Dec. 29, 2013
By Tom Weber
OXFORD, Ohio - Miami University rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 69 seconds to pull out a 67-65 victory over Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon.
Willie Moore made his only 3-pointer of the game for the Redhawks (4-6) with 1:09 remaining to draw his team within one, and Will Felder rattled home a five-foot jumper with 22 seconds, which turned out to be the game winner.
The Salukis (4-9) were poised to pick up their first road win in five tries this season behind another fantastic performance by Desmar Jackson, who scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He drove baseline for a dunk and then hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to put his team on top, 65-61, with 1:21 remaining, but Southern did not score again.
"I think (Desmar) got the ball just one of the last three possessions we had it, and that's the disappointing thing," said associate head coach Tom Hankins, who led the team in Barry Hinson's absence. "When we need a basket, we'd like to get him the ball a lot more."
The key possession of the game came with 6.9 seconds to go. Trailing by one point, SIU had the ball under its own basket, when Miami inserted seldom-used 7-footer John Hawkins to pressure the inbounds pass. Saluki forward Sean O'Brien threw a long pass toward center court that was intercepted by Quinten Rollins.
"Dez was the first option and Anthony Beane was the second option," Hankins said. "Sean must have had a hard time seeing what was going on and just threw it back there to Marcus (Fillyaw)."
Miami head coach John Cooper said the strategic move was a roll of the dice for his team.
"The gamble was that if the ball gets in, now he's going to have to switch and could end up on a guard, but it was worth the gamble as Q made a great read and intercepted the pass," he explained.
Rollins was immediately fouled by Fillyaw and made one free throw to give Miami a two-point lead. Jackson then drove the length of the floor and his 15-foot baseline jumper hit the back of the rim as the horn sounded.
Cooper called Jackson performance "terrific" and said he was sweating out the final moments.
"He's got great pace to his game -- he's always probing," Cooper said. "He's able to take contact, get to the right places on the court and finish through contact."
Miami's second-leading scorer this season, Reggie Johnson, quit right after Christmas break, but Moore made his season debut and scored 14 points. The Redhawks entered the game shooting 25 percent from 3-point, but made 7-of-18 tries against the Salukis.
"We've got to be able to dig in and get stops when it matters," Hankins said. "That's how you win on the road."
Southern made 25-of-45 shots from inside the arc, but only 3-of-17 from 3-point range.
"We didn't force any threes," Hankins said. "They were all wide open from guys who we think can make shots. We got a ton of dunks and layups in there, too."
Hankins coached the team in place of Hinson, who is on a leave of absence after his son-in-law passed away suddenly on Christmas morning. Hinson will return to coach the team in the Missouri Valley Conference opener against Wichita State on Thursday.
"When you're calling the shots, the biggest difference is you have to go to the next play immediately, you can't dwell on the last play," Hankins said. "I found myself there a couple times in the second half, we'd make a mistake and wanting to coach those guys who made the mistake, and you don't have time to do it."
The Salukis completed their non-conference schedule with the lowest winning percentage in school history.
"We're not tough at all, and in the Valley you have to be tough because it's a lot more physical," Jackson said. "These guys need to get ready."