Mirambeaux, Lairy anchor RedHawk win over WMU
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- There was at least one predictable thing about Miami's 85-78 victory over Western Michigan Tuesday at Millett Hall: the RedHawks offense went through Anderson Mirambeaux and Mekhi Lairy.
Miami Head Coach Travis Steele has noted on several previous occasions that, given his young team's makeup, the RedHawks' offense necessarily runs through his big forward (Mirambeaux) and the quick but dimuative point guard (Lairy). Those two combined for 43 points, while two other RedHawks joined them in double figures to power MU to its second MAC win of the campaign.
With the victory, Miami broke a seven-game losing streak and . . .
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. . . is now 2-9 in MAC play (8-16 overall). Western Michigan, meanwhile, dropped its seventh straight. The Broncos are now 2-9 MAC (6-18 overall).
"I'm just happy for the guys," Steele said. "We've stuck with the process. (Even though) we haven't got necessarily the result that we've wanted for the past month, our guys have kept a great attitude."
Western Michigan freshman Seth Hubbard came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points to lead the Broncos. He hit 8-of-12 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 triple tries. Titus Wright made 7-of-10 from the floor on the way to 17 points and also recorded nine rebounds. Lamar Norman Jr. contributed 12 points, which put him over 1,000 points for his career. Markeese Hastings just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 boards.
On the RedHawks side, Mirambeaux connected on 6-of-8 from the field and 10-of-11 at the line for a game-high 22 points. Lairy scored 21, followed by Safford (21 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds), and Kamari Williams (11 points).
"Morgan, Mekhi (and) Anderson did a great job overall of controlling the offense,: Steele said. "They only had seven (turnovers) and 18 assists, which is great to see."
The visitors led just once, but MU took the lead (5-4) for good on a Julian Lewis layup at 17:39 and built up a nine point advantage (21-12) following two Mirambeaux free throws at 11:12.
Western Michigan pulled within four, but the hosts eventually went back up by 10.
Back-to-back treys by Hubbard started an 11-2 run that allowed WMU to pull within one before Miami took a 43-40 lead to intermission.
The RedHawks' lead fluctuated through much of the second half but stood at three (51-48) when Mirambeaux left the game at 13:22 with an injury. With 6-8 freshman Jaquel Morris battling foul trouble, Steele turned to walk-on Jackson Kenyon, who entered Tuesday with nine minutes of game time (none in MAC play) to his credit.
The senior came through, scoring a basket and grabbing four rebounds in four minutes until Mirambeaux returned. Most importantly, the RedHawks were plus-seven during Kenyon's time on the court. His put-back at 10:40 gave MU a 59-49 lead. Mirambeaux returned shortly thereafter, and Miami edged out to a 13-point advantage.
"When coach called his name, he was ready to go," Mirambeaux said. "I was really excited for him. ... He did a really good job."
Western Michigan got as close as five points. That followed a Norman triple at 1:01, but Miami put the game away at the foul line.
"We did a good job of knocking them in," said Steele, who wants his team to create more free throw opportunities. "We haven't gotten to the line enough in MAC play, so we've really been trying to make a point of getting that ball inside."
Overall, Miami hit 26-of-29 charity tosses on the night. With WMU making 7-of-12 free throws, it more than made up for Bronco advantages in made field goals and 3-point goals.
Western Michigan was 31-of-62 (50%) overall and 9-of-21 (42.9%). Miami made 26-of-56 (46.4%) from the field and 7-of-23 (30.4%) outside the arc.
~~ Steele was particularly pleased with MU's assist-to-turnover ratio against WMU. Miami registered 18 assists while committing seven turnovers. "If we clean up turnovers like (tonight) and we take care of the glass, I think we can go on a big run the rest of the season."
~~ After allowing nine offensive rebounds before intermission against WMU, Miami surrendered just two in the second stanza. One of those came in the game's final seconds.
~~ Western Michigan ranks third among MAC teams in rebounds (38.5 rpg) and is first in opponent rebounds (31.5 rpg). Miami and the Broncos both recorded 32 rebounds apiece in Tuesday's contest.
~~ Miami's Lairy and WMU's Norman are among the MAC scoring leaders, each averaging 17.8 ppg. Norman notched 12 against MU. Lairy tallied 21.
~~ Steele made sure to recognize the contributions of Kenyon, who stepped in during a key stretch of the second half. "I called his name. He didn't know he was going to go in, and he played his tail off," Steele said. "His effort (and) his execution was impressive. ... I'm just proud of the man that he was ready for that moment."
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.