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RedHawks struggle early, never recover in loss to Kent State

Chloe Cochran - The Miami Student
Chloe Cochran - The Miami Student

With a 1:30 left in Tuesday's Miami-Kent State matchup, Miami head coach Jack Owens yelled for his RedHawks to "attack." He needed to tell them sooner.

Miami (15-15, 7-10 Mid-American Conference) started slow and went to the first media timeout with zero points for the second consecutive game. As was the case last Friday against Buffalo, the RedHawks never recovered from their early struggles.

They fell to the Golden Flashes 75-66 on Senior Night at Millett Hall. They're now 3-10 this season when they trail at half.

"We dug ourselves a hole there," Owens said. "I just thought we came out and settled for too many threes [...] At the end of the day, this is on me to have them ready."

More than four minutes into the contest, Kent State (21-9, 10-7 MAC) led 2-0. Sophomore guard Jalen Adaway scored Miami's first point with a free throw at the 15:37 mark.

"We're just starting the game off wrong," sophomore guard Nike Sibande said. "If I knew [the cause], we'd be adjusting it."

The RedHawks showed up late on each side of the court in the first half, shooting 26.9 percent from the field while allowing the Golden Flashes to hit 43.8 percent of their looks.

KSU senior guard Jaylin Walker was Miami's main problem, as he dropped 23 points in the opening period and swished a pair of threes near the half-court logo.

"He just made some shots," Owens said. "He's a guy where, if he gets in rhythm, he can get going there. We just have to be there on the catch and then, in the half-court setting, make him score over the top. We did some things to try to slow him down."

Walker ended with a game-high 29 points.

Sibande gave the RedHawks their only lead of the game on a 3-pointer that made it 4-2. After Walker answered with a three that put the Golden Flashes ahead 5-4, Kent State held on the rest of the way.

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Like the rest of his team, Sibande started slow. He scored six first-half points, but that was enough to lead Miami. He finished with a team-high 21 points.

The Golden Flashes jogged into the locker room, holding a 38-21 advantage at the intermission.

Miami began the second half on a 24-11 run to pull within four points at 49-45. That was the smallest its deficit had been since Kent State led 13-9, but the RedHawks wouldn't get any closer.

Just over four minutes later, the Golden Flashes grew their lead to double-digits again. It stayed there for the majority of the final eight minutes.

A layup by redshirt sophomore guard Milos Jovic cut the advantage to single digits with 56 seconds remaining, but Kent State held on to win 75-66.

After twisting his ankle in the final two minutes, Sibande limped down the court a few times before exiting the game. He said he'll be fine after some treatment.

Overall, Miami shot 42.1 percent from the field and 16 percent from 3-point range, while the Golden Flashes hit 46.7 percent and 38.1 percent from the same areas. Kent State won the rebounding battle 39-33.

Sibande added 10 boards to his 21 points to complete a double-double. Junior forward Bam Bowman was second on the team with 18 points.

Besides Walker and his 29 points, two Golden Flashes tallied double-digit point totals. Junior guard Antonio Williams scored 18 and junior forward Philip Whittington recorded 13. Walker and Whittington had 12 and 13 respective rebounds to pick up double-doubles, too.

Miami's three seniors -- guard Darrian Ringo, redshirt guard Abdoulaye Harouna, redshirt forward Aleks Abrams -- were honored after the game as a part of Senior Night.

The RedHawks head to Athens on Friday to take on the Ohio Bobcats. Miami needs to win to give itself the chance to host a first round contest in the MAC Tournament. Friday's game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. and air on ESPN+.