Kent trounces Miami
The Miami University men's basketball team let yet another close game get ugly by the final horn, in a 78-58 loss to Kent State University Saturday. The loss is the seventh consecutive and 11th in 12 games. The RedHawks are now 8-19, 3-11 Mid-American Conference (MAC), and allowed the Golden Flashes to sweep the two game season series.
Despite Kent jumping to an early lead, due mainly to three point shooting, Miami was never down double digits until in the first half. Both teams made runs, and although the Flashes made eight treys, Miami stayed in the game, shooting 60 percent from the field, including 4-5 from deep.
After Kent State took a nine-point lead, junior forward Jon Harris led the 'Hawks back within striking distance, scoring all six points in a 6-0 run, along with late three pointers by junior guard Josh Sewell and redshirt junior guard Allen Roberts that made the margin just four at the half, 37-33.
"We could never quite get over the hump," Head Coach John Cooper said. "They always seemed to make some timely shots. The ability to shoot the basketball is what it's all about. If you can shoot the basketball, you're hard to guard. That's a team that can shoot. Their athleticism really bothered us."
Miami played a better first half, statistically, but allowed 11 points off turnovers, 10 second-chance points and seven points from fast breaks.
After former head coach, Charlie Coles, was honored at the half, Miami came out in the latter 20 minutes deflated, and it quickly showed.
Kent State's senior forward, Chris Evans, continued to make his presence felt, in very emphatic fashion, finishing several high-flying tomahawk dunks that brought the Flashes bench to its feet. Evans was 7-12 from the floor, with 21 points.
Along with the continued onslaught of threes from Kent, Miami's offensive output dwindled dramatically, as it shot just 32 percent for the second half, making only eight field goals. Despite redshirt junior forward Will Felder slamming home a dunk that cut the Flashes' lead to 50-42 with 12:37 to play, Kent actually gained momentum, outscoring the RedHawks 9-4 over the next four minutes. Miami got as close as nine in the closing minutes, but never found an answer for Evans or the three-point barrage.
"It's hard at this point of the year," Cooper said. "You've been in a losing rut, and there's no flowers at the end of the rainbow waiting on this team. You're trying to get effort. You're trying to get guys to continue to stay locked in and to make sure that you don't lose what you're trying to do. You want to make sure that everyone understands that everything we do now serves us now and in the future, and that guys don't start pulling it down."
Felder had a team-high 18 points, as Harris tied his season high 16 points, on 5-6 shooting. This was Harris' first double-digit game since Dec. 30. No other RedHawks scored more than six points.
"Guys just did a good job today setting me up," Harris said. "Coach kept calling out some good sets where we were getting some shuffle cuts and I was getting open. I'm finally starting to make some open shots, just feeling a little more confident."
Along with Evans' game high, Kent had two other players reach double figures. In addition to the defensive strangle hold Kent put on Miami in the second half, the Golden Flashes drained a season-high 13 treys.
"I'm proud of how our kids defended in the second half," Kent State Head Coach Rob Senderoff said. "I didn't think we did a great job in the first half defensively, but in the second half, we sort of stepped that up. I think that made a big difference."
The loss came on senior day, and Miami's lone senior, center Vince Legarza, tallied four points and six boards.
"It's sad," Legarza said. "I got a little emotional after the game. What people don't see is the endless hours that you put in in this gym. Luckily for me, we still have some basketball to be played."
Miami now faces the University of Akron 7 p.m. today. The Zips lead the MAC at 23-5, 13-1. Akron has won its last 19 of 20 contests, having its 19 game win streak snapped last Saturday against Buffalo.
The Feb. 9 meeting between these two teams ended as Miami came from ahead to lose by four, 54-50. Miami wilted in the second half, after holding a nine-point edge after the first half.
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