Many observers expected the first Miami-Xavier game in three years to be at least competitive.
Instead, the RedHawks suffered one of their worst losses in a series that has reached 102 games and dates back to 1921. They trailed the Musketeers by as many as 30 points in the second half before forcing Xavier to settle for an 82-55 win before a sellout crowd of 10,394 on Wednesday at Cintas Center.
Junior forward Bam Bowman, coming off an 18-point effort in Miami’s 30-point win over Army on Saturday, led the RedHawks with 15 points – only one in the second half. Fifth-year senior guard Abdoulaye Harouna also reached double figures with 14 points, but Miami’s top two scorers – sophomore guard Nike Sibande and sophomore forward Dalonte Brown – finished with a combined 15 points.
“They watched a lot of film,” Sibande said. “They did a good job scouting us. They knew what kind of shots we like. We still got the looks we wanted. We just didn’t make them.”
Xavier (4-3) committed just three turnovers and forced 14 on the way to a 28-0 advantage in points off turnovers while improving to 54-48 in the series with its fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games against Miami (3-4), which turned in a season-worst 33.3 field-goal percentage (21-of-63) while shooting just 24.1 percent (7-of-29) on 3-pointers.
Miami set a season low for scoring.
“Give them credit,” Miami coach Jack Owens said. “They did a good job bottling us up and taking away space. We settled for too many 3s. One of the things I’ll take from this game is we outrebounded them (41-33) in their building.”
The Musketeers’ largest win in the series is by 29 points, 87-58, on Nov. 28, 2001, exactly 17 years before Wednesday’s game. They also won by 26, 77-51, on Nov. 20, 2013.
The RedHawks are scheduled to return to action Saturday at 2 p.m. against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II Wilberforce at Millett Hall.
Bowman scored 10 of his 14 first-half points in the first six minutes, helping Miami take an early 12-10 lead, but Paul Scruggs gave Xavier the lead for good on a 3-pointer with 14:07 left in the half, sparking a 17-5 run that left the Musketeers leading, 27-17, with 8:16 left before halftime.
The RedHawks came out of a timeout and put together a 6-0 run, but Xavier responded with a 15-5 run to close the half and take a 42-28 lead into the locker room;
Miami was shooting 47.9 percent from the field, including 34.2 on 3-pointers, going into the game, but the RedHawks managed just 36.4 percent (12-of-33) overall and 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from beyond the arc in the first half, helping Xavier take command.
Senior guard Darrian Ringo was limited to nine minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls in the first four minutes. Sibande and Brown, averaging a combined 36.0 points per game going in, teamed up for nine before halftime.
“We started the game the way we wanted,” Owens said. “We were getting the ball inside, but then Ringo got into foul trouble and that created a domino effect.”