Miami falls to Toledo in sixth straight loss

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

OXFORD — Even though Miami outrebounded visiting Toledo by four, 33-29, in their Mid-American Conference game on Tuesday, first-year RedHawks coach Travis Steele believed the Rockets won the game on the glass.

The offensive glass.

Toledo came up with nine offensive rebounds that they turned into a 15-6 advantage on points in the paint on the way to an 81-78 win before 1,578 fans at Miami’s Millett Hall.

“We’ve got to block out better and defend better,” Steele said. “They won it on the glass.”

Morgan Safford, the 6-foot-5 redshirt-junior transfer from Wofford, scored 19 of his team-high 25 points in the second half and grabbed 11 rebounds while playing the entire game.

“He was trying to take the right shots,” Steele said of Safford, who went 8-of-14 overall and 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. “The ball found him.

“We’re a ball-movement team. We’re not an iso team. If we try to be an iso team, it’s going to be a long night for Miami.”

Anderson Mirambeaux went 9-of-12 for 18 points. Fifth-year senior guard Mekhi Lairy scored 16, and 6-5 freshman guard Ryan Mabrey added 14, including two shot clock-beating 3-pointers.

Safford was matched by Toledo junior guard Ray J Dennis, who scored 22 of his 29 points after halftime. He also dished out six assists.

“That’s why I voted him first-team all-conference in the pre-season,” Steele said.

Toledo sophomore guard Ra’Heim Moss, a Springfield High School product, started and scored six points

Toledo went into the game leading the MAC and third in the nation in scoring with average of 85.1 points per game, overall field-goal percentage at 48.7 percent, 3-point percentage at 38.0 percent and assists with andaverage of 15.38 per game. The Rockets were second-worst in overall defense, allowing an average of 78.4 points per game, and 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37.4 percent.

Dennis was leading the conference with an average of 5.9 assists per game.

The RedHawks, who have lost six straight games and eight of their last nine, are scheduled to play at arch-rival Ohio with a 2 p.m. tipoff on Saturday before a two-game home stand against Western Michigan on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Central Michigan on Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m.

They are due for a rematch with the Rockets on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at Toledo. The loss was Miami’s 18th straight in the series since a 68-66 win in Toledo on Feb. 12, 2011.

“I have to tip my cap to Toledo,” Steele said. “Coach (Tod) Kowalczyk has put together a really good team. They are an offensive juggernaut. Their big guys are really more like wing players. They give you a lot of problems. They’re a hard team to prepare for. We knew we’d have to score with them.

“We only committed 11 turnovers,” added. “Our goal was 12, so we met that threshold.”

Lairy sank a 3-pointer to give Miami a 48-47 lead with 15:20 left in the second half,  but Toledo forward-center AJ Edu converted a traditional three-point play to give Toledo the lead for good. The Rockets led by as many as 11 with 8:50 left in the game and the RedHawks could get no closer than three points.

“We showed a lot of fight,” Safford said. “It’s rough to lose. We’ve just got to keep fighting and and execute better, but I was proud of our guys.”

Mirambeaux, the 6-foot-8 senior transfer from Cleveland State, scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and the 5-8 Lairy added nine in a back-and-forth first half that included Toledo leads of 10 and nine points and Miami leads of one and two points. Lairy ended the half on a personal 6-3 run to pull the RedHawks within five., 40-35, by halftime.

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