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Basketball avoids late collapse, holds off Fort Wayne

Jordan Herald - Miami Athletics
Jordan Herald - Miami Athletics

The Miami RedHawks (6-4) defended their home court Saturday, defeating Fort Wayne 81-73 at Millett Hall. The win snapped a three-game losing streak against the Mastodons (6-5), and allowed Miami to remain undefeated at home this season.

"I'm excited about the guys competing," Miami head coach Jack Owens said. "We were able to get them out of rhythm. That was a really good offensive team, and our guys stayed to the scouting reports, the game plan and executed offensively and defensively."

The RedHawks quickly fell behind in the first half, as Fort Wayne Redshirt senior guard Bryson Scott converted a layup and then hit a three pointer to put the Mastodons up 5-0. Two made free throws by senior forward Logan McLane gave MU its first points of the game, after going nearly three minutes without scoring.

With the 'Hawks down 10-8, Redshirt junior guard Jake Wright got tangled up with Scott while fighting for a loose ball, resulting in both players receiving technical fouls.

With 11 minutes remaining in the first, Miami freshman forward Dalonte Brown tied the game at 10 with a layup off an assist by junior guard Darrian Ringo. The bucket sparked a 7-0 MU run.

The RedHawks gained their first lead of the game on a layup by McLane and would hold it the rest of the way.

Ringo came off the bench and reinvigorated the lethargic MU offense. After the Mastodons cut the lead to one, Ringo hit a deep three from the wing to give Miami a four point cushion. On the ensuing Fort Wayne possession, he picked the pocket of Mastodon Redshirt freshman forward Dylan Carl, and proceeded to hit Jake Wright in the corner for an open three. This gave the Red and White a 24-17 lead.

"Coach got on us a lot and told us that we needed to pick it up," Ringo said. "He sat me down for six minutes, so I felt like I needed to come back in and set the tone."

Miami held a 15-point advantage -- its biggest of the contest -- with three minutes to go and finished the half up 46-37.

The 'Hawks built their lead on an incredible 11-of-14 showing from three-point land in the first. Wright led the way with 15 points on 5-of-6 from deep during the period, en route to a career-high 22 points for the game.

"Jake came in and was huge tonight," Owens said. "The ball just kept going in for him and Ringo kept finding him. The guys fed off that."

Miami struck first to start the second half, as Ringo grabbed a defensive rebound and hit McLane with a no-look pass in transition for an easy layup. A Dalonte Brown tip-in moved the score to 50-37, before a layup by Redshirt junior guard John Konchar ended the Mastodon's offensive woes.

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With 13:29 left in regulation, Fort Wayne started an 11-4 run to climb back into striking distance. After a 4-0 Miami run, Fort Wayne responded with a 6-0 run of its own to cut the MU lead to four at 68-64.

RedHawk freshman guard Nike Sibande hit two free throws to end the run, but the Mastodons' momentum continued as they pulled to within one (70-69) at the 3:38 mark.

"We knew they were coming," Ringo said. "We just told each other that we weren't going to lose, and we got the win.The mindset was we just felt like we were going to win."

Back-to-back baskets by Brown and Sibande started an 11-4 Miami run to end the game, and gave the Red and White an 81-73 win.

"That was a big-time victory," Wright said. "We executed the game plan and did what we needed to do. We knew they would drive and be aggressive and had shooters on the wings. It came down to grit. We protected our home court and did what we had to do."

One of the keys to the win was mitigating the explosive offensive arsenal of Fort Wayne guard Bryson Scott. Scott came into Saturday's contest averaging over 22 points a game, but was held to just 13 and looked like a non-factor for the majority of the day.

"Bryson Scott is a good player," Owens said. "I recruited him at Purdue. I've known him since the eighth grade. Actually, him and Ringo are cousins. He's a very talented player. He's hard to guard because he loves to drive the basketball and work downhill. He's also a great free throw shooter -- he shoots 85 percent from the free throw line. So it was important for us to just keep bodies in front of him and live with any rhythm three he was going to make."

With its star player bottled up, Fort Wayne shot only 39 percent from the field and 26 percent from three. Contrastingly, the RedHawks shot 54 percent from the field and hit on 56 percent of their threes.

Aside from Wright's 22-point outburst, the RedHawks had three other scorers in double digits: Brown had 17, Sibande scored 16, and McLane finished with 12.

Ringo finished two points short of a double-double (8 pts) and dished out 11 assists. He added four rebounds and three steals. McLane led the 'Hawks with 9 rebounds, falling 1 board short of his own double-double.

Even after ending the three-game losing streak, Miami still trails Fort Wayne 4-3 in their all-time series.

The 'Hawks have the week off for final exams before they play NAIA Division II Rio Grande (3-8) on Dec. 17. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Millett Hall. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.