Miami Upset at Home By NIU

By: Jack Mueller

Miami failed to defend their home floor against the Northern Illinois Huskies, falling victim to a 62-59 defeat at Millett Hall on Tuesday night. Miami fought back from a late seven point deficit to come within three with two seconds left, but Miami failed to get a shot off to tie the game. 

` “The coaches were yelling foul, so we called timeout,” said Head Coach Travis Steele. “We ran a sideline inbound play that we have and the pass got deflected.” 

After beating the MAC’s top team in Akron and adding a road win against Kent State, Miami was unable to continue the win streak. NIU entered the matchup just 1-8 in the MAC, and had just won their first game since December 21st a few days before, yet Miami was unable to build on their momentum. Before the game, Steele had urged his team not to look at the record, stating that “the MAC is muddy”

“Our effort was good, but we have to block out better and embrace the physicality.” said Steele “If we take care of the ball a little better, even if we have an off shooting night, we probably win.” 

The buzzword for this game was “physicality”. The Huskies dominated the physical battle, nearly grabbing double the amount of offensive boards that Miami could muster (15 to 8). The extra possessions allowed NIU free points, putting up 19 second chance points to Miami’s five. Coach Steele noted that his team struggled to cope with the physicality on the court.

“They guarded us well,” said Steele “I thought they really rushed us around the rim with their size and their athleticism.”   

Only five players registered points for the Huskies, but the players on the scoresheet made their impact known. Junior forward Zarique Nutter led all scorers with 22 points, getting to the rim early and often. David Coit, who Steele referred to as a “conference first teamer”, put up 21 points, many coming on second chance shots. Xavier Amos was a force on the glass, nearly putting together a double-double, with nine points and twelve boards. 

Early on, it looked like Miami would be in total control of the game. The RedHawks jumped out to an early ten point lead, hitting six consecutive threes. Bryce Bultman was instrumental in taking the advantage, connecting from in the paint and behind the arc. Before fouling out late in the second half, Bultman put together a solid eight point, five rebound night. 

Miami was unable to keep pace though, as NIU found themselves back in the game before the end of the half. NIU went on a 9-0 run to take the lead with under a minute to go in the period, bookended by a monster coast to coast slam by the Huskies’ Will Lovings-Watts. Mekhi Cooper would get to the line to give Miami the lead going into the break, but the RedHawk cold streak would continue into the second half. 

“We were getting open looks in the first half and even in the second too,” said Bultman “They turned up their physicality a bit and I think that bothered us a bit, but I think our shot selection was good throughout the game.”

The usual suspects for scoring in Miami’s offense were quiet against the Huskies. The RedHawks two leading scorers, Darweshi Hunter and Anderson Mirambeaux, were held to a combined nine points on 13% shooting. Hunter hit two threes in the second half to help the RedHawks close the gap, but couldn’t get the ball in his hands for the final shot. 

“We believe in those two guys, they’ll be much better going forward.” said Steele, adding: “We’re gonna play through Anderson and Darweshi, just like we always have.”

Freshmen Eian Elmer and Reece Potter would step into the vacant scoring roles, putting up ten and eight respectively. Potter was especially impressive, connecting on three shots from behind the arc, giving the RedHawks another stretch big-man to rely on. Elmer continued to be a playmaker all over the floor, doing a little bit of everything. The standout underclassman had an alley-oop layup, a three, a block and a steal during his time on the floor.

Miami will travel to Atlanta on Saturday to face Georgia State, currently 9th in the Sun Belt. Miami will enter the game with high hopes after a disappointing home loss. 

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