By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, Ohio – The Miami RedHawks found their free throw stroke just in time to hold off the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos 66-61 Saturday at Millett Hall. It was the second straight RedHawks victory, marking the first time this year MU (5-8) has won two straight. Kansas City, a member of the Western Athletic Conference, dropped to 5-10 on the campaign.
Miami, which has been inconsistent at the line so far this season, was 0-for-5 from the stripe heading into the final two minutes of play. Eric Washington broke the drought with a pair of tosses at 1:53. That started nine straight for the home team, which made 11 of its final 14 charity tosses.
They came in handy, because two Kangaroo players were getting hot. Freshman guard Deshon Taylor hit two rainbow treys from well beyond the arc, while junior guard Kevin added two trifectas of his own, along with a layup. The pair accounted for all 14 of Kansas City’s points in the final 1:53.
“Those were some tough shots,” Miami junior guard Geovonie McKnight said of Taylor’s long distance treys. “That was deep.”
(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
In particular, MU wanted to make sure guard Martez Harrison didn’t continue his recent scoring binge. Averaging 18.6 ppg for the season, the sophomore erupted for 57 points over the previous two games. He totaled 13 against the RedHawks, hitting 4-of-12 from the field (1 trey) and 4-of-5 at the line.
“We understood they go as went,” McKnight said. “We were able to slow him down and also get him in some foul trouble, which helped us throughout the game.” Harrison still played 37 minutes, but couldn’t get his offense into top gear.
Forward Reese Holliday led the ‘Roos with 14 points, followed by Harrison’s 13 and 12 by Taylor.
Miami, meanwhile, had just one player in double figures. Junior point guard Eric Washington tallied 23 points – one shy of his career high – and also added a career–best seven rebounds. He was 9-of-10 from the field with one trey and 6-of-9 at the free throw line.|
“In the last film (session), they showed me where the open spots were,” Washington said. “I knew the paint was where we were going to be successful, and I was able to do that today.”
“Eric, with his mentality of really attacking … their pressure through the game, was terrific,” Miami head coach John Cooper said. “You’ve got to make them pay for that pressure.”
While Washington was the only MU player in double figures, nine RedHawks reached the scoring column and Miami’s bench outscored UMKC 20-13.
“It was nice to have that production throughout the lineup,” Cooper said.
Miami got off to shaky start as Kansas City established an early 11-2 advantage. However, Rodney Mills scored the last seven points of a 13-2 Miami run that gave MU its first lead, 15-13 at 9:19.
After a Harrison three, Brian Oddo got inside for a layup and added a tip-in to start a 9-0 Miami run. McKnight’s jumper left the hosts in front, 24-16.
Taylor, as he did in the second stanza, got hot near the end of the period. He hit three treys, the second of which tied the contest at 24-all. Miami got one more bucket – a layup from Chris Bryant -- to carry a two-point lead to the locker room.
Miami connected on its first five 3-point shots over the first 10 minutes of the final period. Zach McCormick’s three at 10:48 gave MU a nine-point advantage at 47-39.
Kansas City whittled it down to four points (47-43) with 7:25 left. However, L.J. Livingston’s dunk – Miami’s last field goal of the contest – at 2:55 put the RedHawks up by seven, and they sealed the victory with free throws down the stretch.
Miami connected on 12-of-24 (50%) from the field in the second half and 24-of-51 (47.1%) on the afternoon. The RedHawks outscored UMKC 13-8 on turnovers (all in the first half) and 11-2 on fast breaks.
The ‘Roos owned a 38-30 advantage in rebounds. UMKC led for 10:48, while Miami was out front for 27:53. The score was tied once.
“It’s good to be heading into conference play on a winning note and with some confidence,” Cooper said.
Miami opens conference action Wednesday when it hosts East Division power Buffalo. The RedHawks and Bulls, in fact, will meet two times in 10 days. In between, Miami faces West Division powers Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.