OXFORD — A 25-5 run by the Miami men’s basketball team turned a 10-point deficit in the second half into an 81-72 win over Western Illinois at Millett Hall on Saturday afternoon.
The victory moves Miami to .500 on the season at 3-3.
Miami focused on feeding the post in the early going with Darius Harper scoring the team’s first four points on a couple of hook shots in the paint to make it 4-1 roughly four minutes in. Western Illinois (2-4) then scored 11-straight points to grab a 12-4 lead with 14:19 to go in the frame.
The gap remained between six and eight over the next few minutes until a Michael Weathers three-pointer pulled MU within 16-11 after eight and a half minutes of play. A Jake Wright three-pointer closed the deficit to 17-14 moments later as MU’s offense came to life. Trailing 20-16, Logan McLane scored three the old fashioned way by making a hook shot through contact and splashing in the ensuing free throw to make it a one-point contest.
A layup by Michael Weathers eventually tied the score at 23 apiece, but the Fighting Leathernecks scored the next four to regain their lead at 27-23. The RedHawks countered with a Harper bucket and a Milos Jovic trifecta to briefly grab a 28-27 lead with 3:50 left until the break. WIU eventually grinded ahead of MU despite both teams struggling to make shots down the stretch as Miami trailed by three at 34-31 after 20 minutes.
Western Illinois came out firing to start the second half, making its first five shots (four threes) to grab a nine-point lead at 48-39. Wright’s three-point shooting kept things from getting out of hand and then McLane had a bucket along with a free throw to keep the RedHawks within striking distance at 48-42. However, the Fighting Leathernecks eventually upped their lead to 54-44 with 13:01 to play.
Trailing 56-46, the RedHawks embarked on an impressive comeback and scored 13 of the next 15 points. Jovic made a three, Michael Weathers drained two free throws, Rod Mills converted a layup, Wright hit a three and McLane poured in an old fashioned three-point play to put the Red and White on top 59-58 midway through the second half. After a WIU bucket, Marcus Weathers split a pair of free throws to tie the score up and an Abdoulaye Harouna three-pointer put MU back on top 63-60 with a McLane bucket later making it 65-60 with 6:57 to go.
Miami’s run eventually expanded to 25-5 to give it a 71-61 lead with about five minutes left. A dry spell by MU kept WIU in it as a three by Garret Covington cut the Miami lead to 73-68 with two minutes remaining. The Miami lead was 75-70 with a minute left when Michael Weathers called his own number and slithered through traffic to score a layup that upped the lead to seven with 42.1 ticks remaining. The Fighting Leathernecks would get no closer than five points the rest of the way.
The RedHawks shot a blistering 61.9 percent in the second half to finish at 44.4 percent on the afternoon, including a 9-of-18 (50 percent) mark from long range, while the Fighting Leathernecks made 41.5 percent of their shots and hit 9-of-26 (34.6 percent) threes. Miami also went 24-of-30 (80 percent) from the charity stripe while Western Illinois went 19-of-25 (76 percent). MU held a slight 36-34 advantage in rebounding and forced 14 WIU turnovers against 11 of its own.
Three Miami players finished in double figures, led by Michael Weathers’ 19. Balancing out the scoring was McLane, with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Wright hit all five of his three-point attempts to finish with 15.
The RedHawks return to the court on Wednesday when they play host to Grambling State. Opening tipoff is at 7 p.m.