RedHawks fall to Bellarmine for fifth straight loss

Miami University's head coach Jack Owens cheers on his team during their basketball game against University of Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall. JN FILE PHOTO

Credit: Nick Graham

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Miami University's head coach Jack Owens cheers on his team during their basketball game against University of Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 at Millett Hall. JN FILE PHOTO

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

OXFORD-- Miami went into its first home game since Dec. 1 on Saturday hoping to snap a four-game losing streak after opening the season with five straight wins.

Despite getting a season-high 22 points from junior guard Dae Dae Grant and 13 from 6-foot-6 fifth-year senior forward Precious Ayah, the RedHawks couldn’t build on a halftime lead, allowing Bellarmine of the Atlantic Sun Conference to leave Millett Hall with a 77-68 win.

The Knights shot a blistering 66.7 percent (18-of-27) in the second half while pulling away for the win.

“We had to do a better job in transition defense – in getting back and finding their dominant guy,” the 6-2 Grant said after the game. “They have kind of unique offense. They do a good job moving without the ball.”

“They did a good of moving the basketball,” Miami coach Jack Owens said. “We talked about that.”

Fifth-year senior forward Dalonte Brown added nine points, seven in the second half, before fouling out in the last minute. Brown also led Miami with seven rebounds, helping the RedHawks to a 32-23 rebounding lead, which led to a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points. Senior guard Mekhi Lairy also finished with nine points.

“We started the game well, but we’ve got to figure out how to play a full 40 minutes,” Owens said. “Even when we were winning, we had stretches in games where we didn’t play well. We have to play a full 40 minutes. We’re searching for a way. At the end of the day, we have to be better, and that’s on me.”

The visiting Knights (6-7) from Louisville, Ky., placed four players in double figures, led by 6-5 junior guard Alec Pfriem, who finished with 22 points and was 6-for-8 on 3-pointers. Bellarmine sank 9-of-21 3-pointers.

“They hadn’t done that well all season,” Owens said. “Pfriem had a career night.”

Miami’s five-game losing streak is the longest since a five-game slump in January 2017, John Cooper’s last season as the RedHawk’s coach. They haven’t lost more than five straight since a nine-game losing streak in the 2015-2016 season.

“There are highs and lows,” Grant said. “Right now, it’s a bumpy road. We’re going to stick together.”

“We have to learn how to deal with adversity,” Owens said. “We have a good team.”

The RedHawks are scheduled to wrap up the non-conference portion of their schedule on Tuesday with a 2 p.m. game against another Louisville-based team, Division III Spalding, at Millett Hall. Miami is due to open its Mid-American Conference schedule at Buffalo on Dec. 29.

Bellarmine’s roster featured a significant local presence, including 6-6 junior forward Bash Wieland, a Lakota East product. Wieland scored two points in 11 minutes off the bench.

The 6-7 Brown was honored before the game for setting Miami records for career games and career starts. Saturday’s game was the Toledo native’s 128th and the start was his 121st. Ron Harper was the previous career starts record-holder with 118. Geovonie McKnight held the games-played record with 126.

Bellarmine took its first lead with 15:03 left in the game and took control with an 8-0 run that left the Knights leading, 58-50, with 7:45 left in the game.

Ayah, who went into the game leading MAC with s 75.6 field-goal percentage, scored nine points and the 5-8 Lairy seven to help Miami lead, 34-32, at halftime. The RedHawks led in the first half by as many as eight points, 27-19, on a Lairy 3-pointer with 3:27 left in the first half before the Knights ended the half on a 10-4 run.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Spalding at Miami, 2 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450

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