Missing two of their regular starters, the Miami RedHawks needed a few minutes to adjust on Saturday against Wilberforce.
Once they got rolling, they turned the game into the rout expected when an NCAA Division I team plays an NAIA Division II squad.
Sophomore guard Jalen Adaway scored a season-high 18 points and Miami led by as many as 37 points before settling for an 88-57 win over the Bulldogs before 1,170 fans at Millett Hall.
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“We just flipped the switch there,” Adaway said about Miami’s surge, admitting that adjusting from playing a teams like Xavier and teams like Wilberforce is difficult. “It’s a little different, but you have to focus on keeping the same mindset.”
Sophomore guard Nike Sibande, coming off a 3-for-14, eight-point effort in Miami’s 82-55 loss on Wednesday at Xavier, scored 16 points off the bench for the RedHawks. Sophomore forward Dalonte Brown shook off a first half injury to also finish with 14.
Senior guard Darrian Ringo dished out a season-high 12 assists and tied his season high with six steals, while third-year sophomore forward Previous Ayah went 5-for-5 from the field on the way to a career-high 10 points.
“We got off to a slow start,” Miami coach Jack Owens said. “Their pressing zone threw us off a little bit. Once we got going, our guys were able to execute. They have two guys who can shoot and drive with dribble penetration.”
Sibande and junior forward Bam Bowman didn’t start for the first time in eight games. Owens learned right before the game that Bowman was ill. Sibande, the RedHawks’ leading scorer going into the game, entered the game about five minutes in and finished the first half with 11 points.
“Team rule,” Owens said about Sibande not starting. “No big deal. We’ll move on, and he’ll be fine.”
The second-year coach hoped the lineup adjustment wasn’t a reason for the slow start.
“You have to be ready to go, no matter who’s out there,” Owens said.
Graduate transfer forward Aleks Abrams and fifth-year senior guard Abdoulaye Harouna made their first starts of the season for Miami. Abrams hauled in a Miami season-high 14 rebounds.
Junior guard Tyler Wilson-Hopkins led Wilberforce with 13 points. Junior forward Diamondt Thomas added 11 and junior guard Deion Gatson also reached double figures with 10.
Miami (4-4) is scheduled to play at Wright State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. before returning to Millett Hall to face Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday at 2 p.m. Wilberforce (3-7), which has lost six consecutive games that count sandwiched around two exhibition-game defeats, is scheduled to play at Roosevelt University in Chicago on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
This was Wilberforce’s third game against Mid-American Conference team but the first that counted. The Bulldogs lost exhibitions at Ohio, 97-61, and at Toledo, 99-58.
Brown, Miami’s second-leading scorer going into the game, suffered an apparent left leg injury and walked slowly off the court under his own power with 29 seconds left in the first half. Brown scored seven points before halftime and returned in the second half.
Wilberforce took a 19-17 lead on Wilson-Hopkins’ 3-pointer with 9:50 left in the first half, but Sibande responded with a 3-pointer that sparked a 24-4 run to leave Miami with a comfortable 41-23 halftime lead.
“We came out well in the first half and really established the half-court offense,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Waters said. “Miami made the proper adjustments and took the lead into halftime and held it from there. I think they have a really great team. On our end, we’re just trying to focus on getting better each day.