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Men’s basketball claws back to sink Western Michigan

<p>Senior guard Mekhi Lairy drives to the hoop at Millett Hall</p>

Senior guard Mekhi Lairy drives to the hoop at Millett Hall

Junior guard Dae Dae Grant scored an astounding 25 points to spearhead a victory for Miami on Tuesday evening. The RedHawk men’s basketball team, with the support of the home crowd, took down the Western Michigan Broncos 62-57.

Grant scored just six points in Miami’s loss to Akron a few days ago, but he was able to get into his rhythm in Tuesday’s contest. Grant cites his teammates for allowing him to score as well as he did.

“They continue to just feed me and I continue to play off of them and their energy,” Grant said.

The contest endured an early drought, as the first point was a free throw by Western Michigan after two and a half minutes of game time. Not until another minute had passed did the RedHawks find their first basket thanks to senior forward Precious Ayah.

As the Broncos held a 14-6 lead, redshirt senior guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands converted Miami’s first 3-point bucket on the team’s eighth attempt. Then, senior guard Mekhi Lairy created a pocket of space for sophomore Kamari Williams to exploit and score a further three points, pulling Miami to within two.

This enabled the RedHawks to keep shooting. Most notably, Lairy scored one from the corner to ignite a 10-0 run, which was capped by Grant hitting another shot from behind the arc. From trailing by seven points, Miami took a 24-21 lead.

In the last three minutes, the Broncos scored a further nine points unanswered to take a 30-24 advantage into the break.

Coming into the second half, a 3-point bucket put Western Michigan on the brink of a double-digit lead. However, it was as far away as the Broncos could get.

It was a team effort to consistently cancel out any points Western Michigan added. First-year forward Curtis Harrison IV, starting his third game of the season, pump faked to free up space for an open layup. Lairy made a midcourt steal and dashed for a layup. First-year Marr Avance came off the bench and bagged a three-pointer. At just under 11 minutes, the gap was still just six points, 44-38 for Western Michigan.

Then, Grant inspired the comeback.

With 10 minutes left to go, the junior guard scored three points from the free throw line, another three from the right corner and two more to tie the score at 46-46.

Williams chimed in with two free throws and gave the RedHawks a 48-46 lead. 

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In a subsequent attacking play by the Broncos, a collision between a Western Michigan player and Grant caused the play to halt, bringing the arena to silence.

“Yes, yes!” Coach Jack Owens was evidently vocal on the sidelines when the referee ruled the foul against Western Michigan, prompting them to call a timeout.

Upon return, Grant capitalized on the free throws to put the RedHawks up by four.

The Broncos took back the edge at 52-51. But Ayah, merely 13 seconds off the bench, scored to put Miami back in the lead. And this time, for good.

A missed shot from Western Michigan resulted in a Williams defensive rebound, a Lairy fast break and a Grant three-pointer. The actions earned Miami a four-point lead, and got everyone off their seats.

The atmosphere was, by all means, lively for the last four-and-a-half-minutes of the game. The RedHawks wheeled away with the 62-57 victory with the final point scored by Grant – his 18th in the second half.

Along with 25 points, Grant also had eight rebounds. Lairy also topped the assist chart this game with six, along with 11 points scored. 

Owens credits his role players — Harrison, Williams, Avance and senior forward Eli McNamara — with leading the team to victory.

“I thought those guys really stepped up and made some plays,” Owens said. “And Mekhi and Isaiah and Dae Dae kept us steady all night.”

Collectively, Miami had 22 free throw attempts in the second half, out of which they scored 17, compared to just two in the first. Defensively, Miami put up a strong showing, forcing 17 turnovers from the opponents for the second consecutive game.

“I don’t know if it was a pretty game, but I thought our defense held serve,” Owens said. “And we made just enough shots to win the game.”

With this result, Miami is now 10-13 overall and 4-8 in the MAC. Meanwhile, Western Michigan is 4-20 overall and remains winless, 0-13, in the conference.

The men’s basketball team will now have three days to prepare for the game against Bowling Green on Saturday, Feb. 12 at Millett. This match-up will take place at 3:30 p.m., right after the women’s basketball team takes on Central Michigan at 1 p.m.