BOWLING GREEN — The Miami University men’s basketball team entered the Stroh Center on Tuesday with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
So did Bowsher High School graduate Dalonte Brown.
“They have us finishing 12th out of 12 teams [in the Mid-American Conference],” Brown said of the preseason prognosticators. “My teammates and I felt disrespected by that, so we came out with a little bit of an edge.”
That edge helped the RedHawks knock off Bowling Green 77-72 in the MAC opener for both schools.
The Falcons struggled at both ends of the floor in the first half, then could not piece things together in the second half to fall to 9-5 on the season.
“It was a lack of effort on our part,” BG coach Michael Huger said of his team’s defensive struggles. “We didn’t have the same focus, the same intensity that we needed, especially in the first half.”
Meanwhile, Brown was the star of the game for Miami (8-6), finishing with 16 points, a collegiate career-high 17 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Rod Mills scored 12, Darrian Ringo 11, and Nike Sibande 10 for the RedHawks.
Springfield High School graduate Demajeo Wiggins scored 18 points to lead the Falcons. Antwon Lillard had 15 points, Daeqwon Plowden 11, and Justin Turner 10 for BG.
Bowling Green scored the game’s first seven points, then went cold offensively. A 3-pointer by Miami’s Bam Bowman tied the game at 12 with 11 minutes, 31 seconds still to play in the first half, and the lead bounced back and forth until the final minutes.
The RedHawks used an 11-6 finish in the last 3:04 to take a 39-34 lead at the break.
“We weren’t able to get stops, and when we did get out in transition we took bad shots, and that led to them scoring in transition,” Huger said. “We had a lot of open shots that we missed, a lot of layups that we missed.
“We only had 10 turnovers. … But I thought we were too anxious to score. We weren’t patient at the offensive end.”
The Falcons shot just 37.5 percent in the first half despite getting a number of layups and open shots in transition.
“We just relaxed,” Lillard said. “Once we get up on a team, you have to keep our foot on the gas.
“I thought we relaxed on the defense end and just didn’t have enough energy on offense.”
Miami scored the first eight points of the second half to lead by 13, but the Falcons mounted a comeback that saw them cut their deficit to 59-57 with 7:23 on the clock.
But the RedHawks mounted a decisive 8-1 run in the next three minutes to lead 67-58, then made 8-of-10 free throws to finish off the victory in which they outrebounded the Falcons 45-36.
“Coach [Jack] Owens is always big about defense,” Brown said. “If the defense works, the offense will take care of itself. …
“And we had to secure rebounds.”
Meanwhile, Bowling Green made just 4-of-11 free throws in the second half (36.4 percent) and 11-of-21 in the contest (52.4 percent) to further derail its comeback chances.
“Missed free throws killed us,” Huger admitted. “When you’re trying to mount a comeback, it’s hard to get over that hump if you can’t make free throws.”
The result was a disappointing loss for the Falcons — as well as a feeling the MAC opener was an opportunity lost.
“The pain never eases until you win,” Huger said. “And even then you look back and say, ‘We could have or should have done this or that.’ ….
“Hopefully this game doesn’t come back to hurt us.”
NOTE: Falcons guard Dylan Frye injured his ankle early in the second half and did not score in 13 minutes. Huger said Frye’s status for Saturday’s contest at Eastern Michigan will be evaluated later in the week.
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