FORT WAYNE, Ind – It counted as one basketball loss, but had it been racing, the Miami RedHawks might have been credited with two losses Saturday.
Miami stumbled badly to start each half and eventually fell to IPFW, 86-78, at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The Mastadons started both the first and second periods with 13-2 runs, leaving Miami at a 26-4 deficit for the remainder of the contest. The RedHawks fought back, trailing by three at the half and again several times in the final stanza. However, they were unable to catch the hosts, who raised their home record to 3-0 and overall mark to 5-2. Miami fell to 2-6 on the campaign.
“Our start was atrocious,” Miami head coach John Cooper said. ”You put yourself in this unbelievable hole, and you are fighting for your life the whole night from that point.”
Another huge problem for MU was Mastadons center Steve Forbes. The 6-9, 295-pound senior entered Saturday averaging 15 points per game but eclipsed that in the second half alone (17) and finished with a game-high 25 points.
Forbes had been hitting 56.6 percent of his shots from the field and 69.7 percent of his free throws. He made 6-of-12 (66.6%) from the floor and 9-of-11 (81.8%) at the line against the RedHawks. He also chipped in 10 rebounds to help IPFW post a 30-21 advantage in rebounds. That included an 8-2 advantage in offensive rebounds.
Joining Forbes in double figures were guards Mo Evans (15), Joe Edwards (13) and Max Landis (13).
Miami had three players in double figures, and two had huge games to give MU a chance at pulling out a road win.
Guard Willie Moore had his second straight productive game, hitting 9-of-15 (60%) overall and 4-of-7 (57.1%) from distance. He made 2-of-4 free throws to total 24 points.
Point guard Eric Washington also finished with an even two dozen marker, although he got half his total by canning 13-of-14 charity tosses. He was 5-of-7 (71.4%) from the field and made1-of-2 attempts from beyond the arc.
Guard Geovonie McKnight hit 4-of-6 from the floor and both free throws on the way to 10 points.
Final statistics don’t reflect the massive ebb and flow created by Miami’s poor starts. The RedHawks actually finished with one more field goal – hitting 27-of-51 (52.9%). IPFW was good on 26-of-47 (53.3%).
The Mastodons’ advantages came on threes, where they totaled seven (7-of-21, 33.3%) to MU’s 5-of-16 (31.3%), and at the free throw line. The hosts made 27-of-37 at the stripe compared to 19-of-22 for Miami.
McKnight’s layup at 17:06 was the only RedHawks bucket was the only goal until 12:36, when Zach McCormick hit a jumper. In the interim, five different players had contributed to 13 IPFW points.
Down 16-4, Miami went on a 15-5 run to pull within two at 21-19. The half ended IPFW up 30-23.
It was déjà vu to start the second half as MU managed just one bucket (a Bryant layup) while the Mastodons ran off 13 straight to take a 43-29 lead. John Hawkins’ layup at 15:39 finally got the RedHawks back into scoring mode.
IPFW was up by 15 at 53-38 after a Steve Forbes layup at 11:26. Another Hawkins basket started kicked off a 16-4 Miami run that pulled the RedHawks within three at 57-54 following Will Sullivan’s score from underneath with 7:37 remaining. It was one of three times Miami narrowed its deficit to three points in the second half. That, however, proved to be as close as they could get.
“We couldn’t get over the hump, but they made plays when they needed to,” Cooper said of the Mastodons.
A Moore free throw at 3:39 left Miami trailing 64-61, but a three-point play by Forbes, followed by Joe Edwards’ steal and an Evans layup gave the hosts an eight-point advantage at 69-61. IPFW pushed the lead out to 11 points on several occasions down the stretch before winning by the final eight-point margin.
Miami returns to action Sunday, Dec. 14 when it visits Wright State (7 p.m.).