Aces nip RedHawks as MU opens Steele era
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Albeit short on some of the firepower and entering battle with no recon info, the Miami RedHawks opened 2022-23 with a 78-74 loss to Evansville Monday at Millett Hall.
It was MU's first game under new Head Coach Travis Steele, and 5th year senior point guard Mekhi Lairy anchored a . . .
. . . very different lineup than the one that finished last year. Forward Javin Etzler is out with an injury and forward Kamari Williams is still awaiting an academic appeal ruling. "I think it was filed a month ago. I can't believe, honestly, that we didn't get word before tonight," Steele said. "We need Kamari. ... In practice, you can watcfh us, and he is arguably our best scorer, but its next man up (for now)."
While the two forwards might have helped on the boards and with scoring, Miami did get a big performance from a new - and big -- presence in the lineup. Anderson Mirambeaux is listed at 6-8 (305) and has the size to be a force in the paint.
The senior transfer from Cleveland State, got off to a slow start, but eventually led all scorers with 27 points. Mirambeaux mde 9-of-17 from the field overall, including 1-of-3 on treys, and hit 8-of-10 free throws. He also led MU with eight rebounds in nearly 31 minutes of action. "Anderson is a talented young man," Steele said. "People probably didn't get to see his best skill set. He can really pass ... (and) you can use him in a lot of different ways. ... He's really versatile. We're going to play through him and Mekhi a lot."
Miami led just once. That was at 3-2 after freshman guard Billy Smith connected on a trey from the left side. Evansville then ran off 12 straight points, and Miami spent the rest of the half playing catchup.
Senior guard Kenny Strawbridge Jr and Yacine Toumi, a 6-10 forward, did much of the early damage for UE. The latter scored Evansville's first eight point, while the former provided six of the next eight. Strawbridge would finish with a team-high 23 points.
Steele noted Miami had no game tape on the Aces, forcing MU to make some quick adjustments. "We were going in blind, which is kind of scary," he said. "We didn't know they were going to run any of their actions that they did, because we had no film."
That said, he is still looking for improvement on the defensive end, which he called a "core value" of the team. "We've got to get our guys to execute our defensive system a heck of a lot better."
As for the slow start on offense, Steele said, "I thought our guys were pressing early. We have several guys out there that never played college ball or played at this level. You could tell they were pressing."
The RedHawks were still down 11 (32-21) with 3:21 left in the half, but they chipped away and two free throws by Lairy narrowed the hosts' deficit to four (34-30) at the break.
Evansville connected on 43.8 percent from the field and 21.4 percent outside the arc in the first half. Miami made 33.3 percent of its shots overall and 21.4 percent on treys.
Both teams would heat up when action resumed, but the Aces were a little hotter. With 10:10 left in the second period, UE was up 61-50. Miami then went on a 10-0 run. Safford's triple from the corner put the hosts within one at 61-60. The 6-5 junior guard, who previously played at Wofford, finished with 12. He was injured several minutes later and had to be helped off the court.
Evansville led by six with 2:14 left, but Mirambeaux's long triple from in front of the Miami bench reduced it to a 75-72 game. After a steal, he got another chance from the other side, but that one missed. "He had a good look on it. We'll take that shot down three ... and live with the results," Steele said.
Although Lairy scored two more for Miami, three Marvin Coleman free throws sealed the Aces victory.
Miami returns to action Saturday, Nov. 12 (1 p.m.) when it hosts Goshen College (Ind).
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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.