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Sibande leads Miami to victory over 2019 NCAA Tournament team

Nike Sibande told his RedHawk teammates they weren’t going to lose against Bradley, and Jack Owens’ Christmas is going to be sweeter because of it. 

The RedHawks followed the junior guard’s lead, riding a hot shooting wave in the second half for a 71-55 victory Saturday at Millett Hall.

“[My Christmas will be] much sweeter,” Owens, Miami’s head coach, said. “There’s doom and gloom around me after losses. It’s hard. It takes about two days to get them out of my system. But it was a complete game. This and Drake were probably our most complete games.”

Sibande, who Owens said is playing at about 75 percent of his full health, dropped a double-double and tied his career high with 11 rebounds. He scored a game-high 18 points.

“I heard him talking to the guys after I talked to the team,” Owens said. “He stacked the guys up, and he said, ‘We’re not losing.’ If someone of that caliber speaks like that, you just knew he was cut in.”

If for only one half, the RedHawks remedied their shooting woes.

Miami entered the game shooting 25 percent, 28-for-112, from 3-point land in December. The first half against Bradley brought much of the same. 

Four-for-16. Twenty-five percent. 

After a late first-half run, the Braves trailed by only three at halftime (30-27). 

In the second, the RedHawks made seven of their first 10 threes. They missed their last two but still finished with a 58 percent clip in the period and put up 41 points.

“It felt real good,” Sibande said. “I felt like we got into a rhythm. Every team goes through a shooting slump, but it’s all about how you come through it. I feel like we’re putting it together, working hard each and every day at practice, shooting the ball with confidence and continuing to take them with confidence.”

Sibande recorded 12 second-half points. He was one of three RedHawks to reach double figures in the contest, as junior forward Dalonte Brown tallied 12 and redshirt sophomore guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands had 11.

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Miami’s win can’t be completely chalked up to the offense.

It held the Braves to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and their first point total less than 81 since Dec. 3.

Bradley never led in the contest.

Sibande said the RedHawks carried their defensive success from Wednesday at Louisville into Saturday.

“It was a four-point game with eight minutes left in Louisville,” Sibande said. “If that don’t say that we can play with anybody, then, you know, I think it speaks for itself. I feel like it’s confidence we can play with anybody if we just continue to buy in.”

After more than a week off for Christmas, Miami returns to Millett Hall on Monday, Dec. 30. The RedHawks will play Wilberforce at 2 p.m. The game will air on ESPN+.