It’s hard to beat a team twice in a row in any sport, let alone Division I college basketball.
But after beating the Miami RedHawks 66-55 at home on Friday, the Akron Zips traveled to Oxford Sunday and did it again, 71-59.
Miami came out of the locker room hot in the first half. After the first media timeout, Miami scored seven points in a row to make the game 11-8 Miami. The teams traded buckets and stops for the rest of the half and neither team led by more than four.
With time winding down in the first half and Akron’s Greg Tribble getting ready to take the last shot, redshirt-senior Isaiah Coleman-Lands poked the ball loose, picked it up and charged down the floor before getting fouled with four seconds on the clock. He sank both foul shots and led Miami into the locker room down just two.
After halftime, Akron pulled away. The Zips outscored Miami 23-7 within the first 8 minutes of the frame, and the RedHawks could never catch up.
Miami won the turnover battle against Akron, 17-10, but also got out-rebounded 36-20. Akron’s big three of Brian Trimble Jr., Xavier Castaneda and Ali Ali combined for 49 of Akron’s 71 points and shot a cool 10-16 from three. As a team, the Zips shot over 50% (10-19) from behind the arc.
For the second straight game and the second time this season, Mekhi Lairy didn’t start for the RedHawks. Lairy has struggled recently and seemed to hit a low point against Kent State last Tuesday when he committed seven turnovers and scored just six points in 28 minutes.
Lairy seemed like his old self Sunday. The five-foot-eight-inch guard led all players in the game with 27 points, and he also chipped in four steals and a couple assists to go with just one turnover. He was efficient from the field (10-17) though not so much from three (1-5). He was undeniably a major difference maker.
“It was good to see him get to his pull up, we haven’t seen that in a week or so,” Head Coach Jack Owens said.”He's a special talent. Mekhi will continue to get better.”
Other than Lairy, no RedHawk had much success scoring the ball on Sunday. Coleman-Lands shot 2-7 and scored eight points and star junior guard Dae Dae Grant went 2-9 for six points. Grant also played only 22 minutes after playing north of 35 each of the last five games.
Fifth-year forward Precious Ayah was efficient but not prolific scoring the ball and finished with six points without missing a shot. Ayah also got in foul trouble later in the game. When he had to sit down, Miami was physically outmatched at times and Akron often took advantage.
“Akron’s a pretty good team,” Grant said after the game. “They had active hands I would say, they were in the gaps pretty well. But we still needed to play a better offensive and defensive game.”
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Miami has been without fifth-year forward Dalonte Brown for about two weeks. Brown left a game against Ball state on January 25 with an ankle injury, and the RedHawks haven’t won since. There isn’t a clear date for his return yet, but Owens said Brown is making progress.
It’s a busy week for the RedHawks. They need to start winning some games if they want to qualify for the eight-team Mid-American Conference postseason tournament in early March. The team currently sits in 10th place in the conference standings.
Miami plays two home games this week. It starts with a Tuesday game against Western Michigan that tips off at 7 p.m. at Millett Hall. Then Bowling Green visits Oxford on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. tip off.