Miami puts six players in double figures, routs Jackson State

OXFORD -- Miami men’s basketball coach Travis Steele says the RedHawks still are trying to forge an identity.

Newcomers Morgan Safford and Anderson Mirambeaux are making themselves big parts of the that picture.

The 6-foot-5 Safford, a transfer from Wofford, scored a career-high 26 points in close to 32 minutes in his second game back after missing four with a leg injury and the 6-8, 305-pound Mirambeaux, a senior transfer from Cleveland State, added 12 while leading Miami with seven rebounds and seven assists in just more than 21 munites as the RedHawks overwhelmed Jackson State, 95-78, in a non-conference game at Millett Hall on Tuesday.

“I give my teammates all the credit,” Safford, a redshirt junior, said. “We moved the ball and cut well. We cut hard and made shots.”

Miami shot 60 percent (33-of-55) from the field and 50 percent (14-28) on 3-pointers, the first the RedHawks were 50 percent or better from behind the arc since going 17-of-32 (53.1 percent) in a 104-75 win over Lamar University on Nov. 13, 2021.

Safford and Mirambeaux were two of six RedHawks in double figures. Ryan Mabrey, a 6-5 freshman guard, scored a career-high 15 points in just less than 27 minutes off the bench, while 6-7 classmate Billy Smith added 14 in 32-plusminutes, 6-6 sophomore guard Julian Lewis finished with 13 in just more than 31 minutes and 5-8 fifth-year senior guard Mekhi Lairy chipped in with 12 while playing more than 36 minutes as Miami set a season scoring high.

“I think I said it after the last game,” first-year coach Travis Steele said. “Great shooting teams are great passing teams. We’ve got to stay away from contested jump shots. You’ve got to work to get good shots.”

Lairy played in his 126th game, snapping a tie with Precious Ayah (2018-2022) for third place on the program’s career games-played list. Lairy now is tied with Geovonie McKnight (2013-2016) for second place behind the program-high 144 games logged by Dalonte Brown (2018-2022).

The 5-foot-8 Lairy also snapped a tie with Ron Harper (1983-1986) for 10th on the program’s career assists list. Lairy went into the game with 338 assists. Randy Ayers (1975-1978) ranks ninth with 346.

The RedHawks are 3-4 after their second straight win and second of the season over a Division I program. They were coming off an 80-67 win on Saturday against Arkansas-Little Rock, their first win of the season over a Division I program. Little Rock edged Jackson State, 94-91, on November 20 in Arkansas.

Miami is scheduled to meet Indiana State on Saturday at Millett Hall. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.

Mabrey, who set a career high with 12 points in Miami’s win on Saturday, poured in 14 by halftime on Tuesday. His 3-pointer from the left wing with 39.8 seconds left gave Miami its biggest lead of the half at 45-30.

Mirambeaux’s assists included a behind-the-back bounce pass to a cutting Safford for a layup and an alley-oop pass to Safford that he caught in the air and laid in for a 76-56 lead with 7:48 left in the game. The RedHawks led by as many as 24 points.

“We’ve had eight months together,” Safford said. “He has a high IQ. I know if I cut, he’ll get me the ball. I just try to make the layup when it comes.”

“He’s unique,” Steele said of Mirambeaux. “He’s one of the most unique players in college basketball. He can move the ball, and he’s very nimble. We’ll play through him. He’s like a point guard. He will find you, and he’s uselfish.”

Tuesday’s game was Miami’s first of the season with Safford and Lewis on the floor at the same time. Miami never trailed and won easily despite being outrebounded by 12.

“We’re trying to figure out this team on the fly,” Steele said. “We’re trying to figure out our rotation. We’re going to score a lot of points, but we have to rebound better.  I’m tired of giving up second-chance points.

“I’m happy with the win, but you have to learn from wins just like you learn from losses.”

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