Turnover improvement could be key in final week
MIAMI at WESTERN MICHIGAN
Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET - University Arena -- Kalamazoo, MI
By MIKE SMITH
Part of last Saturday's activities at the Ohio vs. Miami basketball game was a tribute to the late Charlie Coles, who both played (1962-1965) in Oxford and coached the RedHawks (1996-2012). During a video message played before the game, former Miami hoops standout Wally Szczerbiak spoke of coach Coles' many qualities. Among them was his ability to often interject a bit of wit and entertainment to otherwise mundane post-game pressers.
After later hearing current Head Coach Travis Steele lament his team's 21 turnovers against Ohio, one of Coles' post-game quotes came to mind. Addressing a series of turnovers during the game, Coles said, I would rather they just throw the ball in the stands than give it up and the other teams takes it in for a score.
It was both funny and . . .
. . . perceptive, his point being that at least throwing it into the stands would allow his team to set up a defense.
Normally, 21 turnovers is more than enough to invite a loss. However, Miami escaped a devastating loss to post its third straight victory. That kept MU in the mix for the MAC's final tournament spot. With two games to play, Miami needs to keep winning, and significantly cutting down on turnovers is a good start.
The RedHawks are one of three teams tied at 5-11 in conference play. However, MU does not have a win over either of the other two.
There is good and bad in the remaining schedule. The good: Miami defeated both Western Michigan and Buffalo in the first meeting. The bad: Both of the upcoming tilts are on the road.
Here's more on Tuesday's matchup:
~~ Miami and Western Michigan first faced off 83 years ago, dating back to 1940. This Tuesday, will mark the 139th meeting between both teams. In the series, Miami holds a 54-12 home record, 31-37 away record and 3-1 neutral site record.
-- Western Michigan is trying to get out of the MAC basement. The Broncos are just 3-13 in MAC play and 7-22 overall. They have lost two straight and 11 of their last 12. The only victory during that span was a 78-68 win over Ball State Feb. 18 in Kalamazoo.
~~ WMU led just once (4-3) against Miami in their Feb. 7 meeting. The RedHawks opened up a 12-point second half lead before finishing with an 85-78 edge.
~~ Freshman guard Seth Hubbard had a career-high 20 points against MU, hitting 8-of-12 from the field and four-of-six from long distance. Center Titus Wright registered 17 points and nine rebounds. Lamar Norman Jr. tallied 12.
~~ Norman ranks fourth among MAC players in scoring with an average of 17.6 ppg. The 6-1 junior has failed to reach double figures just twice this season and is connecting on 40.6 percent from the field. Nearly 58 percent of Norman's shots have come from beyond the arc, where he is hitting 33.6 percent.
~~ Junior Markeese Hastings ranks third among MAC players in rebounding (9.2 per game).
~~ Western Michigan ranks 11th in scoring (69.8 ppg) and is sixth in scoring defense (74.2 ppg).
~~ Both Miami and Western Michigan hope to cut down on turnovers. The RedHawks had 21 against Ohio Saturday, but recorded just seven in the first meeting with WMU. They are averaging 14.0 per game. The Broncos had 11 turnovers against Miami and are averaging 13.0 per outing.
~~ Both teams recorded 32 rebounds in their first meeting. However, Western Michigan ranks third among MAC teams with an average of 36.4 rebounds per game. Miami is 11th (32.2 rpg). The Broncos are first in offensive rebounds (12.1 per game).
~~ Anderson Mirambeaux (22 points) and Mekhi Lairy (21 points) led MU scoring against WMU Feb. 7. Morgan Safford (15) and Kamari Williams (11) were also in double figures.
~~ Western Michigan actually had five more field goals and a better percentage from the field (50.0% -- 46.4%) against Miami. However, the RedHawks thrived at the foul line, sinking 26-of-29 (89.7%). WMU went 7-of-12 at the stripe.
~~ Lairy is fifth among MAC scorers (17.5 ppg).
~~ Safford is Mr. Versatility for MU. The 6-5 junior has been an all-around contributor on offense and defense. He is 12th among MAC scorers (15.5 ppg) and is eighth in rebounding.
~~ Mirambeaux is averaging 14.0 ppg. and 5.9 rpg.
Especially with a game on the road, Miami needs to cut down on the turnovers. It also needs to avoid foul trouble, which can deplete offensive options and send opponents to the free throw line. When Miami gets to the line a lot, it usually takes care of business, as MU leads the MAC in free throw percentage (77.8%). However, there have been games when opponents rode the line to victory.
As of late, Ryan Mabry and Kamari Williams have contributed from the perimeter, while freshman Jaquel Morris has helped inside.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.