OXFORD, Ohio -- There are times when the Miami RedHawks look like a different team. Maybe they are.
Five RedHawks reached double figures Saturday as Miami knocked off Kent State 74-65 at Millett Hall. It was MU’s second win of the week over one of the top MAC East teams. MU (11-18, 5-11 MAC) defeated Akron on Tuesday.
Both opponents had handled the RedHawks rather easily earlier this year. It was different this time around as Miami begins to reap benefits from the contributions of its sophomore class.
Senior guards Eric Washington (16 points, 36 minutes) and Geovonie McKnight (13 points, 37 minutes) played their usual roles in leading the way. Joining them in double figures were sophomores Dion Wade 10 points, 35 minutes), Abdoulaye Harouna 10 points 21, minutes) and Rod Mills (14 points, 25 minutes).
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Kent State, meanwhile, fell for the second time since knocking off Akron just over one week earlier. With their latest loss, the Golden Flashes (18-11, 9-7) fell two games behind UA with two regular season games to go.
Freshman guard Jaylen Walker and junior forward Jimmy Hall led the way for KSU. Walker came off the bench to score 20 points in 23 minutes of action. Fifteen of his points came on treys. He connected on 5-of-12 from distance, accounting for just over half of the Flashes three points goals ((9-of-29).
Hall scored 18 points (12 in the second half) and hauled down 11 rebounds. Kellon Thomas added a dozen points, although it came off of 4-of-14 overall and 2-of-11 on treys.
Kent State got off to a slow start and eventually connected on 30.8 percent (8-of-26) from the field in the first stanza.
“I thought in many ways, the key was that we came out (and) got off to a pretty good start,” Cooper said. “Anytime you do that, you are certainly able to build confidence.”
Kent State closed to within two at 12-10 before the RedHawks ran off eight straight points. The hosts, in fact, would never trail and held a 12-point lead before Thomas closed the period’s scoring with a triple at the 2:13 mark.
“We dug ourselves too deep a hole,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said. “For some reason, we were not ready from the start. … We just can’t start like that.”
Miami held halftime advantages on scoring in the paint (10-2) and points off turnovers (15-2). KSU had a 5-0 advantage in second chance points and led in points off the bench (10-5).
As it had earlier in the week against Akron, Miami reversed a trend from earlier this season when it came out strong to start the second half. The hosts were already up by 15 (43-28) when Senderoff was hit with two technicals and ejected at 14:56. Washington made 3-of-4 free throws and Kalif Wright scored inside on the ensuing possession to put the hosts up 48-28.
An 8-2 burst put Miami up by nine before Walker hit another trey to leave KSU down 66-60 with 1:42 remaining. That, however, was as close as the Flashes could get. MU twice got it back to 10 before winning by nine.
“We found a way not to lose our composure,” said Cooper, who noted the Flashes comeback bid was keyed by strong rebounding. “That is what they do. They challenge your manhood on the boards, and they’re … good at it.”
He continued, “We stayed poised pretty much, and though they made some runs, we were able to answer their runs and close it out.”
Miami connected on 12-of-24 (%) in the final stanza, while Kent State made 15-of-34 over the final 20 minutes.
Both teams owned 23 field goals on the day, although the visiting Flashes had two-more 3-point goals. As it did earlier in the week, Miami cashed in at the free throw line, hitting 17-of-21 (81%) to 10-of-16 (62.5%) for KSU.
The RedHawks held advantages in points off turnovers (17-7) and points in the paint (26-18). However, Kent State led in rebounds 36-34, second chance points (17-3) and points off the bench (27-20).
Miami at Buffalo (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
Bowling Green at Kent State (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)