OXFORD — Scoring 26 points to lead Miami to a surprising 85-68 win over arch-rival Ohio on Senior Day left Mekhi Lairy with mixed feelings.
“It’s big,” said the 5-foot-8 fifth-year senior point guard. “Obviously, it’s a rivalry game. It’s Ohio, but it was also my last home game, so it was bittersweet.”
Fourth-year junior guard Morgan Safford added 24 points and a team-high four assists in Miami’s third straight win before a boisterous crowd of 2,852 at Millett Hall in Oxford. Senior forward Anderson Mirambeaux finished with 13 points as the RedHawks snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Bobcats for Miami’s first win in the series since February 2019.
“I was proud of our resolve,” first-year coach Travis Steele said. “Our defense has done a 180 from the beginning of the season. Keeping OU to 68 points was due to multiple efforts.”
The RedHawks are scheduled to finish their regular season with road games at Western Michigan on Tuesday and at Buffalo on Friday. Miami owns home wins over Western Michigan, 85-78, on Feb. 7 and the Bulls, 91-80, on Jan. 10.
“Maybe we can get road kill,” Steele said.
Ohio went into Saturday’s game 17-11 overall and 9-6 in the MAC, good for fifth in the 12-team conference. The Bobcats were on a six-game winning streak that started with a 78-68 win over Miami in Athens on Feb. 4.
Miami was tied with Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan for ninth, one game behind Central Michigan. The top eight teams qualify for the three-day conference tournament, which is scheduled to start on March 9 on Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.
The champion earns a berth in the NCAA tournament.
The RedHawks’ 74-65 home win over Bowling Green on Tuesday gave them wins in back-to-back games for just the second time this season and first since non-conference wins over Little Rock and Jackson State in late November.
Miami hasn’t won three straight games since opening the 2021-2022 season with five straight wins.
Fans wore replica Charlie Coles jerseys, honoring the late former Miami player and coach. Coles set the Miami record for coaching wins and the record for MAC coaching wins. His uniform No. 10 was retired in 2015 and hangs from the Millett Hall rafters.
Tributes included a moment of silence in Coles’s memory and a video tribute by Wally Szczerbiak.
“I’m sure coach Coles is smiling down on us today,” Steele said. “We tried to honor him as best we could.”
Miami basketball alumni on hand for the game were invited into the locker room after the game.
“They were ecstatic about beating Ohio,” Steele reported.
After eight lead changes, Miami took the lead for good when Mirambeaux sank a free throw to break a 34-34 tie with 4:04 left in the first half. The RedHawks led by as many as 20, 85-65, with 47.1 seconds left in the game.
The margin allowed Steele to deploy little-used seniors Wil Stevens and Jackson Kenyon in the final minute.
Lairy scored 12 points to lead Miami to a 40-38 halftime lead and pass Eric Newsome to move into fourth place on the program’s career scoring list. He finished the game with 1,699 points. The fifth-year senior sank two 3-pointers to break a tie with Isaiah Coleman-Lands and take over sole possession of sixth place on Miami’s career scoring list. He finished with four for the game and 191 for his career Dalonte Brown is third with 193.
Safford, who scored four points in Miami’s 74-65 win over Bowling Green at Millett Hall on Tuesday, scored seven before halftime on Saturday.
“You just have to stay the course,” the 6-5 Safford said. “Good players have bad nights. I was thankful that my teammates picked me up and we got the win.”
Miami at Western Michigan, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450
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