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RedHawks falter down stretch, lose to Salukis in OT

Miami University’s men’s basketball team found more frustration in its final Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster contest Saturday afternoon.

Jeff Early hit a fadeaway 17-footer at the buzzer to force overtime, then Southern Illinois controlled the extra stanza en route to a 74-68 victory before a crowd of 5,315 at SIU Arena.

The RedHawks slipped to 8-17 with their fifth straight loss and ninth in the last 10 games.

“We just wilted down the stretch again,” MU coach John Cooper said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to do things to help yourself. You’ve got to learn to create your own luck, and we haven’t been able to do it.”

Reggie Johnson scored 18 points and Allen Roberts had 14 for Miami. Jon Harris collected nine points and seven rebounds.

The RedHawks trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and held a six-point lead four times after intermission. They were plagued by turnovers (17) and free-throw shooting (14 of 22).

MU misfired twice on the front end of the bonus in the last two minutes of regulation.

“We put ourselves right there,” Cooper said. “Execution down the stretch really hurt us. Quite frankly, there’s no excuse. There should be no shock as to why we lost the game in overtime.”

Early collected a career-high 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Salukis (12-16), who made just 11 of 21 foul shots. Desmar Jackson added 17 points.

Geovonie McKnight scored eight points and Will Felder had seven for the RedHawks. Vince Legarza chipped in four points, six boards, two assists and one block.

This is Miami’s first 1-9 stretch since losing 11 of 12 games in 1961-62 under Dick Shrider. MU lost 18 straight games in 1988-89 under Jerry Peirson, but eight of those contests were forfeits.

The RedHawks resume Mid-American Conference play Wednesday at Bowling Green.

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