OXFORD, Ohio -- Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff was hoping last Saturday’s win over Central Michigan was a sign his team was trending toward consistency. That path, however, might have taken at least a temporary hit Tuesday as hosting Miami knocked off KSU 80-69 at Millett Hall.
Actually, both teams have at times struggled with consistency, so Tuesday’s tale of two halves was perhaps less surprising than substantial.
Miami, which faded down the stretch in a loss to Western Michigan last Saturday, not only jumped out to . . .
"That last game (against Western Michigan) kind of left a bad taste in our mouth," said freshman guard Nike Sibande. "Coming out this game, we had a point to prove."
Kent State worked its deficit down to 21 points before Darrien Ringo weaved his way through traffic to score on a layup just before the buzzer.
"I was very pleased with or effort and execution," Miami head coach Jack Owens said. "I believe we had nine assists off of 20 makes. That was really good. ... I know Ringo set the table, but our guys all played well together. They shared the basketball and they kept them (Kent State) out of transition."
Ringo scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, hitting 7 of 9 shots and both of his 3-pointers by the end. He also continued his role as a catalyst, dishing out seven assists. The junior ranks third nationally with an average of 8.0 assists per game.
KSU finally started to find the target late in the stanza but still posted a 30 percent (9 of 30) overall mark before the break. The Flashes were 3 of 12 from beyond the arc.
“The guys fought back in the second half and cut (Miami's) 20-point lead down to eight. If we are going to win games in this league, we have to play better for 40 minutes. That's what it comes down to."
When play resumed for the second half, Miami was able to keep its distance. Indeed, the hosts made it a 25-point advantage (60-55) with 13:13 remaining. By and large, though, KSU had stopped the bleeding and, moreover, put MU in early foul trouble. The RedHawks committed their seventh team foul at 14:03 and Kent State reached a double bonus situation with 11:01 left.
"With a good team like that, you can't allow them to get back in the game by fouling them and those sorts of things," Owens said.
"He's a good player," Owens said. "You allow him to get deep post up position, (and) he's going to score the basketball."
A pair of Kevin Zabo free throws at 8:00 took Miami’s lead under 20 for good and were part of a 10-3 Flashes run that pulled KSU within 11 at 70-59 with 4:18 to play.
The two teams largely traded points over the next few minutes, with a Zabo layup at 1:24 bringing the Flashes within eight. That, however, was Kent State’s final field goal. Miami, meanwhile, finished the Flashes with free throws.
The RedHawks are last among MAC teams in free throw percentage (66.3 percent) and ended Tuesday’s contest at 54.5 percent (12 of 22). But Miami’s five of six FT makes over a late 25-second stretch helped seal the victory.
Overall, Miami connected on 51.8 percent (29 of 56) from the field and 40 percent (10 of 25) on threes. Nike Sibande (17) and Ringo (16) were the only RedHawks in double figures, although seven players had at least eight points.
Joining De La Rosa in double figures for Kent State were Jalen Avery (12) and Zabo (11).
KSU hit 41.0 percent (25 of 61) from the field and 27.8 percent (5 of 18) from beyond the arc.
After a shaky first half, the Flashes battled back to break even on points in the paint (32-32), while trailing slightly in rebounds 35-33.
“I thought in the second half we played much more to our character. Much more the way we are supposed to play. I'm very disappointed (and) take responsibility for how we played in the first half. We'll try to get better moving forward."
Kent State held a 13-8 edge in second chance points, while Miami owned a 23-19 advantage in points off the bench.]
After splitting its two-game home stand, Miami will be at Buffalo Saturday (2 p.m. ET).
Kent State hosts Ohio Friday night (7 p.m. ET) at the MAC Center.