'Hawks knock off Zips
The Miami University men's basketball team (11-15, 7-8 MAC) needed two defensive stops in the final four seconds of the game to secure its win over the University of Akron (17-11, 9-6 MAC) 65-61 at Millett Hall.
Leading 62-61 with four seconds left on the clock, Miami senior forward Will Felder blocked Akron senior forward Quincy Diggs' attempt at the rim and the RedHawks gained possession. After junior guard Will Sullivan missed one of two free throws, senior guard Quinten Rollins stole the inbounds pass and was fouled with 0.9 seconds left. He converted both free throws to seal the Red and White victory.
Late game execution has been a problem for the RedHawks all season, but Rollins said this win gives them confidence as they head down the stretch run of the Mid-American Conference season.
"Just finding a way to finish is definitely something that is key going down the stretch," Rollins said. "The last couple weeks of games, all of these games are going to be close. It's going to come down to the team that executes at the end of the game and finds a way to get stops ... [this win] shows us that we can get it done."
Felder and Sullivan each had 16 points to lead Miami. Geovonie McKnight was second on the team with 13 points.
The matchup did not begin promisingly for the 'Hawks. The Zips embarked on an 11-3 run to start the game, forcing the RedHawks to come from behind. Miami then went on an 18-5 run of its own, as it established a 21-16 lead with 3:48 remaining in the opening period. After the two teams traded baskets, Miami went into the locker room leading 27-20.
Sullivan was the prime performer of the first half, as he scored 15 of his points and nailed three 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of action.
The opening minutes of the second half saw Miami add to its lead, culminating in a Felder fast break slam that gave MU its biggest lead of the night, 43-30.
From that point on, Akron began to climb its way back into the game until the two teams were tied at 53 with 5:50 remaining. After that the teams went back and forth, but the 'Hawks never relinquished the lead down the stretch.
Head coach John Cooper credited his team for staying calm and collected when Akron made its run.
"I thought our guys never ever really lost their confidence," Cooper said. "Even when we had breakdowns and didn't make particularly smart plays, they were focused and they were locked in."
The quick-handed Rollins garnered six steals in the win; part of Miami's 11 steals on the night. Rollins is marking his place in the record book. He has 62 steals this season, tying him with Ron Harper for third on Miami's single-season steal list. At 203 career steals he also became the 15th player in MAC history to record 200 steals and is tied for 13th on that list.
Up next for the RedHawks are the Bulls of the University at Buffalo (17-8, 11-4 MAC). Buffalo, the current leader in the MAC East division and beat Miami 75-62 at Millett Hall on Feb. 12.
In that contest, Buffalo senior forward Javon McCrea totaled 25 points and 11 boards on 12-14 shooting. McCrea, a surefire contender for MAC Player of the Year honors, is averaging 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds in conference play. Both of those figures lead the MAC in their respective categories.
Tip-off is scheduled for noon Saturday.
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