Miami’s men’s basketball game on Tuesday against Northern Kentucky was the last of the regular season against Horizon League teams – a circumstance for which the RedHawks no doubt are grateful.
The RedHawks set season lows in scoring for a half and a full game and with a 32.7 field-goal percentage on the way to their worst loss of the season, 76-54 to the Norse before a crowd of 1,588 at Miami’s Millett Hall.
Miami (4-4) went into the game ranked 50th in the nation out of 353 teams with an average of 9.3 made 3-pointers per game, a ranking that’s almost sure to fall after the RedHawks sank a season-low four in 24 tries.
“Give NKU credit,” third-year coach Jack Owens said after Miami’s third straight loss following a four-game winning streak. “They did a good job packing in the zone. It was deflating to not see those shots go in. We had quality players taking 3-point shots in rhythm. I told them at halftime that I thought the shots would go in.’ We didn’t hit our shots.”
Junior forward Dalonte Brown was the only RedHawk to reach double figures, finishing with 17 points. Freshman Dae Dae Grant and sophomore Mekhi Lairy each scored nine points, but junior guard Nike Sibande – Miami’s leading scorer going into the game with an average of 16.6 points per game – managed to squeeze off just seven shots on his way to a season-low five points.
“They corralled Nike,” Owens said. “They had two guys in front of him all the time. That’s when other guys have to step up. Isaiah Coleman-Lands is a good shooter. You’re not going to see him for 0-for-5.”
“A lot of the shots that we missed are shots that we normally knock down,” Brown said. “It wasn’t their defense. It just wasn’t our night.”
NKU (6-3) outscored Miami, 38-16, in the paint without benefit of a dunk. That advantage was the Norse’s exact margin of victory. Senior forward Dantez Walton led both teams with 32 points, one off his season high.
The outcome left Miami 0-3 against Horizon League teams this season, including two losses to Wright State.
The losing margin was the RedHawks’ widest since their 80-51 loss to Akron in last season’s Mid-American Conference tournament.
The RedHawks are scheduled to return to the court on Saturday when they play at Evansville against a Purple Aces team that upset then-No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier this season. They are off for exams until Dec. 15 when they welcome Mississippi Valley State to Millett Hall for a 2 p.m. game.
Senior forward Bam Bowman, who normally wears uniform No.14, wore 45 after his regular jersey failed to make it back from Miami’s pre-Thanksgiving trip to Florida.
Lairy left the game with 2:14 left in the first half with an apparent left leg injury, but he returned to play almost as minutes in the second half as he did in the first, finishing with 25:24.
“It’s the thing that’s been a problem for the last 2-3 weeks – guys coming up with little injuries,” Owens said. “We have to get through this. We haven’t been a able to practice with everybody yet.”
Walton scored the first seven points of a 21-4 NKU run that turned a two-point Norse lead into a 54-35 bulge with just more than eight minutes left in the game. NKU’s largest lead was 23 points with 4:09 left in the game.
Brown scored 13 points while Miami was setting a season-low for points in a half with 22, allowing the Norse to lead by as many as eight points before settling for a seven-point halftime lead. The RedHawks were outrebounded, 24-14, leading to NKU’s 12-0 lead in first half second-chance points. Sibande went just 1-for-4 from the field and scored three points before halftime.
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