Miami upset bid falls short at Akron
Casteneda, treys give Zips the edge
By MIKE SMITH
AKRON, OH -- They brought very different records into Tuesday's MAC matchup, but it ultimately took Akron all 40 minutes to hold off visiting Miami 73-68.
It was the first MAC coaching battle between Akron's John Groce and his brother Travis Steele, who took over the RedHawks program this year. With its fourth straight loss, MU fell to 1-6 in conference play (7-13 overall). The Zips remained undefeated at home and raised their record to 6-1 MAC (14-6 overall).
Akron senior guard Xavier Castaneda, the league's top scorer, topped his 19.9 ppg average with a 32-point night against Miami. He connected on 8-of-16 from the field overall and 10-of-11 free throws. Some of his biggest baskets came on shots from long distance, including a triple to put UA up 69-64 with 53 seconds left.
Miami scored four straight points to . . .
. . . pull within one at 69-68, but Akron broke a RedHawks press and scored on a Sammy Hunter dunk at 0:29. Castaneda posted the game's final points on a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds left.
Akron, which had been averaging 72.2 percent at the stripe, helped itself by sinking 15-of-17 (88.2%) Tuesday. Miami made 14-of-20 (70%) free throw opportunities.
The visiting RedHawks actually had one more field goal and connected on 24-of-46 (52.2%) from the field overall. However, they were 6-of-17 (35.3%) on treys, while Akron knocked down 12-of-32 (37.5%).
Four RedHawks reached double figures, led by Mkehi Lairy's 16 points. Morgan Safford tallied 13, while Anderson Mirambeaux scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kamari Williams came off the bench, contributing 12 points with five caroms in 24 minutes.
In addition to Castaneda, Akron had just one other player in double figures. Enrique Freeman scored 13 points and secured eight rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Kobe Mitchell added nine points in 27 minutes off the bench.
~~ Miami, which has spotted opponents big first half leads in several games, managed to stay with UA and held the lead for 10:11 of the first half. The largest RedHawks lead was seven points (13-6) at 11:34. Akron, which led for 5:33, held its largest lead (six points, 25-19) of the first half at 6:03 mark.
~~ The RedHawks led 33-30 with under a minute remaining until intermission. Cataneda, however, hit back-to-back threes, with the second just beating the buzzer to give Akron a 36-33 halftime edge.
~~ Mirambeaux finished with three fouls, the timing of which allowed him to stay on the floor for 33 minutes. That, in turn, helped the RedHawks record a 36-16 advantage on points in the paint. However, Freeman (who eventually fouled out late) helped the Zips own an 18-10 advantage in second chance points. The Zips had a slight 30-27 edge in rebounds.
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.