finals. They are scheduled to return to action on December 16 with a 7 p.m. game at Northern Kenrtucky of the Horizon League. Miami edged another Horizon League team, Wright State, 65-62 at Wright State on Wednesday.
Miami led by six points twice in the second half before Purdue Fort Wayne put together a 9-0 run for a 69-63 lead with 8:41 left in the game. Bam Bowman, limited to 19 minutes by foul trouble, ended the run with a 3-pointer – his first shot of the game. He restored the lead to Miami with another 3-pointer for a 71-69 advantage with 6:09 left in the game, but Purdue Fort Wayne recovered to take a 74-73 lead on Konchar’s traditional three-point play with 3:42 left in the game.
Konchar, who scored nine points in 39 minutes of last season’s 81-73 win over the Mastodons, poured in 17 in the first half as Purdue Fort Wayne fought back from a 12-pount deficit to cut the RedHawks’ lead to 45-44 by halftime.
Both teams were hot to start the game, combining to sink 14 of their first 19 shots from the field, imcluding 7-of-10 on 3-pointers. Brown hit his first six shots on the way to scoring 15 points before halftime. Nike Sibande’s 3-pointer gave Miami a 35-23 lead with 8:19 left in the half, but Purdue Fort Wayne pecked away at the lead with a 21-10 run to finish the half.
The Mastodons shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the field in the first half. The RedHawks made the same number of field goals, but needed seven more shots to do it.