In a wild opening round game in the MAC Tournament, the No. 12 seed Miami RedHawks took the fifth-seeded Western Michigan Broncos to the absolute brink but the Brown and Gold held on for the 65-61 victory to advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday. Meanwhile, the RedHawks head into the offseason with a lot of questions to answer with head coach John Cooper’s contract expiring this season, as Cooper missed tonight’s contest due to illness, per Miami basketball’s Twitter account.
Miami would take a 14-11 lead at the first media timeout thanks to the power of the three ball as Milos Jovic and Abdoulaye Harouna each recorded a trey at the beginning of the game. A 9-0 run late in the half by the ‘Hawks helped the road team take a 35-28 lead into the intermission as Michael Weathers accounted for four of those points in the stretch. The ten turnovers by the Broncos in the first twenty minutes did not help their case, with Seth Dugan and Thomas Wilder each coughing it up three times.
Harouna and Weathers each had eight points in the first half for Miami as the team rolled on offense with a 51.7% shooting percentage in the opening stanza. Wilder and Tucker Haymond combined for 15 points as the latter hauled in six boards to help give WMU a 17-14 rebounding edge.
WMU got back in the game in the later stages of the second half as it cut the deficit to 37-36 thanks to a scoring drought by the RedHawks that lasted over six minutes long. A 7-0 run by Western Michigan gave the team a 55-49 lead with 7:40 left in regulation. Miami could not muster the offense nor the stops to pull off the upset, though they would get within one possession of the Broncos in the closing seconds prior to a pair of Reggie Jones free throws sealed the deal.
The home team dominated the boards 23-15 in the second half, which stuck Miami behind the eight-ball as well as their two big scoring droughts in the period. Western also cleaned up their play on the offensive end with only five turnovers in the half, while the RedHawks shot poorly from downtown as they went 4-17 from beyond the arc in the game.
WMU now seeks to extend its nine-game winning streak in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon as it takes on the No. 4 seed Ball State Cardinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.