TUESDAY’S GAME: The RedHawks prepare for conference opponent Akron this Tuesday, Jan. 24. This is Miami’s 20th game of the season, and tip time is set for 7:00 p.m. at James A. Rhoades Arena in Akron, Ohio. Fans can tune in on ESPN3+ or by listening to one of Miami’s game day radio affiliates which consists of WFMG-FM 101.3 (Richmond, Ind.), WMOH-AM 1450 (Hamilton, Ohio), and WONE-AM 980 (Dayton, Ohio).
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON: John Groce enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Zips. Prior to joining Akron, he spent five seasons as the head coach at the University of Illinois and four seasons at Ohio University. Akron is currently 13-6 and hold a 5-1 record in conference play. The Zips most recently defeated Western Michigan 63-55. Guard Xavier Castaneda (19.9), forward Enrique Freeman (14.2) and guard Trendon Hankerson (9.0) currently lead the team in scoring. This year the Zips are averaging 71.1 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting and have held their opponents to 62 points per game. The team also averages 12.9 assists and 37.21 rebounds in each game they play.
THE SERIES WITH THE ZIPS: Miami and Akron first faced off almost 108 years ago, dating back to 1915. This Saturday, will mark the 68th meeting between both teams. The RedHawks hold a 22-13 home record, 9-21 away record, and 1-2 neutral site record when facing the Zips.
UP NEXT: Miami continues conference play by returning home to face Eastern Michigan University this Saturday, Jan. 28. Tip time is set for 3:30 p.m. in Oxford, Ohio.
BOWLING GREEN RECAP: In the 19th game of the season, Miami (7-12, 1-5 MAC) dropped to Bowling Green (9-10, 3-3 MAC) 83-73 Saturday evening at the Stroh Center. Morgan Safford led the RedHawks with 20 points and Anderson Mirambeaux finished with 18 points. Mekhi Lairy recorded 15 points and added a game-high seven assists. Keon Ayers III led the Falcons with 31 points.
FAMILY TIES: This Tuesday’s basketball game is unique as head coach Travis Steele prepares to take on his brother John Groce who is the head coach of Akron. Coach Groce is 10 years older than his brother and played a large role in Coach Steele’s love for basketball. While Coach Groce was an assistant at Butler University, Coach Steele joined the staff as a manager before starting his coaching career.
LOCKED IN AT THE LINE: Miami University currently ranks eighth in the nation in free throw shooting percentage. As a team, the RedHawks are shooting 78.8%. Mekhi Lairy leads the way (92.2%), ranking eighth in the nation and second in the MAC. Anderson Mirambeaux ranks 13th in the MAC (79.7%) and Morgan Safford is currently listed at 17th in the MAC (77.2%).
REDHAWK TRIO: The RedHawks have three of the top-20 scorers in the MAC, highlighted by Mekhi Lairy (17.2, 8th), Morgan Safford (15.4, 10th) and Anderson Mirambeaux (13.4, 20th). Combined, the trio scores 46 of Miami’s 75 points per contest.
MEKHI LAIRY: Among the returners is fifth-year senior Mekhi Lairy, who set Miami’s single-season free-throw percentage record a year ago and currently holds the career free-throw percentage record. Lairy, who averaged 13.6 ppg in 2021-22, posted his 1,000th career point last season and is on pace to break Miami’s career games played record this season. Lairy now has 1,518 career points. He is in 7th place on the program’s all-time scoring list after passing Michael Bramos (2006-2009) against Bowling Green. In the same game, Lairy also climbed past Quinten Rollins (2011-14) to move into the top four in career assists. This season against Georgia, Lairy set a new career-high in points (34) and produced the first 30-point game for a RedHawk since Mar. 9, 2020 (Nike Sibande, 31). He has also recorded two other 30-point scoring performances this season against Wright State and Bellarmine.
STAND AND DELIVER: One of the most efficient free throw shooters in the conference, fifth-year senior guard Mekhi Lairy ranked first in the MAC in free-throw percentage in the 2021-22 season. Lairy hit 29 consecutive free throws from Nov. 27 through Jan. 29. He was perfect from the free-throw line in 18 of the 25 games where he attempted a free-throw shot. His .915 (2021-22) free throw percentage ranks first on Miami’s single-season list and his .866 career free-throw percentage also ranks first. This season Lairy has went 83-90 from the free throw line. He has been perfect from the line in 13 of the 19 games where he has attempted a free-throw shot.
CHART CLIMBER: Fifth year guard Mekhi Lairy is climbing several Miami career top 10 lists and continues to climb the points scored list. Here is where he stands entering
Miami’s next game:
• Free Throw Percentage: .868 (1st all-time)
• Games Played: 138 (2nd, 7 away from No. 1)
• 3-Point FG: 172 (9th, 5 away from No. 8)
• Assists: 389 (4th, 17 away from No. 3)
• Scoring: 1,518 (7th, 9 away from No. 6)
MABREY MAGIC: After returning to the starting lineup versus Bellarmine, Ryan Mabrey knocked down the biggest shot of his collegiate career. With 18 seconds left in the game, Mabrey scored the game clenching three-point shot to take a 69-65 lead over Bellarmine. This propelled the RedHawks to their first road victory of the season.
SAFFORDS RETURN: In his second game back from injury, he set what was his previous career-high 26-points against Jackson State to lead the RedHawks to a 95-78 win.
SHOWING OUT: Against Jackson State, six RedHawks put up double-figures in scoring for the first time since Nov. 23, 2021. This included Morgan Safford (26), Ryan Mabrey (15), Billy Smith (14), Julian Lewis (13), Anderson Mirambeaux (12), and Mekhi Lairy (11). Overall, Miami shot 60% (33-55) from the field. The Red and White also shot 50% (14-28) from the three-point line. Each shooting percentage was the most for a RedHawk team since Nov. 13, 2021. Against Calumet College, the RedHawks shot a season-high 59.3% from beyond the arc.
DEFENSIVE STAND: In the second game of the season against Goshen College Miami forced 27 turnovers. This is the most for a RedHawk opponent since Nov. 17, 2015 (Kenyon, 24 turnovers). Miami recorded 18 steals (second highest in program history), led by freshman Billy Smith with six total.
NEW FACES, NEW PLACES: Two RedHawks recorded double-doubles in Miami’s first win of the season versus Goshen College. Sophomore transfer Julian Lewis made his season debut, tying his career-high of 17 points and setting a new career-high of 10 rebounds. Freshman Billy Smith recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds, six steals, and four assists. This year the RedHawks boast five freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors, three seniors, and a fifth-year senior.
INCOMING TALENT: Julian Lewis is a guard from William & Mary where he averaged 7.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. He recorded a career-high of 17 points versus Delaware and a career-high of eight assists against Valparaiso. As a freshman, Lewis was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team. This season Lewis has averaged 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
Morgan Safford is a guard from Wofford College. During his tenure he averaged 7.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He recorded his previous career-high 21 points versus Coastal Carolina as a redshirt freshman. During his first campaign, Safford was named to the 2020-2021 Southern Conference All-Freshman Team. He was named a captain at the beginning of the season for the RedHawks. This season Safford has averaged 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
Anderson Mirambeaux is a forward from Cleveland State University. While attending he averaged 1.5 pts, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists with the Vikings. Prior to Cleveland State, Mirambeaux attended Trinity Valley Community College. At TVCC he averaged 13.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He was named a captain at the beginning of the season for the RedHawks. In Anderson Mirambeaux’s first game with Miami, he set a career-high 27 points. In the game versus Jackson State, he also set a career-high in assists with seven. This season Mirambeaux is averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
COURTESY MIAMI ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS