Story and Pictures by MIKE SMITH
(Click Pictures to Enlarge)
OXFORD, Ohio – With a 10-day schedule break following their loss to Division III Wilmington Nov. 23, the Miami RedHawks had plenty of time to do some “sole searching.” Among the things they found were effort, an inside game and perimeter shooting. They brought all those things with them Tuesday night as they came from behind to defeat a solid IPFW Mastodons team, 94-87, at Millet Hall.
IPFW came into the contest with a 6-3 record – not bad, but not totally reflecting how dangerous the Mastodons have been. The three losses came to Dayton (81-80), Texas A & M Corpus Christi (72-71) and Illinois (57-55). The Mastadons led by eight at halftime and as much as nine in the second half before falling to the Illini in their most recent outing.
With five IPFW players averaging in double figures and Miami struggling to defend the trey this year, it wasn’t surprising when the Mastodons came roaring out of the gate. They made shots from just about everywhere in the forecourt and finished the stanza with a 30-foot bank-in bomb to beat the buzzer. That gave the visitors a 52-36 halftime advantage.
“Not only did they make their open ones, they made their contested ones,” Miami head coach John Cooper said. “They made the ones they banked off the back board; they made the ones that bounced straight up in the air (and) the ones that rattled around.
“They shot the ball unbelievably well in the first half,” he said. “You have to hope and believe they can’t shoot the ball this well in the second half.”
Despite some foul trouble, Miami whittled away at the Mastadon lead in the second half. The hosts were down 11 at 59-48 when Will Felder hit a layup and followed with a block shot. After a pair of Quinten Rollins free throws, senior forward Will Felder scored the next seven points as MU pulled within four, 61-57.
“We were able to sustain in the game because we were able to get the ball inside to him. … Our guys were looking for him,” Cooper said.
After IPFW bumped its lead back up to 10, Felder again scored Miami’s next seven points. Felder’s hard work inside kept the RedHawks close enough until junior guard Will Sullivan caught fire. It began with a pair of free throws at 7:31 to pull Miami within three at 71-68. He then hit three treys, with the last giving Miami the lead at 79-77.
“He got on a run where he was ‘en fuego.’ He was on it and kept us there,” Cooper said.
Geovonie McKnight connected on a game-winning three-point shot after Oswald passed off of his drive to hit McKnight – who was calling for the ball – in the corner. The sophomore made the shot at 1:01 and Oswald followed with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds remaining.
“He took it with confidence, and he knocked it in,” Cooper said of McKnight’s shot.
The RedHawks sealed their first win of the season by holding IPFW scoreless the rest of the way and adding four free throws in as many attempts.
Miami exploded for 58 points in the second half. Felder had 22 of his game-high 26 points in the period, while Sullivan netted 15 after intermission and 23 overall. Other RedHawks in double figures were McKnight (13) and Rollins (11). Oswald chipped in nine and Jaryd Eustice seven.
After making 3-of-11 from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes, MU hit 5-of-8 (62.5) after the break.
IPFW, on the other hand, connected on just 3-of-11 triples in the second half. It also settled down to a 43.8 percent from the field.
Once again, five Mastadon players reached double figures. Michael Kibiloski tallied 17 to lead the way. Joining him in double figures were Mo Evans (16) Steve Forbes (14), Joe Reed (10) and Joe Edwards (10)
Miami outscored IPFW, 48-26 in the paint and 14-8 on second chance points.