OXFORD — Jackson Kenyon had played exactly 9 minutes and 39 seconds over four of Miami’s 23 games going into Tuesday’s Mid-American Conference matchup with Western Michigan at Millett Hall, but the walk-on turned in perhaps the biggest four minutes of his career in the second half.
Anderson Mirambeaux was dealing with a foot issue and Jaquel Morris had just picked up his fourth foul on his way to fouling out, so RedHawks’ coach Travis Steele practically had no choice but to call on the 6-foot-8 senior with 13:22 left in the game and his team leading, 51-48.
Kenyon responded with four rebounds and two points, helping spark a spurt that led to Miami leading by 13 before coming away with an 85-78 win before a crowd of 1,304.
“Jackson was ready when coach called his name,” the 6-8 Mirambeaux said. “He was ready to go.”
“A big shoutout to Jackson Kenyon,” Steele said. “He doesn’t get the headlines. He hasn’t played that much. He spends most of his time on the scout team, helping us prepare for the next opponent, but he was ready tonight. I’m proud of him.”
Mirambeaux, the senior transfer from Cleveland State., missed just three of 19 combined shots, going 6-of-8 from the field and 10-of-11 on free throws while scoring a game-high 22 points. Senior guard Mekhi Lairy scored 21, fourth-year junior guard Morgan Safford added 15 and junior forward Kamari Williams chipped in with 16 for the RedHawks.
Miami snapped a seven-game losing streak, the team’s longest since a 10-game skid in the 2015-2016 season, while improving to 8-16 overall 2-9 in the MAC. Western Michigan (6-18, 2-9) lost its seventh straight while slipping into a tie with the RedHawks for last place in the 12-team MAC.
“I’m just happy for the guys,” Steele said. “They stuck with the process. We haven’t gotten the results we wanted the last couple of months, but we’re going to press the pedal to the metal. We’re going to floor it.”
“We’ve been struggling the last seven or eight games, so it’s good to get one,” Mirambeaux said. “Let’s keep it rolling.”
Miami will host Central Michigan on Saturday at Millett Hall in the second half of a women’s-men’s doubleheader that is due to open at 1 p.m. with the Miami women facing Toledo.
Two of Steele’s primary talking points have been taking care of the ball and transition defense, and the RedHawks seemed to get the message on Tuesday. They committed just seven turnovers and outscored the Broncos, 21-7, on points off turnovers. Miami also allowed just 10 fast-break points.
“They push the ball,” Steele said of Western Michigan. “I thought our transition defense was terrific.”
Miami never trailed after taking a 5-4 lead on a layup by sophomore guard Julian Lewis with 17:41 left in the first half. They led by 13 twice in the second half, including 66-53 with 6:19 left in the game. Western Michigan whittled the lead down to five with 1:02 left, but the RedHawks went 7-for-8 on free throws down the stretch to salt away the win.
The RedHawks led by as many as 10 points in the first half before Western Michigan freshman guard Seth Hubbard connected on three 3-pointers from virtually the same spot near the right wing to help cut Miami’s lead to one before Mirambeaux sank two free throws with 33.4 seconds left for a 43-40 halftime lead. Mirambeaux finished the first half with 13 points in 13 minutes while going 3-for-3 from the field and 7-for-7 on free throws.
Central Michigan at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450
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