Sophomore guard Dae Dae Grant was candid about why Miami’s comeback effort wasn’t enough to beat the Buffalo Bulls Thursday night.
“First off, I’ll put it on me,” Grant said. “Coming out of the (timeout), coach drew up a play, and I turned the ball over.”
Grant’s late-game turnover was costly, as his team lost, 74-63, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
The loss in the first round of the Mid-American tournament ends the season for the RedHawks.
Junior forward Jeenathan Williams scored five early points for the Bulls, allowing them to get an 11-4 lead.
Miami responded with a 3-pointer from senior forward Dalonte Brown and a layup by redshirt sophomore guard Myja White to cut the lead to two.
Junior forward Josh Mballa scored the next nine points for Buffalo, extending his range with a shot from behind the arc to put the Bulls up, 20-11.
Balanced scoring helped Buffalo build its lead to 29-20 going into the under-eight media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the RedHawks came out in a 1-3-1 zone defense, hoping to shake things up.
The new look gave the team newfound energy, as two free throws from senior guard Milos Jovic cut the lead to 31-27.
Toward the end of the half, the Bulls found a few holes in Miami’s zone. Junior guard Ronaldo Segu hit two straight 3-pointers to extend the team’s lead to eight with less than four minutes in the half.
A catch-and-shoot three by Grant with a minute left made the score 40-32 at halftime.
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Brown opened the period with a basket inside, but Williams and senior guard Jayvon Graves each made a 3-pointer.
Redshirt junior forward James Beck responded with a dunk and a layup on the other end, but Williams hit two more shots from behind the arc.
With less than 12 minutes left in the game, Buffalo was up 53-40, the team’s biggest lead of the game.
It wouldn’t last.
After two free throws by Graves made the score 55-42, the RedHawks made their run. Brown hit another three, and senior forward Precious Ayah put back a miss by Lairy.
Grant came up with a steal and fed White, who made two free throws after being fouled on a layup.
Miami’s defense came up with another turnover on the next possession, as Ayah intercepted a pass and euro-stepped before completing a coast-to-coast layup.
The RedHawks ran a play for Brown, who caught the ball in the corner and made a shot with his foot on the 3-point line.
Just like that, the score was 55-53.
The teams traded baskets for a few possessions, as Ayah made a shot inside on a feed from Brown and made a free throw to make the score 59-58.
That was as close as they would get.On the other end, Segu missed a shot, but sophomore forward LaQuill Hardnett snagged the offensive rebound and kicked it back to Segu for a huge 3-pointer.
Miami quickly called a timeout with four minutes and change left in the game, leading to Grant’s turnover.
The mistake led to free throws for Graves, and took the wind out of the RedHawks’ sails. A three by Williams put the Bulls up by double digits, sealing the game.
Buffalo ended the game on a 15-5 run.
Shooting was the biggest factor of the contest. The Bulls shot 44% and made 12 of its 20 3-point attempts, while the ’Hawks shot under 40% from the field.
After the game, head coach Jack Owens cited the team’s shot selection as a reason for the team’s so-so shooting performance.
“I thought we took some shots out of rhythm,” Owens said.
In his last game at Miami, Ayah made a big impact, scoring nine points on a perfect 4-4 from the field. He also grabbed six rebounds and made key plays on defense, including two drawn charges.
Brown and Grant were the only RedHawks in double figures, with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Although he is a senior, Brown is expected to use his extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA.
Mballa was the leading scorer for the Bulls, with 23 points on 8-14 shooting. Williams and Segu each made five of their six shot attempts from behind the arc.
After its elimination from the MAC tournament, Miami will not play again until next season, barring a postseason tournament invitation.