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Miami men’s basketball: season in review

<p>Miami basketball won four straight games down the stretch to make an unlikely MAC tournament appearance in 2023</p>

Miami basketball won four straight games down the stretch to make an unlikely MAC tournament appearance in 2023

After a 14-18 regular season in 2021-2022, the expectations were low for the Miami University RedHawks for the 2022-2023 season. Projected to finish second to last in the conference by the Mid-American Conference (MAC) coaches poll, the RedHawks lost nine players last off-season and hired a new head coach.

It was bound to be a season of ups and plenty of downs. Starting the year, Miami had just hired its brand-new Head Coach Travis Steele, who was fresh off a four-year stint at Xavier University, compiling a 70-50 record there. The team also had five new first-years (forward Mitchell Rylee, guard Billy Smith, forward Ryan Mabrey, forward Jaquel Morris and guard Eli Yofan) and three incoming transfers (forward Anderson Mirambeaux from Cleveland State, guard Morgan Safford from Wofford and wing player Julian Lewis from William & Mary).

The Redhawks’ only returning starter from last season was Mekhi Lairy, a crafty scoring guard from Evansville, Indiana. He and junior forward Kamari Williams were the only two returning players to average double digit minutes last year.

Miami opened the season dropping four of its first five games, including a 30 point loss to No. 12 Indiana. However, after the team’s initial struggles, Miami was able to go 6-5 over its next 11 games, including a road win over Bellarmine and home wins against Arkansas-Little Rock and Jackson State.

Unfortunately, the struggles would reemerge. Miami went 1-2 in its first three conference games. After a home win over Buffalo on Jan. 10, the team reeled off seven straight losses, including a loss at home to one of the worst teams in the MAC, the 8-23 Eastern Michigan Eagles, who were led by phenom Emoni Bates.

After starting 1-9 in MAC play, the RedHawks started to find their stride. They beat Western Michigan at home on Feb. 11, then lost two in a row, before going on a season-saving four game win streak. Miami won at Northern Illinois in overtime to start the streak, then beat Bowling Green and Ohio at home before sealing the streak with a win on the road at Western Michigan. Miami went into the final game of the season controlling its destiny; a win over Buffalo in that last game would have automatically punched their ticket to the MAC championship.

But Miami lost that game, 63-68 at home. The RedHawks led at halftime, but couldn’t pull the game out. Thankfully for them, the rest of the MAC scoreboard cooperated, and the RedHawks finished the regular season with the final seed in the MAC tournament. 

The RedHawks would end the season with a disappointing 12-19 record overall.They were 6-12 in conference play, good for eighth place in the MAC. They finished their season with a first round exit in the MAC tournament, losing to number one seeded Toledo at Rocket Mortgage Field House in Cleveland, Ohio. Toledo, which came into the game having won 15 straight contests, beat Miami 75-91.

While the season had its downs, there were also some positives.

Fifth-year guard Mekhi Lairy made the all-conference third team for the MAC, finishing the season averaging 17.3 points per game, including a 34 point effort in a November game against Georgia. Meanwhile, first-year Ryan Mabrey made the all-MAC first-year team, averaging 8.4 points per game, including a career-high 16 points against Eastern Michigan in January. 

This coming offseason will see the RedHawks losing four seniors in forward Javin Etzler, guard Mekhi Lairy, forward Jackson Kenyon and guard Wil Stevens, and with redshirt sophomore guard Bryson Tatum and junior forward Kamari Williams announcing their intentions to transfer from the school, there will inevitably be more changes. However, Miami has plenty of promise. 

With guard Ryan Mabrey bound to continue improving year by year, and a 2023 recruiting class including guards Mekhi Cooper and Evan Ipsaro, forwards Jackson Kotecki and Eian Elmer, and center Reece Potter, the RedHawks still have hope for next year.

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