OXFORD — Miles Brown wasn’t supposed to sprint to the hoop when Ohio and Miami were tied with 14 seconds left Friday night at Millett Hall.
Jason Preston attempted a 3-point shot that would’ve put the Bobcats ahead and in position to return to The Convo for the first-round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. But the shot missed.
Brown, who has made only one start this season, has typically hustled back to play defense when any of his teammates shot a 3 this season. That’s the usual assignment for Brown, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard.
Instead, his instincts told him to go to the hoop. That put him in position to make the biggest play of Ohio’s season.
Brown grabbed Preston’s rebound and sent the ball off the backboard and through the net to give Ohio a 67-65 win over Miami. It was the last shot Ohio made in its final regular season game, and they were the points that guaranteed the Bobcats one more home game before a potential trip to Cleveland.
“Usually, I just get back on defense,” Brown said, “but this time, I was just trying to go for the ball and hopefully get the points.”
Brown shouldn’t have even been on the court in the final minute of the biggest game of Ohio’s season.
Coach Jeff Boals opted to stick with Brown because, well, he didn’t have a choice. The Bobcats were without Ben Vander Plas, who injured his ankle Tuesday and didn’t play against Miami, and Jordan Dartis for the final minutes.
Dartis, Ohio’s all-time 3-point leader and top senior, is usually on the floor when Ohio needs a clutch shot. He’s dealt with a leg injury since Feb. 22 against Bowling Green, however, and hobbled his way through 24 minutes in his final “Battle of the Bricks” game. With four minutes left, Dartis finally took a seat.
Boals turned to Brown. He’s averaged only 10 minutes per game and has made his biggest contributions on defense. Brown has never been in position to make an offensively clutch play for the Bobcats.
Brown started the season with a knee injury and didn’t receive his first college minutes until December. He, like the seven other freshmen on Ohio’s roster, still has a long way to go to adapt to the college level, and his first instincts won’t always be the right move.
“We’ve been trying to get him to continually look at the rim and make plays,” Boals said. “It was tough for him initially because he was hurt. It can mentally affect you. We told him, ‘Stay with it. Your time is going to come.’”
His moment arrived against Miami. He was the only player in position to make the play that would ensure Ohio — who had a 3-9 away record before Friday — won’t have to play another road game again.
He took a risk, played out of position and made a shot that put the Bobcats back in The Convo, where they’re 11-5.
“I looked up and I saw him up there, and I was just happy,” Preston said. “I knew he was going to finish it, and that’s all that matters.”
Now, Ohio will return home. The Bobcats will play Central Michigan, who lost to Ohio 77-69 on Feb. 19, in The Convo. Boals is hopeful that Vander Plas and Dartis will be healthy enough to be in the starting lineup.
He’ll still have Brown off the bench, though. Boals put faith in him in the final minutes of Ohio’s biggest game of the season, and Brown made it count.
“It doesn’t matter if you start the game or come off the bench,” Brown said. “It’s all about how you finish.
“Today, I didn’t start the game, but I finished it, and I finished it well.”