Miami Survive Second Half Comeback to Defeat Kent State
By: Jack Mueller
The Miami RedHawks are above .500 for the first time since December 6th, improving to 11-10 after defeating Kent State on the road. The RedHawks survived a second half comeback from the Golden Flashes to take home a 71-67 victory.
Darweshi Hunter was once again the story for Miami, leading all scorers with 20 points on 50% shooting from the field. His scoring output on Tuesday night was his highest since November 11th against Texas State. Hunter showed his ability to score at all three levels, getting to the rim for some easy looks, and also connecting twice from behind the three point line.
Hunter will get most of the attention, but the play of Bryce Bultman and Eian Elmer were vital in the RedHawks efforts. Elmer continues to make an impact as a starter, putting up his second consecutive game with double-digit points. He was also a force on defense, nabbing three steals and blocking a shot at the other end. Bultman has been a consistent, veteran presence in the Miami rotation all season, and demonstrated that again against the Flashes. The senior wing added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in the victory.
Miami was dominant in the first period, jumping out to an immediate three possession lead within two minutes. Kent State’s Jalen Sullinger connected from behind the arc to cut the RedHawks’ lead to three, but that’s as close as they would come. Miami then went on a tear, rattling off 11 straight points behind buckets from Elmer and Anderson Mirambeaux. Kent State kept competing, keeping the RedHawks within ten until the clock ticked under nine minutes. Then Miami went on another long run, this time a 7-0 run over six minutes to break away. Miami went into the break up fifteen points, holding Kent State to just 22% shooting.
Kent State came into the second half looking like a completely different team, rattling off a 7-0 run of their own to start the half. Jalen Sullinger and Giovanni Santiago were instrumental in the comeback, putting up 13 and 12 second half points respectively to orchestrate the comeback. The RedHawks were dominated on the glass, failing to record a single second chance point in the second period and were able to pull down just one board on the offensive glass. Kent State took advantage, pulling down eight offensive boards opening the door for eleven second chance points.
Going into the final two minutes, Kent State had all of the momentum on their side. Sullinger would cut the Miami lead to just three with two minutes remaining, setting up a frantic final two minutes. Both teams seemed content to send each other to the foul line, as both sides would get to the charity stripe within the final minute. Despite cutting the lead to just two in the final fourteen seconds, Kent State just couldn’t overcome the first half deficit, and Miami would walk away with the win.
Miami improves to 5-4 in conference play, good enough for sixth in the MAC. As things stand, the RedHawks will have a chance to make the big dance through the MAC tournament in Cleveland in March, but will have to focus on saturday’s matchup against Ohio University in Athens first.