Miami tops Eastern Michigan to clinch spot in MAC Tournament

Miami University's Dae Dae Grant dribbles the ball defended by University of Cincinnati's Mika Adams-Woods during their basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall on Miami University campus in Oxford. Grant scored 19 points Friday in the RedHawks' win over Eastern MIchigan. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Miami University's Dae Dae Grant dribbles the ball defended by University of Cincinnati's Mika Adams-Woods during their basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall on Miami University campus in Oxford. Grant scored 19 points Friday in the RedHawks' win over Eastern MIchigan. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

OXFORD -- The formula was simple.

Win and stay alive.

In fact, Miami even could afford a loss if it got some help from Akron or Toledo or both.

That’s how it stood for the RedHawks men’s basketball team going into Friday’s Mid-American Conference regular-season finale against Eastern Michigan at Miami’s Millett Hall.

A RedHawks win clinched a berth in the eight-team MAC Tournament at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, scheduled to start with four games on Thursday and conclude with the championship game on March 12.

Dae Dae Grant and Dalonte Brown made sure Miami didn’t need help. Before a raucous crowd of 3,331, the third-largest of the season at Millett, Grant scored 19 points and Brown added 15 as   the RedHawks took control early and held off the Eagles for a 76-63 win.

Miami’s players approached the packed student section behind the media table to celebrate. The students followed by briefly taking over the court.

“That was something you wish you could have seen the majority of my years here,” Brown said.

“The environment was great,” fifth-year coach Jack Owens said. “I think the players fed off that to start the game.”

Brown coolly sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Miami a 70-62 lead after Eagles had whittled the RedHawks ' 22-point first half lead down to five.

“That was a beautiful thing,” Owens said. “With the transfer portal, it’s unusual to see a guy stick around for four or five years. It was great to see him go out like that.”

“With the way the students and the campus and the community came out, I wanted to do it for them,” Brown said. “That was motivational. I knew that shot would blow the roof off.”

Sophomore Kamari Williams scored nine of his 12 points after halftime to help hold off the Eagles. Precious Ayah scored eight of his 12 points in the second half.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Brown said. “We made our run. They made their run. We knew we had to finish the game.”

The win sets up a first-round matchup with second-seeded Kent State, which extended its winning streak to 12 games with a 70-65 home win over Buffalo on Friday. The RedHawks and Golden Flashes are scheduled to play at approximately 4 p.m. in the third game of tourney Thursday.

Miami qualified with either a win or a loss with losses by either Central Michigan at Akron or Bowling Green at Toledo – or both. Bowling Green lost, 96-56, to the Rockets, who clinched the regular-season championship and the tournament’s top seed.

The MAC’s top eight teams earned tournament berths.

Brown and fellow seniors Ayah, James Beck, Isaiah Coleman-Lands, Mekhi Lairy and Elijah McNamara were honored before the game.

Brown’s first 3-pointer boosted his career scoring total to 1,518 points, breaking a tie with Michael Bramos for sixth place on the program’s career scoring list.

Eastern Michigan (10-21, 5-15) was missing freshman guard Noah Farrakhan and senior guard-forward Nate Scott, who combined for 53 points in the Eagles’ 85-75 win over Miami on January 29 in Ypisilanti. Both were sidelined with injuries. Freshman Mo Njie, a former Centerville Elk, started and tied his career high with16 points before fouling out.

Going into Friday’s game, Miami (14-17, 8-12) was seventh in the 12-team MAC standings.

Brown and Grant each sank two 3-pointers to spark a 21-0 RedHawks run that left them leading, 33-11, with 9:57 left in the first half. Grant scored 15 points and Brown 10 before halftime, which came with Miami leading, 46-29.

Miami, tied with Ohio for first in the MAC with an average of 9.3 made 3-pointers per game, connected on eight in the first half.

The RedHawks finished with 20 assists after going into the game averaging 13.6 assists per game.

THURSDAY’S GAME

Miami vs. Kent State, 4 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

About the Author