Miami losing streak reaches five with second straight loss to Akron

OXFORD -- Miami’s hopes for reaching the Mid-American Conference Tournament are slipping away.

The Redhawks saw their losing streak extended to five games with a 71-59 loss to Akron in a rare Sunday home game at Millett Hall.

The loss drops Miami (9-13, 3-8) into a tie with Eastern Michigan for 10th place in the 12-team MAC. The top eight teams in the standings make the postseason tournament March 9-12 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

Senior Mekhi Lairy led the RedHawks with 27 points – one short of matching his career high – as the only Miami player to reach double figures. Akron (15-6, 7-3) placed four players in double figures, led by sophomore wing Ali Ali with 21 as the Zips picked up their sixth win in their last seven games and extended to seven their win streak in the series.

“I thought we came out with good fight in the first half,” Miami fifth-year coach Jack Owens said. “We have to find ways to score during droughts.”

Miami junior guard Dae Dae Grant, who was averaging a team-high 16.9 points per game going into Sunday, managed just six against an Akron team that was allowing a conference-best 62.9 points per game.

“They’re a pretty good team,” the 6-2 Grant said. “They have active hands and get into the gaps. We need to be better, offensively and defensively.”

“They have a very similar style to us,” Owens said. “They have good length on the wings. I thougth we had a few good looks that we didn’t knock down.”

Ali scored eight points during a 16-2 Akron run that broke open a one-point game and left the Zips with a 53-38 lead going into a Miami timeout with 11:32 left in the game. They led by as many as 17.

The Zips went into the game in third place with wins in five of their last six games.

Lakota East graduate Nate Johnson is an Akron freshman.

Sunday’s game was the first of three straight at home for the RedHawks. They are scheduled to play Western Michigan on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Bowling Green on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Miami lost, 87-83, in overtime at Bowling Green on Jan. 8.

The RedHawks went into the game with losses in five of their last six games, including 66-55 at Akron on Friday. Sunday’s game marked the first time since the 1966-1967 season that Miami played back-to-back regular-season games against the same team.

Senior forward Dalonte Brown, Miami’s leading rebounder, missed his fourth consecutive game with an ankle injury he suffered early in the RedHawks’ 81-64 loss on Jan. 25 at Ball State, helping Akron dominate the rebounding, 36-20. The Zips’ Enrique Freeman, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who is leading the MAC with an average of 10.9 rebounds per game, finished with a game-high 10. Miami’s leading rebounders were Lairy and 6-7 freshman Curtis Harrison IV, each with three.

“Everyone knows he’s a good player,” Grant said of the 6-7 Brown. “We just have to continue to grow and grow together.”

Brown, whose return remains indefinite, also remains second on the team with an average of 12.3 points per game.

“It’s not jure rebounding,” Owens said. “It’s offense and everything else. It’s hurting us. We have to do a better job of chipping away and finishing plays with rebounds.”

Akron went into the game averaging 11.5 turnovers per game, but Miami helped force nine before halftime, leading to a 12-0 advantage in points off turnovers. Lairy led both teams in the first half with 12 points, and the RedHawks trailed by only two, 28-26, at halftime. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half.

Akron finished with 17 turnovers that Miami turned into a 21 points.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Western Michigan at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450

About the Author