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RedHawks lose heartbreaker in OT

By Win Braswell
On February 25, 2013

A victory yet again proved unattainable for the Miami University men's basketball team, as it dropped another close decision, 74-68 in overtime at the hands of Southern Illinois University.

The RedHawks (8-17, 3-9 Mid-American Conference (MAC)), have now lost five consecutive games, the longest losing streak since the 2007-08 season. Miami has lost its last nine of 10 games.

Poor free throw shooting and turnovers again plagued Miami, as the team shot just 63 percent from the line and committed 17 turnovers.

Freshman guard Reggie Johnson was lead the way for Miami with 18 points on 8-13 shooting.

Miami took a one-point lead into the locker room at the half, after having to battle back. Southern Illinois pieced together an 11-0 run in seven minutes of action to take a 22-9 lead. Miami was able to keep the game from getting ugly, finishing the half on a 17-3 run that was sparked by Johnson, who had 10 of his 12 first- half points.

The RedHawks extended their lead to six points just 90 seconds into the second half, but both teams traded baskets for the rest of the half. The Salukis' senior forward Jeff Early lead the charge for the home team, scoring a career high 31 points.

"That was a special day for Jeff Early," Southern Illinois Head Coach Barry Hinson said. "We don't win the ballgame today, no ifs, ands or buts, unless Jeff Early is in a uniform."

The game reached overtime, as Early drained a jumper at the buzzer to tie the score at 56. Senior Vince Legarza's missed shot on the front end of a one-of-one helped give the Salukis one final desperation shot.

"We just wilted down the stretch again," Head Coach John Cooper said. "At the end of the day, you've got to do things to help yourself. You've got to learn to create your own luck, and we haven't been able to do it."

The extra period was all Southern Illinois, as it outscored Miami 18-12. Miami shot 44 percent from the floor and was 4-11 from deep, while allowing 44 percent on field goals and 42 percent from beyond the arc.

Along with his 31 points, Early grabbed 12 rebounds. Salukis' junior guard Desmar Jackson added 17 points as well. This was the second consecutive game Miami allowed a scorer to reach a career high.

"We couldn't find a way to slow down Mr. Early today," Cooper said. "He made big bucket after big bucket, especially when they needed them."

Redshirt junior guard Allen Roberts added 14 points in the losing effort. Junior forward Jon Harris chipped in nine points and a team-high seven boards.

"My teammates did a great job - they let me put them on my back," Early said. "All the credit to my team for getting me the ball, having trust in me and letting me do what I do."

Miami now closes out the regular season with four games, three on the road. The RedHawks are looking to gain some momentum heading into the MAC Tournament.

"We're the epitome of a program in transition," Cooper said. "We almost have to play a perfect game, and that really weighs heavy on us. I can't tell you how many games we've had like this."

Miami travels to Boling Green State University tomorrow for a rematch with the Falcons. Miami pulled out the win, 63-60, Jan. 16, but is 0-1 this season in rematch games, having lost to Buffalo Feb. 16.

Bowling Green is 5-5 in its last 10 games, and holds an 11-16, 5-7 MAC record. Despite the recent defensive efforts of the RedHawks, it has been offense that has stymied the team, shooting under 50 percent in each of the last 10 contests. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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