OXFORD — Injuries and ineffectiveness forced the Miami RedHawks to count on unfamiliar faces in their Mid-American Conference against Bowling Green on Tuesday.
Nobody came up bigger than junior forward Kamari Williams and freshman forward Jaquel Morris.
The 6-foot-7 Williams scored nine points and set a season high with six rebounds while the 6-8 Morris tied his career high with eight points and set a career high with rebounds to help the RedHawks earn a 74-65 win over the Falcons before 1,820 fans Millett Hall in Oxford.
“It was a team effort,” first-year Miami coach Travis Steele. “We needed guys to step up and they did. That’s what we’re going to need. It was sheer effort.
“I wrote on the board before the game, ‘Our backs are against the wall.’ There’s only one direction to go. We have to stand and fight.”
The contributions by Morris were especially valuable since 6-5 redshirt junior Morgan Safford struggled, finishing with four points. Morris, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, chose to divert credit.
“The team played hard,” he said. “Our point guard told me to be more aggressive. I took him at his word.”
Senior forward Anderson Mirambeaux pushed through foot problems to finish with a game-high 24 points, including seven straight free throws in the final three minutes while Bowling Green was trying whittle down a 13-point lead.
Fifth-year senior point guard Mekhi Lairy added 13 points and seven assists for Miami, which has logged wins in back-to-backs for just the second time this season and first since beating Little Rock and Jackson State in late November. Miami, 10-18 overall and 4-11 in the MAC, also moved into a tie with Bowling Green, also 10-18 and 4-11.
“Our practice are more intense,” Morris said. “We value defense more.”
“We’re getting better at the right time,” Steele said.
The 5-8 Lairy also sank a 3-pointer to break a tie with Nike Sibande and move into a tie with Isaiah Coleman-Lands for sixth the program’s career 3-point list. Both have 187.
Bowling Green came into the game ninth in the 12-team MAC, a game ahead of the three teams tied for 10th – Miami, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. The top eight teams qualify for the post-season MAC tournament. The Falcons had dropped seven straight games and were coming off a 91-86 home loss to neighborhood-rival Toledo.
They beat Miami, 83-73, exactly a month earlier in Bowling Green.
“That game is cemented in my head,” Steele said.
The Falcons roster included Trotwood-Madison product and freshman guard Anthony McComb III for the 150th meeting with Miami. McComb did not play.
The two teams combined for 22 field goals, including 5-for-20 on 3-pointers, and 17 turnovers in a sloppy first half that ended with Bowling Green leading, 29-26. The first half included 10 lead changes.
“I thought our defense was tremendous,” Steele said. “Offensively, we set the game back to the 1940s in the first half.”
The RedHawks are scheduled to wrap up their regular-season home schedule with a 1 p.m. game against Ohio (17-11, 9-6) on Saturday before finishing with road games at Western Michigan on Tuesday and at Buffalo on March 3.
Miami lost, 78-68, at Ohio on Feb. 4.
Ohio at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450
About the Author