Persistence proved to be key for the Miami RedHawks as they upended a first half deficit to knock off Buffalo by one.
Defense prevailed early, as CJ Massinburg dispossessed the RedHawks and passed to Nikola Rakicevic, who converted for two after the game opened with little scoring. The teams traded baskets until Rod Mills, Jr. made it a three-point game, but Rakicevic countered with two and the Bulls put up three on their next possession to help lead them to a 12-8 advantage at the first timeout.
Ikenna Smart missed two free throws, and the Bulls were called for a defensive foul on the ensuing Miami possession. Marcus Weathers missed two free throws of his own, and Davonta Jordan added two points to the Buffalo lead. Michael Weathers then lost the ball, and Willie Conner put it up to extend the RedHawks’ scoring drought, which had extended past three minutes.
Miami frantically tried to get a shot off from beyond the arc, but could not convert anything. The Bulls could not hit either, and Milos Jovic did what his teammates could not moments before, ending Miami’s barren period and making the score 18-11. Miami’s woes continued as the Bulls hit two straight threes and Willie Conner made a field goal while being fouled. The free throw on the play made the Buffalo lead 15. History repeated itself as Nick Perkins scored and drew a foul, but this time the foul shot was not converted.
Buffalo’s rolling was temporarily halted as Perkins had a basket revoked for traveling, and Jordan found himself turning the ball over for the same offense. Michael Weathers scored, but the RedHawks committed another foul and sent the Bulls to the line.
Jake Wright hit from three for Miami, and Buffalo coach Nate Oates called a timeout. Rod Mills then found the net for three, and Buffalo’s lead was down to ten. Another three from Wright and a layup from Jake Bischoff were high points for Miami late, capped by two free throws from Bischoff, but Buffalo led 39-31 at the half.
Mills opened second half scoring for Miami, and Marcus Weathers cut the lead to four points nearly two minutes into the half. Wright made it three, building on his first half shooting prowess, but Buffalo’s Perkins threw down a dunk with authority, as if to remind the RedHawks who dominated the first half. He then converted another free throw to put himself in double digits for points, and then hit a third time and a fourth, the fourth from three.
Miami, while not as down as they were in the first half, still could not overtake the Bulls, and Buffalo kept various single-digit leads into the eight-minute timeout. Bischoff brought Miami within a point from the free throw line, and Blake Hamilton gave Miami the ball back on a charging foul. Marcus Weathers could not make either free throw, and the Bulls took the ball down the court once more, where Weathers was called for a defensive foul.
Miami, after missing all their chances to tie the game or take a lead, found themselves faced with CJ Massinburg shooting three free throws for the Bulls. He made all three and put the Bulls back up five, but Miami’s Wright clipped the lead to two from beyond the arc. Michael Weathers finally tied the game at 64 from the line, and Marcus Weathers tipped it in for Miami’s first lead since the scoreline was in single digits.
In the final minutes, Miami found themselves with the upper hand in the chasing game as the two teams traded baskets again, a position they found themselves jealous of for most of the contest. Logan McLane made the Miami lead four with his first field goal of the game, but CJ Massinburg found himself at the line after being fouled on a successful three-point attempt. The play saw Marcus Weathers foul out with 16 points. Massinburg made his shot, and the game was tied at 72 with just under a minute left.
With 1.4 seconds to go, Dion Wade found himself at the line after being fouled by Blake Hamilton. Wade made his first shot, but missed his second as Buffalo took a timeout with one second to go. Massinburg could not get a shot off in the final second, and Miami finished 75-74 victors.
The RedHawks are now 9-11 overall and 2-5 in conference, while Buffalo falls to 10-10 overall and 3-4 in conference. Miami’s next game is Saturday, when they host Eastern Michigan, while Buffalo next plays at Akron the same day.