OXFORD, Ohio-Despite making a valiant effort in the final minutes to come back against the visiting Western Michigan Broncos (13-7; 5-2 Mid-American Conference), the Miami University men's basketball team fell 72-68 Wednesday night at Millett Hall. Junior forward Will Felder recorded his second double-double of the year with 17 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
The RedHawks (7-12; 2-5 MAC) started a smaller lineup than usual, and their quickness showed in the opening minutes, allowing them to jump out to a 13-2 lead. The first five baskets all came on layups, including a breakaway by sophomore guard Will Sullivan after a steal at midcourt. A three from Sullivan took Miami to 13 points, but Western Michigan took control after that shot. Scoring the next 12 points, the Broncos jumped out in front, 14-13.
Freshman guard Geovonie McKnight's basket at 12:30 gave the RedHawks their lead back, but the Broncos answered right back to reclaim their advantage. Junior center Drew McGhee scored to put the RedHawks ahead 17-16, but Western Michigan took the lead again for the fourth lead change in less than two minutes. The momentum stayed with the Broncos this time, and they held on to the lead until a tip-in by junior forward Jon Harris to make the score 31-30 with just over two minutes until halftime.
Western Michigan's Brandon Pokley made both of his free-throw attempts at the 1:23 mark to put his team back up by one, but he was quickly answered by Felder, who made two foul shots of his own. On the RedHawks' next possession, Felder grabbed an offensive rebound and laid one in to put his team up by three and give Miami a 35-32 halftime lead.
Felder scored 10 of his 17 points and six of his 13 rebounds in the opening half, which led all players. The Broncos went the final 6:42 of the first half without a field goal, allowing the RedHawks to end the half on a 13-4 run.
The roles reversed to start the second half, however, and Western Michigan took a 41-40 lead thanks to a 9-2 scoring run. Five more points stretched the Bronco lead to six, matching their largest of the night. Two free throws from Harris and a three from junior guard Allen Roberts closed the gap to one, 46-45, with 13:13 left to play.
Eight straight points from Western Michigan put the Bronco lead at 54-45, but another three from Sullivan and a bucket from McKnight cut the deficit to four, 54-50, with a little over eight minutes remaining. The RedHawks kept fighting and came within three, 62-59, when Western Michigan was called for a technical foul, sending Felder to the line. He nailed both of his free throws to pull his team within one, and then junior guard Quinten Rollins followed that up with two freebies of his own with 4:07 to play, giving the RedHawks with their first lead since the start of the half, 63-62.
Western Michigan jumped back in front, 67-65, but a steal by McKnight gave the RedHawks possession and led to a Bronco foul, sending freshman guard Reggie Johnson to the line. He missed his first shot but hit the second, cutting the deficit to one. A basket from Western Michigan's Shayne Whittington put the Broncos up three, but Rollins drove to the hoop and laid one in to put Miami back within one. A necessary foul sent the Broncos to the line and, after missing the first, Darius Paul made the second to make the score 70-68 and handing the RedHawks the ball with 22 seconds left.
Miami was unable to capitalize on the possession with a missed jumper and the Broncos pulled down a crucial defensive board, which caused Miami to commit a quick foul. Two WMU free throws with 12 seconds to secured the win for the Broncos.
In addition to Felder's 17 points and 13 rebounds which led all players, Roberts reached double figures with 10 points. Four Broncos reached double-digits, with Whittington leading the pack with 13. Despite Western Michigan ranking in the top-20 nationally in rebound differential, the RedHawks outrebounded their foes, 37-29.
Miami embarks on a two-game road stretch, heading to Central Michigan this Saturday for a 7 p.m. tilt with the Chippewas. Next Wednesday, the RedHawks travel to Toledo for another 7 p.m. game.