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Miami fails to lock up win against Western Michigan

Dalonte Brown laughed at Precious Ayah.

Right after Ayah converted a go-ahead layup and drew a foul midway through the second half, he stepped to the free throw line.

And airballed his extra shot.

Brown beamed at Ayah as they walked down the court, but that’s where the smiling stopped.

Miami missed five of its final 11 extra-point tries and lost a close one to the Western Michigan Broncos, 64-60, Tuesday at Millett Hall.

“I just thought the guys battled. It was a hard-fought game. Western Michigan made plays down the stretch to win this game,” Miami head coach Jack Owens said, keeping his opening statement brief at the postgame press conference.

With a first-half injury to junior guard Nike Sibande, freshman guard Dae Dae Grant was undoubtedly the RedHawks’ Player of the Game. He finished with career highs in points (20) and assists (five) while turning the ball over just once.

“Dae Dae is the best freshman in this league,” Owens said. “He is the most talented guy, but he’s a consistent guy. He works at it. I know he’s kicking himself that he missed some free throws, but he’s a good player. Better days are ahead for that kid, for sure.”

He was kicking himself for missing a few late free throws. He struggled from the charity stripe down the stretch, making only three of his last six.

After speaking at the postgame press conference, Grant changed out of his uniform and headed back to the court. He practiced nothing but free throws for 25 minutes.

“I take this game on me,” Grant said. “I’m in the gym shooting free throws a lot. They weren’t falling tonight.”

Coming into Tuesday, Miami had made nearly 74 percent of its free throws. The RedHawks drained only eight of their 19 extra shots against Western Michigan. They didn’t attempt a single one from the line in the first half.

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“I don’t know if [missing a few] got in their heads,” Owens said. “We just have to step up and make our free throws. We’re very capable of doing so. That definitely hurt us.”

Other than free throws, Miami played a clean game. The RedHawks turned the ball over only seven times. Their team goal is typically 10.

They shot 36 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. 

Western Michigan made 46 percent of its field-goal attempts and also 33 percent from deep. 

The Broncos made their money at the free throw line, where they went 22-of-30. Twenty-five of those shots came in the second half.

In a contest that featured nine lead changes and seven ties, Miami spent 26 and a half minutes in the driver seat. Western Michigan led for less than eight minutes but held the advantage when it counted: at the final buzzer.

Ayah, despite the missed free throw, was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field. He added two free throws, bringing his point total to 10. 

In relief of the sidelined Sibande, redshirt junior guard Milos Jovic scored 10 points.

At the postgame press conference, Owens said he had no update on Sibande’s injury.

The Broncos’ redshirt junior forward, Brandon Johnson, dropped 21 points and seven rebounds — both game highs.

Miami heads back on the road Saturday for the Battle of the Bricks. The RedHawks take on Ohio at 3:30 p.m. The contest will air on ESPN3.