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Miami bests Akron 79-64, surpasses last season's win total

Matt Heckert - The Miami Student
Matt Heckert - The Miami Student

The Miami men's basketball team (12-10, 5-4 MAC) overcame an early double-digit deficit to beat the Akron Zips 79-64 at Millett Hall on Tuesday. With the victory, the RedHawks have surpassed their overall and Mid-American Conference win totals from last season.

MU head coach Jack Owens was hesitant to dwell on the success of his new regime, instead focusing on the goals his team has yet to achieve.

"To be honest, we don't even talk about last year," Owens said. "We're a new team. We're just trying to move forward and position ourselves the best we can for the conference tournament. Everything is still right in front of us. If we can just continue to take care of each and every game, we can control our own destiny."

Playing in front of the second-largest home crowd of the season, Miami struggled early on both sides of the court. Akron took a double-digit lead in the first nine minutes of the game, before the RedHawks fought back to take the lead.

"I think it was just us actually getting into the flow of the game," sophomore forward Bam Bowman said. "Some games, we start a little slow to get the hang of things, but as soon as we start clicking, our togetherness comes in and we persevere."

Akron (10-11, 3-6 MAC) scored first when a Smith three gave them an early 3-0 lead. The Zips came out firing, jumping out to a 15-4 double-digit lead under six minutes into the game. With 11:12 left in the first half, junior guard Lucas Smith canned a three-pointer to push Akron's lead to 22-11.

On Miami's ensuing possession, freshman forward Dalonte Brown made a layup that kicked off a 15-2 run over the next four minutes to give the RedHawks a 26-24 lead -- their first of the contest.

Coach Owens stressed the importance of freshman guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands during the run.

"To be honest, I put in Isaiah Coleman-Lands," Owens said about the adjustment that spurred the crucial run. "It seemed like he calmed the storm. He's been so good the last two weeks at just doing his job. He's a selfless guy."

Akron graduate transfer guard Malcolm Duvivier converted a layup to knot the game at 26. Over the next two minutes, the Red and White couldn't shake the Zips as the game was tied at 31 with 3:10 left in the half. Two made free throws by Bowman commenced a 10-0 MU run that allowed the 'Hawks to take a 41-31 lead into halftime.

For the second straight game, Brown starred in the first half -- notching team-highs in scoring and rebounding with 14 points and four rebounds, respectively.

Duvivier hit a triple to begin the second-half and cut the RedHawks' lead back to single-digits at 41-34. Freshman guard Nike Sibande converted a midrange jumper for the first MU points of the second half.

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The Red and White's largest lead of the contest came just before the ten-minute mark, when Bowman hit a three to push his team's advantage to 64-47.

Akron tried to claw back, cutting its deficit to 11 with five minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Miami then scored six straight to move the score to 75-58 and dash the Zips' comeback hopes. The RedHawks didn't let up and sailed to a 79-64 victory.

Akron came into the game shooting 37.6 percent on threes as a team, but were held to 22.6 percent (7-of-31) by Miami. On the other side, the 'Hawks converted 33.3 percent of their long-distance looks (10-for-30).

"To be able to hold them to a 22 percent three-point percentage defensively was definitely something we tried to do, because they're a good three-point shooting team," Owens said.

Brown paced Miami in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 17 points. Junior guard Darrian Ringo recorded a 12-point, 11-assist double-double and also tallied a team-high four steals. Senior forward Logan McLane scored 10 points and grabbed a team-leading eight rebounds.

Bowman finished second on the team with 13 points and added three rebounds. He shot 4-of-8 from the field and hit two threes to cushion Miami's lead.

The 6'8", 275-pound sophomore laughed when asked if his smooth shooting stroke shocks opponents.

"Yeah, usually [their faces] are blank," Bowman said. "They usually don't think I can hit those. It's a nice surprise for them."

Duvivier tied for Akron's team-lead in scoring with 13 points. He also led the Zips in rebounding, corralling 10 boards to complete a double-double.

With this win, Miami now jumps ahead of Akron in their all-time series 30-29. MU has won the last two contests in the rivalry. Their next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 24 in Akron.

The victory also marked the halfway point in the RedHawks' MAC schedule. They currently hold a 5-4 conference record with nine regular season MAC games left.

"Being at the half point in the MAC season, I think we've grown a lot as a team," Bowman said. "Each and every game, we get better and we learn from our mistakes. As long as we continue to come to practice and work at things that we need to clean up, I think we'll be fine."

Miami heads out on the road to take on Northern Illinois (10-12, 3-6 Mid-American) this Saturday Feb. 3 in its next matchup. The game will tip-off at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.