Taking advantage of the loss to a sprained ankle of 6-foot-8 sophomore Jaquel Morris, Western Michigan outrebounded the RedHawks, 40-27, leading to a whopping 20-3 advantage in second-chance points on the way to an 83-74 win in in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.
Before a crowd of 1,005 at Miami’s Millett Hall in Oxford, the Broncos improved to 4-9 overall while outscoring Miami, 38-28, on points in the paint and capitalizing on Miami shooting just 60 percent (21-of-35) on free throws.
“Those have been major concerns all year,” said second-year Miami coach Travis Steele, whose team fell to 6-7. “It’s been a major problem. We knew what they were going to do going into the game. They’re big and physical and play hard. We had to play bigger. It’s been an Achilles heel for us.”
Senior center Anderson Mirambeaux came off the bench to score 20 points in 22:37 minutes, 15 in the second half while the RedHawks were trying to stay in the game. Graduate-student and forward Bryce Bultman added 15 and graduate-student and wing Darweshi Hunter finished with 10 before fouling out for the RedHawks, who lost their MAC opener for the second straight season.
Miami finished tied with Bowling Green for sixth in the MAC pre-season coaches’ poll, while Western Michigan was tabbed to finish 10th in the 12-team conference.
Besides Morris, who played less than three minutes due to an ankle he sprained in practice this week, 6-foot freshman guard Evan Ipsaro and 6-2 junior guard Bradley Dean also were playing through injuries.
“Jaquel will need a day off to get the swelling down,” Steele said. “It’s a war of attrition. Western Michigan had more life than us. You could throw (the Broncos) record out the window. We didn’t handle adversity well. As individuals and as a team, we’ve got to get tighter and tougher against conference teams. We’ll continue to learn.”
The RedHawks had won six straight against the Broncos.
“They were really physical in the post,” the 6-foot-8 Mirambeaux said. “We didn’t adjust.”
Miami shot 41.1 percent (23-of-56) from the field, including 36.8 percent (7-of-19) on 3-pointers, but the RedHawks missed several inside shots that turned into layups at the other end. Western Michigan outscored the RedHawks, 19-8, in fast-break points.
“When you miss layups liken that, they usually turn into layups at the other end,” Steele pointed out.
The RedHawks are scheduled to begin a two-game road trip on Friday at Toledo, followed by a trip on Tuesday to Buffalo. Their next home game is set for Jan. 13 against Eastern Michigan with a 1 p.m. tipoff.
Toledo was picked to finish fourth in the MAC pre-season coaches’ poll, while Buffalo was picked to finish ninth. Eastern Michigan was projected to finish 11th.
Western Michigan never trailed after taking a 37-36 lead with 2:29 left in the first half. The Broncos opened the second half with a 7-0 run for a 51-41 lead and Miami never got closer than four points after that. Mirambeaux scored 12 straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and 13 overall in the last six minutes. Bultman followed up with five straight Miami points, but the Broncos had an answer for every Miami challenge
The two teams traded leads seven times in the first half with Western Michigan owning a 44-41 advantage at halftime. Mabrey scored 11 points and Hunter 10 in the first half, but Western Michigan outrebounded Miami, 20-12, and enjoyed an 8-0 lead in second-chance points. The Broncos closed the half on a 9-5 surge.