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Men's basketball earns first 2019 conference win

The Miami RedHawks can breathe a little bit easier now.

After an 0-4 start to their Mid-American Conference schedule, the RedHawks got back to winning ways at Millett Hall on Saturday, defeating the Akron Zips 68-61 for their first MAC win of the season.

Coming into the game, the four-game losing streak was Miami's (9-9, 1-4 MAC) worst open to conference play since 2016.

"We were thirsty to get a win," head coach Jack Owens said. "We talked about just trusting the process and staying the course and continuing to work hard ... I'm just proud of the guys."

Owens' players were as excited as he was.

"Oh, it feels amazing," redshirt sophomore guard Milos Jovic said. "We just want to keep this feeling rolling."

Jovic, who began the season on the fringe of Owens' rotation, has worked his way into a solid role off the bench over the past few games. Against Akron, he finished with nine points in 19 minutes and was on the court for Miami's second-half, victory-sparking run.

After recording the first two points of the game, the RedHawks' leading scorer, sophomore guard Nike Sibande, went scoreless the rest of the game.

Usually, teams struggle when their top player isn't playing at peak level, but it didn't matter for Miami on Saturday.

Senior guard Darrian Ringo dropped a team-high 16 points and nine assists, while junior forward Bam Bowman followed closely behind with 14-point, 10-rebound double-double. Others, like Jovic and sophomore guard Jalen Adaway (eight points, seven rebounds) contributed off the bench.

"On our team, we have plenty of talent, and everybody can contribute," Jovic said. "It's going to be a different guy every night. When we play as a team and play like this, we're going to be hard to guard."

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Akron (10-8, 2-3 MAC) proved in the first half it wasn't going to simply hand the RedHawks their first conference victory.

The two teams battled and traded leads eight times throughout the period, but neither gained an edge as the score was tied at 30 entering halftime.

To start the second, the first few minutes of action brought much of the same. Neither team gained an advantage and the score remained tied, this time at 36.

A floater from junior guard Tyler Cheese put Akron ahead 38-36 and spurred a 7-0 Zip run.

With Miami down 43-36, the RedHawks needed to lock in soon to avoid a fifth straight MAC loss.

And that's exactly what they did.

Over the next ten minutes, a renewed effort on the defensive end of the court led to a 21-2 RedHawks' stretch and put them up 57-45.

"Well, coach [Owens] told us to focus on the 95 percent," Bowman said. "He tells us that a lot, just to focus on rebounding, defending and stopping your man. I feel like we were able to do that for that stretch, and it helped us open the game up."

That lead was too steep for the Zips to overcome with only five minutes left in the game. Akron cut its deficit to five with a minute left, but Miami held on and preserved a 68-61 victory.

Miami shot 43.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point land, while holding Akron to 39.3 percent and 23.1 percent in the same categories.

Cheese scored a game-high 17 points and also led the Zips with eight rebounds.

Sophomore forward Dalonte Brown, Miami's second-leading scorer, finished with seven points and five rebounds.

The RedHawks hit the road again on Tuesday, when they head to Muncie, Ind., to take on Ball State. The contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.