OXFORD, Ohio -- Miami RedHawks coach John Cooper is all too aware of the pitfalls of playing with a “short bench.” For a variety of reasons, the RedHawks played much of last season short-handed. In such circumstances, closing out games can be an issue.
Cooper has restocked his squad for this season, and on Saturday found his team facing a talented – but shorthanded -- Ball State team that had the hot shooting hand. Applying effective pressure down the stretch, MU was able to fight back from a 13-point second half deficit to pull out a 79-73 victory at Millett Hall.
Ball State actually followed up a sparkling 54.2 percent (13-of-24) first half performance from the field with an even better 63.2 percent (12-of-19) in the second half. That included 57.1 percent on threes after intermission, when the visiting Cardinals owned a 38-30 lead.
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Miami, however, jumped from 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from the field in the first half to 70 percent (14-of-20) in the final stanza.
Ultimately, the RedHawks pressure and depth paid off. Miami owned a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers in the second half and outscored the Cardinals off the bench 17-4 over the final 20 minutes.
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Forwards Sean Sellers and Franko House shared scoring honors for the Cardinals with 15 apiece. Matt Kamieniecki reached double figures with 10, while Jeremiah Davis and Rocco Belcaster chipped in eight each.
Ball State scored game’s first eight points and was up by 11 (17-6) following a Belcaster three at 13:46. Miami then went on a 12-0 run, with all 12 points coming off the bench, to take an 18-17 lead.
Belcaster hit another three to put the visitors back in front. A 9-3 run over the final 4:27 allowed BSU to own a 38-30 lead at the break.
When Kkamieniecki scored on a layup and Sellers followed with a trey to open the second half, Ball State enjoyed its largest lead of the contest, 43-30.
It was still 11 points (49-38) with 13:43 to play, but Miami then began to chip away. A 16-4 RedHawk run midway through the period carried MU to its first lead of the day. Sullivan’s two free throws at 8:38 put the hosts in front 54-53.
Miami, which has been inconsistent at the line this season, took advantage of its charity tosses against Ball State. After hitting 3-of-5 FT in the first half, MU made 18-of-21 (85.7%) in the second period. BSU converted 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the line after intermission.
There were two more ties and Miami brief leads before BSU gained its final lead, 70-69, on a Kkamieniecki layup with 1:54 remaining.
McKnight responded with a tough jumper in the lane at the other end. After a steal by McKnight, Sullivan drilled his only three of the game from the corner.
His assist came from Washington, who followed with a blocked shot. Two free throws by Sullivan with 23 seconds left put the RedHawks up six (76-70), but Davis hit a three with 13 seconds left.
Washington was fouled and made one of two tosses for a four point MU advantage with 10 ticks left.
Turner missed a three and Sullivan added two more free throws just before the buzzer for the final 79-73 margin.
Miami (8-13, 3-5 MAC) remains at home for a 7 p.m. ET rematch with Northern Illinois Wednesday. MU won the first meeting, 60-55, on January 24.
Ball State (7-12, 2-6 MAC) hosts Buffalo Wednesday (7 p.m. ET).