EVANSVILLE, IN - For Miami fans, watching the RedHawks play Evansville Saturday was akin to watching a scheduled 40-minute fireworks show that ended less than halfway through the program. It was fun while it lasted, but alas, many people left disappointed.
Michael Bramos had 17 first-half points / File photo
After building leads of 10-1 and 23-8 in the first half, Miami fizzled the rest of the way in Saturdays game as the Purple Aces rallied for a 75-61 victory.
The ESPN Bracket Buster win broke a three-game losing streak for Evansville (16-11, 7-9 Missouri Valley Conference) and also gave the Purple Aces a five-game winning skein over Miami.
Shy Ely (21 points) and Jason Holsinger (20 points) did the most damage for the victors. James Haarsma also recorded double figures with 10 points.
Ely, who entered the contest with a Missouri Valley Conference-leading 18 points per game average, has now scored 20 or more points in the last four Evansville games. Holsinger brought a 12.5 points per game average into Saturdays matchup.
The kid (Holsinger) and Ely were tremendous, RedHawks coach Charlie Coles said.
Miami, by contrast, had only one player in double figures, and that was forward Michael Bramos. The senior was super hot (8 of 9 from the field) in the first half when he scored 17 points. Unfortunately, for Miami, those turned out to be his only points of the contest. He had only three shots in the second half, much of which he viewed from the sideline.
Miami, which held a 40-35 halftime lead, still led by five (49-44) when Bramos picked up his second foul at 14:36. He was then whistled for his third foul at 13:09 and headed to the bench. That changed the complexion of the game, Coles said.
By the 11:11 mark, Evansville had its first lead since an early 1-0 advantage. Although Rodney Haddix gave Miami a 51-50 lead with a layup at 11:02, the RedHawks could not score again until Julian Mavungas dunk at 7:14 made it a 59-53 game in favor of the hosts. From 12:49 until the 2:05 mark, Evansville outscored the RedHawks 26-8.
We could see it slipping away, and there was not a whole lot we could do, said Coles, who watched the Purple Aces score in a variety of ways while taking over the game. They were hurting us on all fronts. We were a step slow, Coles said, adding that Evansville was the first motion team weve played in a long time.
Evansville shot 58 percent from the field and made 4 of 8 from behind the arc. It also took advantage of plentiful opportunities at the foul line by making 21 of 28 charity tosses.
Miami, meanwhile, connected on a normally healthy 54.2 percent of its field goal attempts for the game, but much of the success was in the first half. The RedHawks were 9 of 24 from the field after intermission. They made 6 of 10 from the free throw line, with three coming in each half.
With Evansville pulling away, Coles left four of five starters on the bench during the games final minutes. At the end, I just wanted to see some other guys and get some energy, Coles said. That game was over . Our starters werent a bit more going to stop that machine from running (than the players off the bench).
Miami, now 15-10 overall (8-4 MAC), returns to conference action Saturday when it travels to rival Ohio. It will be the fifth road contest in the last six games for Miami, which has dropped two in a row and three consecutive road tilts.
With four more games all against tough MAC East foes remaining on the regular season slate, Coles indicated his team needs to get back to its winning ways.
I hope we can get our minds together, Coles said. We just dont do enough as a team right now. The things we were doing earlier in the year, were just not doing right now.