“It wasn’t pretty, but our guys competed,” fourth-year coach Jack Owens said. “Western Michigan has been in every game they’ve played this season for the most part. They came out ready to play. I was excited with the way our guys finished the second half.”
Senior forward Dalonte Brown scored 16 points to lead Miami, which has won four of its last five games, Junior guard Mekli Lairy scored 15 points, nine in the second half, and had six assists, while junior forward James Beck finished with nine points – seven in the second half – and a team-high nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.
“Our confidence is pretty high,” Lairy said. “We had a tough loss to Toledo in our last game. We wanted to start a new winning streak and build up some confidence going into the (MAC) tournament.”
Miami was trying to score 80 or more points in five straight games for the first time since the last five games of the 1960-1961 season, though the last game of that stretch went to overtime. The RedHawks hadn’t scored 80 or more points in five straight games in regulation since a six-game stretch in the middle of the 1956-1957 season.
“You’ve got to be able to do both,” Owens said. “On the nights and days when the ball isn’t going in, the defense has to carry us. We were switching four ways and five ways and stopping the ball and getting back on defense. Any time you can hold a team to 50-some points, we’ll take it.”
Miami (8-5, 5-3) went into Saturday’s game fifth in the MAC standings. Western Michigan (2-11, 1-7) was tied for 10th.
The RedHawks had lost six straight games against the Broncos with no wins since a 45-44 victory in Kalamazoo in 2016. Miami hadn’t beaten Western Michigan in Oxford since 2009.
After playing four of their last five games at home, the RedHawks are scheduled to play back-to-back road games at Kent State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and at Buffalo on Saturday at 5 p.m. Miami lost to Buffalo, 90-62, in its conference opener on Dec. 15.
The RedHawks still are waiting to learn if their postponed games against Ohio and at Central Michigan and Western Michigan will be rescheduled. They were due to play the Bobcats on Dec. 29 at Millett Hall and at Central Michigan on Jan. 2 and at Western Michigan on Jan. 16.
Miami limited the Broncos to 26.7 percent (8-of-30) from the field in the first half, but the RedHawks were just 2-for-10 (20 percent) on 3-pointers and led by just 25-21 at halftime.
The Broncos opened the second with a quick 6-0 run, but Lairy scored seven points and Beck four as Miami responded with an 11-0 run for a 36-27 lead with 15:05 left in regulation. Redshirt-freshman forward Javin Etzler made it an 17-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 42-29.
“It’s a game of runs,” Lairy said. “We knew they’d make a push. We had to make sure we had more fight left in us. We had to make sure to execute our defense/.”
Note: Miami’s MAC home game against Akron was moved up from Feb. 13 to Feb. 12 and is scheduled to be televised on ESPNU. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.