OXFORD, Ohio – A potential Miami RedHawks victory slipped through the cracks in Cancun Challenge action Sunday when an Elon Phoenix player slipped into position for an off-balance tip-in with .07 seconds left to give visiting Elon a 70-68 win at Millett Hall.
Kevin Blake, a 6-3 senior guard who saw eight minutes of playing time, put himself in the right place at the right time for the Phoenix, who had been banking on a basket by guard Luke Eddy. The sophomore guard scored 15 of his game high points in the second half and played a key role in Elon’s critical stretch run.
When Miami (2-4) tied the contest with a pair of Chris Bryant free throws with 20 seconds remaining, Elon (3-3) was able to play for the last shot. Eddy definitely had the hot hand, but he missed his shot off the drive with three seconds left. Blake managed to get in for an off-balance tip. After bouncing around on the rim briefly, it fell through to give Elon the victory
Elon, which employs a deep bench, had one more run left in it, however. The Phoenix outscored MU 19-12 to grab a 68-64 lead. Eddy, who hit the game-winning basket against Morgan State in Cancun Challenge Mayan Division action last week, had 13 of the 19 Phoenix points in the run. His 22 points overall was a major reason why Elon owned a 48-22 advantage over Miami in points off the bench.
The RedHawks had been struggling at the foul line, but a 13-of-14 day at the line Sunday helped MU stay in the mix. Eric Washington hit two free throws at 1:08 and Bryant nailed both his tosses with 20 ticks left to tie the score.
“It’s not the first time I have been in a clutch situation like that. You treat it almost like practice. I shoot those shots every day,” Bryant said.
“Number 11 was my man to box out, and I missed him,” senior Will Sullivan said.
“He gets an offensive rebound and he wins the game, but I do not go back to that play, because there were so many plays throughout the course of a game that led to that moment,” Miami head coach John Cooper said. “If we do what we are supposed to do … then you eliminate (that ending). … What are the plays that led up to it? What are the things we didn’t get done … There were a lot of things that led to (the final play).”
In particular, Cooper pointed to play early in the contest. “The first half really hurt us and affected us.”
Elon held a 30-26 advantage at the half thanks in no small part to sloppy play by the hosts, who wasted a 10-4 rebounding advantage with an 11-6 turnover disadvantage. Elon outscored MU 11-4 on points off turnovers. Both teams had 11 field goals, but while Miami went 2 of 12 from behind the arc, Elon connected on 5 of 17.
Both teams improved on their shooting in the final stanza, with Elon hitting 13-of-27 (48.1%) from the floor and 4-of-8 at distance. The Phoenix were near perfect at 10-of-11 from the line after intermission.
Miami connected on 14-of-27 from the floor in the second half, including 3-of-9 beyond the arc. The RedHawks made all-11 shots at the line.
Three players reached double figures for Miami. Geovonie McKnight led the way with 14 points, including 5 of 11from the field. Sullivan, also 5-of-11, followed with 13 points and Washington chipped in 10. Bryant just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds – six on the offensive end.
“I’m definitely trying to be a double-double guy – a high energy guy,” Bryant said.
Joining Eddy in double figures for Elon was Elijah Bryant with 10 points. Tanner Sampson led the visitors on the glass with seven boards.
Miami returns to action Wednesday when it hosts area rival Dayton (7 p.m.).
“We’ve got a big one, so we’ll try to get this (loss)… out and focus on an important one Wednesday -- one that means a lot to us, Sullivan said.