On his first possession back from a nagging leg injury, Bam Bowman set the tone for Miami’s victory over Drake Monday in Estero, Florida.
He rejected the Bulldogs’ first shot of the game. Eight seconds later, redshirt junior guard Milos Jovic stole the ball, and the defensive battle was on.
The RedHawks turned the ball over 20 times, shot 28 percent from 3-point land and lost the rebounding battle. Yet, they still found a way to win, 67-59, to open the Gulf Coast Showcase. They now play South Alabama on Tuesday.
In his return to the court, Bowman, a senior forward, played 27 minutes, which placed him third on the team. He wasn’t a threat in the post, but knocked down three 3-pointers for nine points and added three rebounds.
Bowman also had one assist to tie for the team lead. As a whole, Miami passed for only four assists. Drake finished with 11.
After losing former lead guard Darrian Ringo in the offseason, the RedHawks are still looking for a primary ball-handler and distributor.
Sophomore guard Mekhi Lairy, who hasn’t started a game this season, has a team-leading 17 assists through five contests. Junior guard Nike Sibande often controls the ball for the starters, but he has assisted only eight times. Neither had one Monday afternoon.
Freshman guard Dae Dae Grant scored the first five points of the game before the Bulldogs jumped on the scoreboard.
With another Grant jumper, Miami pushed its lead to 20-15, but Drake fought back to a 20-20 tie. The Bulldogs took their first lead (23-22) with a 3-pointer by senior forward Antonio Pilipovic.
As time expired in the first half, redshirt sophomore guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands gave Miami a 26-25 lead as the RedHawks headed toward the locker room.
To begin the second-half scoring, sophomore guard Garrett Sturtz split a two-shot trip to the charity stripe and knotted the game at 26.
Grant returned the favor, hitting a jumper to put Miami ahead again. From there, the RedHawks never lost the lead.
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They pushed their advantage to a game-high 14 points halfway through the second half before Drake started a run.
The Bulldogs scored 18 of the next 24 points, chopping Miami’s lead to 56-54.
To close the game out in the final three minutes, the RedHawks made seven of their eight free throws.
Miami ended the game on an 11-5 stretch.
Drake shot 35 percent from the field and gave the ball away 21 times.
Sibande dropped a game-high 16 points. Despite averaging nearly 80 points per game before Monday, the Bulldogs scored only 59 points and didn’t feature a single scorer in double digits.
Miami’s Tuesday opponent, South Alabama, beat Northeastern on Monday. The RedHawks will play the Jaguars in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Showcase tomorrow at 5 p.m. The game can be watched via the subscription service, FloHoops, and listened to on the Miami Sports Network.