NEXT UP: Ohio Bobcats - 1 p.m. ET Millett Hall, Oxford, OH
Streaking Bobcats are serious senior night challenge
By MIKE SMITH
As satisfying as the last week has been for Miami players, the RedHawks have a chance to exponentially increase their positive vibes Saturday when MU meets a streaking Ohio team, starting with a 1 p.m. tipoff at Millett Hall.
It's Senior Night and the last home game. A Miami victory would:
-- Give the RedHawks their first three-game win streak of the campaign.
-- Give MU its first victory over the rival Bobcats since Feb. 9, 2019. That was a 79-59 triumph at Millett Hall.
-- Keep Miami in the hunt for the MAC tournament's eighth -- and final -- playoff spot.
-- Give the seniors a win in their final home appearance.
The latter would be . . .
. . . extra special in a year when Miami has struggled. The RedHawks dropped seven straight conference games during one stretch and bring a 4-11 MAC record into Saturday's tilt.
"We're getting better... and its amazing what can happen," Miami Head Coach Travis Steele said.
Most of the MAC losses were relatively close games and there were signs the young RedHawks were making progress. They may have turned the corner last Saturday at Northern Illinois when MU rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to nip the Huskies 66-65 in overtime.
Miami trailed by as many as five points after intermission Tuesday against Bowling Green, but again fought back for the win. This time, MU led by 13 before holding off a furious Falcon rally.
Miami and Ohio first faced off 115 years ago, dating back to 1908. This Saturday, will mark the 213th meeting between both teams. In the series, Miami holds a 63-40 home record, 27-72 away record and 4-6 neutral site record. The Bobcats have taken the last seven games versus the RedHawks.
Here's more on the upcoming matchup against Ohio:
~~ After losing four of their first five MAC games, the Bobcats 9-6 MAC, 17-11 overall) are finishing as one of the hottest teams in the conference. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak, which began Feb. 4 when they defeated Miami 78-68 in Athens.
~~ In the first meeting, Ohio led the entire first half, but never by more than five points. A 10-0 Bobcat run midway through the second stanza gave Ohio some breathing room, and MU could get no closer than seven points after that.
~~ Junior guard Jaylin Hunter (23 points) and forward Dwight Wilson (21 points) combined for 44 points to lead the 'Cats against MU. The duo also combined for 16 of Ohio's 26 rebounds.
~~ Senior Mekhi Lairy (24 points) and Morgan Safford (18 points) paced the Miami attack.
~~ Anderson Mirambeaux, who has been a key component in the RedHawks offense recently, registered nine points in the first meeting against Ohio. He was 2-of-10 from the field and five-of-six at the line.
~~ Ohio owned a 40-30 edge in points in the paint.
~~ The Bobcats are ranked second among MAC teams in scoring offense, averaging 78.6 ppg. Only Toledo (84.7 ppg) has a better average.
~~ Ohio is third in field goal percentage (46.2%) and second in 3-point percentage (37.5%). Akron and Ohio top the MAC with an average of 8.8 threes per outing.
~~ Ohio is second in rebounding (37.7 per game)
~~ Wilson owns the MAC's top field goal percentage (62.8%). Miles Brown is second in 3-points goal percentage.
~~ Overall, Miami is seventh in scoring offense 73.5 ppg). Point guard Mekhi Lairy leads the way, with the senior averaging 17.2 ppg -- sixth among MAC players. He is second in made free throws (115).
~~ Steele appreciates the contributions of Lairy, who is playing his last home game Saturday. "I didn't know Mekhi from a can of paint," said Steele, who took over the program this year. "He could have transferred out with the coaching change. He decided to stick with the program because he loves Miami. ... He's given five years here. He's given his heart and soul to this program. … I want to send him out the right way."
~~ Lairy's career accomplishments at Miami include:
• Free Throw Percentage: .874 (1st all-time)
• Games Played: 147 (1st all-time)
• 3-Point FG: 17 (6th, tied at No. 6)
• Assists: 427 (3rd, 11 away from No. 2)
• Scoring: 1,673 (5th, 6 away from No. 4)
~~ Mirambeaux, a 6-8, 305-pound forward who averaged 5.5 minutes and 1.5 ppg last year for Cleveland State, has been a key contributor for the RedHawks. He is averaging 14.0 ppg and 5.8 rebounds per contest. The senior has reached double figures in each of the last five games and 14 of the past 16.
~~ "He's unique," Steele said. "He's an enormous human being, but he can play all over the floor. He can drive it. He can pass it. He can shoot it a little bit. He's (just) got to know where his bread is buttered, and that's down low."
~~ Overall, Miami is a young and relatively inexperienced team. MAC opponents have typically attacked the middle where they draw fouls. That has given several teams a distinct advantage at the line. In some cases, it has also put Mirambeaux and/or other RedHawks in foul trouble.
~~ MU's interior game got a big boost Tuesday when freshman forward Jaquel Morris provided eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of work before fouling out. It was a career-high in points and field goal attempts. He credited Lairy with encouraging him to be more aggressive offensively.
~~ Junior guard Morgan Safford has proven to be an experienced leader whose versatility has been critical for a young team with depth issues. He scored just four points against BGSU Tuesday, breaking a string of nine straight games in double figures. In fact, he has scored in double figures in all but four games this season.
~~ Kamari Williams hit three treys against the Falcons
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.