Miami edges CMU, shuts down nation’s top scorer

The question on many Miami fans’ minds in the wake of the RedHawks’ 81-76 Mid-American Conference win over Central Michigan on Saturday was “Where has that team been all year?”

Junior Logan McLane scored a career-high 29 points, freshman Michael Weathers added 18 and seven assists and the RedHawks limited national scoring leader Marcus Keene to a season-low 12 points while snapping a four-game losing streak.

McLane had to agree that the game probably was Miami’s most complete effort of the season.

“The way we played defense and the offense came along strong,” said the 6-9 forward, whose eight rebounds tied freshman Marcus Weathers for the team lead.

All of the game’s nine lead changes took place in the last 14 minutes, starting with 6-4 third-year sophomore guard Jake Wright’s 3-pointer that gave the RedHawks their first lead, 48-47, with 13:54 left in the game.

Miami took the lead for good, 79-76, on Marcus Weather’s layup off a deft feed from his twin brother and a free throw with 31.5 seconds left. The two Weathers each sank a free throw to put the game out of reach.

The RedHawks’ game plan for Keene, who led the nation with an average of 30.7 points per game and poured in 50 in one CMU win, was simply to stay in his face as much as possible. He finished 5-of-17 overall from the field, including 2-of-10 on 3-pointers. He went 15-of-23 and 10-of-15 in the first game.

“He can score 20 in his sleep,” McLane said.

“We wanted to make every shot a challenge and tough,” Michael Weathers added.

Miami coach John Cooper felt one key was keeping Keene and his running mate, junior guard Braylon Rayson, off the free-throw line. The two combined to go 13-of-14 in the first game. The entire Chippewa team shot just nine free throws on Saturday. Rayson led four Chippewas in double figures with 24 points.

“As a team, they didn’t get to the free-throw line,” Cooper said.

A by-product of the gritty defensive effort was a season-high 22 Central Michigan (16-9, 6-6) turnovers, leading to Miami’s whopping 22-7 advantage in points off turnovers. The RedHawks committed 11 turnovers.

“The main difference in the game was we took better care of the ball and Keene didn’t go off,” Cooper said.

Cooper also was impressed with Miami’s resilience. They often pulled within one possession of tying or taking the lead several times, only to see a Chippewa player sink a gap-widening shot.

“They persevered,” said Cooper, lauding his entire team’s energy. “They were persistent. Every time they came over to the bench for a timeout, everybody was saying, ‘Next play. Next play.’”

Keene managed three points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field, including 1-of-5 on 3-pointers, but the Chippewas were able to lead by as many as nine points in the first half behind Rayson’s 11 points. McLane scored 14 points in the first half and shot 6-of-8 from the field, including two layups in the last minute on nifty feeds from Michael Weathers to cut Central Michigan’s lead to 38-35 at halftime.

Miami (10-15, 3-9 MAC) goes on the road for back-to-back conference games at Kent State on Tuesday and Buffalo on Saturday. The RedHawks edged the Bulls, 75-74, at Millett Hall on January 24 before losing at home to the Golden Flashes, 66-62, on February 4.

The RedHawks suffered their third season-ended injury before last Tuesday’s loss to Western Michigan when 6-4 fourth-year junior guard Dion Wade suffered a leg injury. He joins 6-2 junior guard Zach McCormick and 6-6 freshman forward Precious Ayah on the sidelines. McCormick is out with back problems and Ayah underwent reconstructive knee surgery before the season.

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