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Miami men’s basketball falls in MAC opener

Daniel Taylor, For The Miami Student

Miami University head basketball coach John Cooper was clearly frustrated after losing to the University at Buffalo 79-72 Wednesday evening in the RedHawks opening Mid-American Conference matchup.

"Basketball has to hurt," Cooper said, echoing his halftime speech.

In the first half, the RedHawks came out as cold as the air outside. Before the game could even heat up, the deficit was 14-2 with 15 minutes left in the first half.

The 'Hawks were able to rebound after senior guard Will Sullivan drained a 3, cutting the lead to 14-5. With 10 minutes remaining Sullivan added another 3 and Miami trailed 19-8.

Junior forward Justin Moss took over the first half with 12 points and nine rebounds, en route to 23 and 12.

That caused the RedHawks to press, especially junior guard Eric Washington. Miami entered the half down 42-26.

Normally as sure handed as they come, Washington lost the ball multiple times attempting to slice the lane with his normal quickness.

"He was trying to do too much because we were down," Cooper said.

Going into half Cooper emphasized how the game of basketball has to hurt.

"Winning plays are typically physical plays," Cooper said.

And the players responded.

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A jumper out of the gate by Sullivan and a quick steal by Washington, the two unquestioned leaders of the team, sparked a flurry of good basketball.

With 15:07 remaining the RedHawks had cut the lead to 10, and they did not stop there.

A quick combination of a layup by Washington, and a steal from Sullivan leading to another Washington floater, launched Millett Hall into excitement.

Miami would get within three at 56-53 with 12:27 left.

The Bobby Hurley-led Bulls were bending as far as they could go and Cooper's "Uncle Mo" was on the RedHawk bench.

Moss single handedly ripped that momentum apart.

A driving layup fell through the bottom of the basket, greeted by whistles and Miami junior forward Chris Bryant was called for a foul.

Moss promptly made the and-one and extended the lead to six.

Adding a tip-in on the next trip down the court, the Bulls pulled ahead by eight.

Every trip down that Miami made a basket to draw within six, Moss would counter with his own successful field goal.

The theme continued for three trips and Moss had them up by nine, heading into the final five minutes.

And then Sullivan added another huge momentum swinging three-pointer, cutting the lead 66-60.

Senior forward Will Regan found his stroke knocking down a 3 of his own, silencing the crowd again.

The Bulls then grew complacent and Miami was able to draw within three once again at 73-70 with just under two-minutes remaining.

The pesky RedHawks had hung around the whole evening, but the team just did not have enough in the tank. Sullivan added one final jumper, leaving a small hint of hope in the arena.

Buffalo continued to knock their free throws down, however. And that is something Miami did not do the whole night.

Junior guard Geovonie McKnight led the team with eight of its 19 attempts. He made two. The team finished 8 for 19.

Sullivan emphasized that it "was just one of those nights." But he is optimistic it is an outlier, calling for personal responsibility to correct free throw woes.

Overall, it was a night of two halves. The first half left plenty on the plate for the team, and the second half charge fell just short.

Sullivan said he wants to see how the young guys handle it in the coming practice.

The squad will not be able to dwell on the tough loss for too long. Eastern Michigan University travels to Oxford for a matchup of birds Saturday. Tip off is at 5:30 p.m. in Millett Hall.