Cincinnati red hot in blowout win over Miami

CINCINNATI — This was no Crosstown Shootout.

More like a Southwest Ohio Blowout.

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats, fresh off a narrow 80-77 Shootout loss to arch-rival Xavier on Saturday, rebounded to dominate the overmatched Miami RedHawks during a 103-76 win in a non-conference game at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday.

The Bearcats shot a red-hot 63.3 percent (38-of-60) from the field, including 60 percent (12-of-20) on 3-pointers, and led by as many as 35 points while surgically exposing weaknesses in Miami’s defense.

“Give UC credit,” first-year Redhawks coach Travis Steele said. “They came out hungry. They were aggressive. They played well offensively, but we’ve got to be better defensively. I told our guys this is a fork in road. I need to see some toughness. I need to see some fight. I’ll play anybody — walk-ons, whoever. We need to execute at the defensive end. I’m looking for people to step up at that end of the floor.

“I’m tired of hearing people talk about it. I want people who show me they want to do it.”

Miami gave up 100 or more points for the first time since losing, 101-92, in a Mid-American Conference game at Central Michigan on Jan. 21, 2017.

The win was Cincinnati’s first against what could be considered “local” competition, following the loss to Xavier and losses at Northern Kentucky and to Ohio State.

Wednesday’s game was decisively different than last season’s encounter between the two teams at Miami’s Millett Hall, where Cincinnati escaped with a 59-58 win.

Steele, the former Xavier coach in his first season at Miami, fell to 3-2 in his career against the Bearcats.

The game was Miami’s second of three in a span of seven days. The RedHawks, now 4-6 overall and 2-6 against NCAA Division I teams, are scheduled to play at Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday at 4 p.m. They’ve also beaten two National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II teams.

Miami’s next home game is scheduled for Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. against Wright State. After playing St. Mary-of-the-Woods on Dec. 29, the RedHawks are scheduled to open their Mid-American Conference schedule at Central Michigan on Jan. 3.

Mekhi Lairy, Miami’s 5-foot-8 fifth-year senior guard, led the RedHawks with 20 points in 34:08 minutes. Anderson Mirambeaux, the 6-8 senior transfer from Cleveland State, had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds in 24:05, 6-5 redshirt junior Morgan Safford, the transfer from Wofford, chipped in with 14 in 33:41.

Kamari Williams, a 6-7 junior forward, scored nine points in 28:09 minutes in his first appearance after putting behind him some academic issues.

“It felt great,” Williams said. “I’d forgotten what it’s like to play college basketball.”

The Bearcats easily broke down Miami’s defense, consistently getting open for inside shots on the way to shooting 57.6 percent (19-of-33) from the field during the first half. They built a 20-6 advantage in points in the paint and led by as many as 19 points before going into halftime with a 50-33 lead. The RedHawks didn’t help themselves by committing 10 turnovers to Cincinnati’s three, helping the Bearcats build a 13-0 advantage in points off of turnovers and 16-0 advantage in fast break points before halftime.

Miami’s only lead was 2-0 on a Mirambeaux 12-foot jump shot 47 seconds into the game. The Bearcats took control with a 10-0 run that left them with a 29-15 lead with 8:22 left in the half.

“We were rushing,” Williams said. “We weren’t moving the ball or showing any poise. They sped us up. Once we started sharing the ball and showing some poise, we were hanging in there.”

“They got whatever they wanted – driving the ball, dunks – nothing we didn’t see on film,” Steele said.

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