With the clock running down and the game on the line, senior guard Mekhi Lairy had the ball in his hands.
He rejected a screen from fellow senior Precious Ayah and crossed over to his left, then drove to his right.
Just outside the 3-point line, the 5’8” guard jumped up and threw a pass to senior forward Dalonte Brown, who was wide open in the right corner. Brown rose up and shot the ball.
The shot gave the Miami men’s basketball team an 85-82 lead over the Northern Illinois Huskies. At first, it appeared like the game was over, but the referees reviewed the play and added eight tenths of a second to the clock.
Either way, the game was already won. Northern Illinois didn’t put up a shot before time expired, sealing the win for the RedHawks in the Saturday afternoon contest at Millett Hall.
“I just kept looking at the time and score and just hearing Coach O saying, ‘just finish the game,’” Brown said.
The result was anything but certain for most of the game, as the ’Hawks held a lead for less than five minutes of game time.
Ayah opened the contest with a bucket in the post, and junior guard Dae Dae Grant made a layup to make the score 5-3.
That would be the last lead Miami would hold in regulation, as senior guard Trendon Hankerson drained a 3-pointer to give the Huskies the lead. Hankerson made another triple, then senior forward Chinedu Kingsley Okanu made a layup to make the score 16-7.
Brown answered for the RedHawks with a ferocious drive and dunk, but Hankerson made his 3rd triple to put NIU up by 1o.
A pullup jumper by redshirt junior guard Myja White trimmed the deficit to four, but Northern Illinois ended the half on a 6-0 run, taking a 37-27 lead into the locker room.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
After a cold first half, the RedHawks got going from behind the arc. White assisted redshirt senior guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands for a triple to cut the deficit to six.
After the Huskies called timeout, redshirt sophomore forward Javin Etzler drained a 3-pointer. The 6’8” sharpshooter had been sidelined with an injury until Saturday’s contest and was making his season debut.
Owens is pleased to have Etzler back in action.
“He’s a weapon, there’s no way around it. He’s a guy that you always have to account for,” Owens said.
Northern Illinois made a run, as sophomore guard Keshawn Williams made a three. Senior center Adong Makuoi muscled inside for a layup, then dunked on Brown and drew the foul. Lairy made a jump shot, but Makuoi scored another bucket inside to boost his team’s lead to 15.
The three senior starters -- Brown, Lairy and Ayah -- took over from there. Brown scored seven straight points to whittle the lead to under 10 points.
With under seven minutes to go, Coleman-Lands turned the ball over. Senior guard Anthony Crump appeared to be all alone as he put up a layup, but Ayah came out of nowhere to swat the ball away.
Trailing late in the game, the RedHawks decided to use a full-court press against the Huskies. The press was successful, as the team repeatedly forced turnovers. Grant missed a three with under a minute to go, but grabbed his own miss and got fouled in the process.
Since the Huskies had more than 10 team fouls, Grant was awarded two free throws and made both, putting the score at 71-67.
Grant got another steal after the free throw and passed it to White, who got fouled and made both free throws. Lairy quickly fouled Williams with 38 seconds left, who made both shots.
Grant made a shot, then fouled Williams to send him to the line with under 20 seconds to go. He made the first but missed the second, giving the ball back to Miami with 18 seconds left.
Brown grabbed the rebound from the free throw, then got the ball back at the top of the 3-point line. He calmly rose up and made the shot, tying the game at 74.
NIU’s last shot attempt missed, so the game was settled in overtime.
Williams opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, but the RedHawks wouldn’t be denied. Brown made a shot, then Lairy made another to give the team it’s first lead since early in the first half. Later on in the period, he made another jumper to put Miami up by three.
Williams, who led his team in scoring with 28 points, made a three to tie the game at 82. Williams made five of his six attempts from behind the arc.
Owens had a timeout left, but decided not to use it, instead letting his seniors take care of business. The decision paid off, as Brown made another big shot to win the game for the RedHawks.
“He made big play after big play,” Owens said.
Brown led the team in scoring with 24 points and also chipped in seven rebounds. Lairy scored 21 and Grant added 18 to go along with five assists.
Lairy reached 1,000 career points as a RedHawk during overtime.
“It feels good just knowing all the work my teammates, my coaches, and the managers as well… without them it wouldn’t be possible.”
With the win, Miami improves to 9-8 on the season and 3-3 in Mid-American Conference (MAC) play.
The RedHawks travel to Ball State to play the Cardinals on Tuesday night for the team’s next contest. The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN+.