Reaching the Mid-American Conference tournament quarterfinals is sweet enough.
Beating an arch-rival to get there is icing.
Seventh-seeded Miami shook off two regular-season losses to “Battle of the Bricks” rival Ohio, including one on Friday in the regular-season finale, to earn a trip to Cleveland with a 68-55 win over the 10th-seeded Bobcats before a crowd of 1,752 at Millett Hall of Monday.
Miami (16-16) snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series with Ohio (14-17) to advance to meet second-seeded Toledo on Wednesday in a 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. Miami lost to the Rockets, 73-67, in Oxford on Feb. 9.
Junior guard Darrian Ringo scored 21 points to lead the RedHawks. Freshman guard Nike Sibande added 13 while senior forward Logan McLane scored six of his 10 points in a crucial second-half stretch to help Miami hold off the Bobcats.
“They ruined my senior night,” McLane pointed out. “It felt good to get it back, but it feels just as good to know our dream is still alive and that we’re still playing. I didn’t want to lose a third time to them. It wasn’t happening if I could help it.”
The RedHawks, playing their first home tournament game since March 10, 2014, limited the Bobcats to 35.6 percent from the field (21-for-59), including 4-for-23 (17.4 percent) on 3-pointers. The Bobcats shot 50 percent (27-for-54) overall and 43.8 percent (7-for-16) on 3-pointers in their win on Friday.
Ohio cut Miami’s 15-point halftime lead to six before McLane put together a personal 6-0 run that included two offensive rebounds and a blocked shot, pushing the RedHawks’ lead to 56-44 with 6:37 left in the game.
“I stuck with him,” coach Jack Owens said. “He was active and talking and communicating and boxing out. He may not have always gotten the rebound, but he was boxing out. I bet when I watch film and grade him, he’ll come in at 85-90 percent. I felt confident with him. That’s the Logan we’ve wanted to see all season.”
Ohio jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before Miami capitalized on an epic Bobcats cold spell to string together a pair of 7-0 runs that added up to a 19-7 lead. Ohio went 1-for-17 and 0-for-11 from the field before James Gollon broke free with a steal for a dunk.
The RedHawks expanded the lead to a half-high 17 points, 33-16, with 2:11 left in the half on back-to-back Ringo 3-pointers. Ringo finished the half with 13 points while going 5-for-6 from the field. Miami shot 48.1 percent (13-for-27) from the field in the first half while Ohio finished at 24.2 percent (8-for-33), including 1-for-12 on 3-point shots.
“I couldn’t sleep after (Friday’s) game,” Ringo said. “I was disappointed that I didn’t do more to help our seniors.”
“We set the tone in the first half,” Owens said. “We had some breakdowns in the second half, but I liked how the guys fought and kept their composure. We knew (Ohio) wasn’t going to quit or lie down. We knew we’d have to grind.”
Eighteen points is Ohio’s season-low for a half and matched the fewest scored in a half by any Miami opponent this season.
“As a whole, everybody played great defense,” Ringo said. “We know the offense will come. We feel like if we focus no defense for 40 minutes, we have a great chance of winning.”
Note: Ringo and two RedHawk freshmen –Sibande and forward Dalonte Brown – earned All-MAC honors on Monday. Ringo was named third-team All-MAC and also earned a spot on the All-MAC Defensive Team. Sibande received All-MAC honorable mention and along with Brown was named to the All-MAC Freshman Team.