RedHawks fall to second-seeded Bulls in MAC tourney

Miami Redhawks forward Dalonte Brown hits for three against Western Michigan during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
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Miami Redhawks forward Dalonte Brown hits for three against Western Michigan during Mid-American Conference play at Millett Hall in Oxford Jan. 30, 2021. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

Buffalo dominated Miami’s men’s basketball team during the 2020-2021 regular season, winning both games by an average of 26 points.

The RedHawks put up a better fight on Thursday in a Mid-American Conference tournament quarterfinal, but it wasn’t enough to upset the second-seeded Bulls. Buffalo’s Josh Mballa, named on Wednesday the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in a poll of coaches, scored 23 points and hauled in 19 rebounds as Buffalo led for the entire game on the way to a 74-63 win at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Bulls’ 6-foot-7 junior forward from France showed in just one half against Miami on Thursday that he can do more than just play defense, Mballa, a second-team All-MAC pick, fell two rebounds short of logging a double-double by halftime, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

“He’s a good player,” fourth-year Miami coach Jack Owens said. “He’s an all-conference kind of guy. He’s a guy who plays to his strength. He’s not a good 3-point shooter, but he plays the angles.”

Jeenathan Williams and Ronaldo Segu both went 5-for-6 on 3-pointers while Buffalo was sinking 12-of-20 shots from beyond the arc. Williams went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 20 points and while Segu added 16.

“They haven’t shot the 3 well all year,” Owens said. “Give Jeenathan Williams credit.”

Senior forward Dalonte Brown scored 17 points and sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant added 12 for Miami. The seventh-seeded RedHawks put together a 9-0 run on the way to cutting a 13-point Buffalo lead to one within the last five minutes of the game, but Grant committed a turnover on Miami’s first possession coming out of a timeout that Williams converted with a 3-pointer and the Bulls pulled away for the win.

“Buffalo’s got a pretty good team.” said Grant, named third-team All-MAC on Wednesday. “Give them kudos. Give them props. We have to just be more aggressive.

“It was a challenge. It was exciting. It was very interesting to see how the game comes out. It’s on me. Coming out of the timeout, Coach drew up a play and I turned the ball over. I’ve got to be better at taking care of the ball.”

“It was a hard-fought game,” Owens said. “Obviously, in the second half, we cut it to one, Unfortunately, after the timeout, we had the turnover. Give Buffalo credit. We’ve got to do a better job of getting quality shots. If you want to play winning basketball, you’ve got to take cae of the basketball, and we’ve done that all year.”

Miami went 9-8 in the MAC regular season and won four of its last five games to earn the tournament seventh seed. The RedHawks finish 12-11 overall.