OXFORD, OH – If the South Carolina State Bulldogs were tired, it certainly didn’t show Saturday as the Bulldogs rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat the Miami RedHawks 71-67 at Millett Hall.
"They just came out in the second half, and they had more energy than us," senior guard Geovonie McKnight said. "(They had) more physicality than what we were playing with, and that showed, because they out-rebounded us in the second half."
South Carolina State, a MEAC team located in Orangeburg, South Carolina has been on a road swing through Ohio. Before meeting Miami for the first time, SCSU played Ohio State on Dec. 27 and Akron Jan 30. Miami, in fact, was the sixth straight road game for the Bulldogs, who came up on the short end of all six decisions.
After 20 minutes of basketball, it appeared . . .
The RedHawks built their advantage on some solid shooting. Although they were 3 of 9 from beyond the arc, the RedHawks connected on 48.3 percent (14 of 29) from the field overall and hit all six free throws.
South Carolina State shot just 34.8 percent (8 of 23) form the field and made 1 of 6 attempts from outside the arc. The Bulldogs missed four of 13 free throws, and would likewise miss four from the line after intermission. The difference was that SCSU would get 23 attempts in the final stanza. That proved to be one of three key elements that turned the tide in their favor. The other two factors were (1) employing a very effective zone and (2) hitting the boards.
Miami edged the visitors 17-16 in first half rebounds. By game’s end, the Bulldogs had a 38-28 rebounding advantage.
Second half play began with a flurry of whistles. Miami drew four fouls by the 17:38 mark and reached seven at 14:49. SCSU held out a little longer, committing its seventh at 13:35. But the Bulldogs had already cut the Miami lead seven by that point, and a 9-2 run pulled the visitors even at 45-all with 11:06 left.
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Chris Bryant hit the front end of a one-and-one to give Miami its last lead. Greg Mortimer followed with a pair of free throws to put SCSU in front for good. With Miami continuing to struggle against the zone, South Carolina State built up a nine-point (58-49) advantage with 5:38 left.
"They were able to live on the foul line in the second half, and not only did they go (there), they made them," said Miami head coach John Cooper, who pointed out the foul shots served a double whammy. Not only wee the Bulldogs getting points at the line, they were getting opportunities to set up in a zone defense. That turned out to be a problem as Miami once again struggled from the perimeter.
"We weren't able to knock down shots when we needed to (in order) to loosen it up," Cooper said. "There were some times in the game where we had some (open) shots, and you've got to be able to knock '... em down."
Eric Washington hit Miami’s only trey of the second half as MU began to chip away. It was a 62-58 ballgame at 3:30. But the Bulldogs got two free throws from Eric Eaves and a tip-in by Riley to push South Carolina State up by eight (59-67).
"We weren't able to get them off the boards in the second half," Cooper said. "When they did miss, they were not only able to get offensive rebounds, but they were able to get ... stick-backs and keep balls alive."
South Carolina State made 19 of 23 field goals after intermission and raised its field goal percentage to 50 percent (12 of 24) in the second half. The Bulldogs were 3 of 11 on the day from distance. Eaves led all scorers the visitors 23 points, including nine (of 12) from the line. Ed Stephens (13) and Gabriel McCray (10) also reached double figures.
Thanks in part to Eaves, SCSU outscored Miami off the bench, 34-12. Miami had just two players in double figures. McKnight led all scorers with a career-high 24 points. Eric Washington contributed 16 points. After that, it dropped off to seven points from Livingston.
With the win, South Carolina State moved its record to 6-10 on the year. Miami, which has now lost three straight, fell to 6-7 in its last outing before opening conference play at Bowling Green Wednesday.