OXFORD -- The Miami men’s basketball team can go into the holiday break on a winning note.
The RedHawks (6-5) ended the non-conference portion of their schedule on Tuesday with a not-surprising 80-56 win over the Division III Spalding Golden Knights at Millett Hall.
The RedHawks, who opened the season with a 72-69 upset of Georgia Tech, snapped a five-game losing streak and avoided their longest slump since a nine-game losing streak in the 2015-2016 season while improving to 5-2 on their home court.
“We’ve been close,” said fifth-year Miami coach Jack Owens, who used 13 players. “We’ve had some bumps in the road. We had good focus and were able to play a lot of guys.”
Seniors Precious Ayah and Isaiah Coleman-Lands shared Miami’s scoring lead, each with 14 points. Senior guard Mekhi Lairy added 12 for the RedHawks. The 6-foot-6 Ayah went 6-of-7 from the field.
Junior guard Dae Dae Grant scored 10 points and set a single-game career high with nine rebounds while tying his career high with eight assists.
After allowing Bellarmine to shoot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half of a 77-68 loss on Saturday, Miami’s defense limited Spalding to 36.8 percent shooting (21-of-57) in the game on Tuesday. That includes 7.1 percent (1-for-14) on 3-pointers. The RedHawks shot 48.4 percent (31-of-64), including 32.1 (9-for-28) on 3-pointers, while outrebounding the Golden Knights, 41-30.
Tuesday’s game was Miami’s first against Louisville-based Spalding (2-8), which competes in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The visiting Golden Knights have lost four straight games. Tuesday’s game was their first since Dec. 8.
Miami is scheduled to open its Mid-American Conference schedule at Buffalo on Dec. 29. The RedHawks are due to open their home conference schedule on Jan. 1 against Central Michigan. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. as the nightcap of a men’s-women’s doubleheader that opens with a 1 p.m. women’s game against Buffalo.
Buffalo’s men’s team was 6-4 going into a Tuesday night game against California-Irvine.
“It’s always good to snap a losing streak, especially at home,” Lairy said. “Now we get a break. Then we have to come back strong and go to work and get ready for Buffalo.
“It’s conference play. You have to be ready every single night. It’s a clean slate – a new season. That’s just what (Owens) said in the locker room.”
Miami lost to Buffalo three times last season, including in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
“We’re excited to start the conference season,” Owens said. “We’re 0-0. Buffalo is going to be a big game for us.”
The RedHawks never trailed in Tuesday’s rare afternoon game, attended by 722 fans. They were tied just once at 2-2 before taking command with an early 15-1 run. The 6-foot Coleman-Lands went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers and scored 12 points to lead Miami to a 46-23 halftime lead. He finished the first half with single-game season highs in points and 3-pointers.
“Our guys came out with a good mindset,” said Owens, who was happy to see his team not overlook a struggling Division III squad. “They were pumped up. It was a good test for us. Now, we’re looking forward to league play.”
Lairy added nine points before halftime, helping the RedHawks lead by as many as 26 points, 36-10, with 4:47 left in the first half.
The Golden Knights didn’t help themselves by misfiring on their first six 3-point attempts before finally sinking their seventh. Miami led by as many as 31 points early in the second half.
“We executed our game plan,” Lairy said. “We had 10 turnovers, so we have to clean that up, but we moved the ball. We played for the team.”
Miami at Buffalo, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450
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