Szczerbiak gets it from all sides
XU's defense, fans focus on Miami star

Thursday, December 3, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Wally Szczerbiak reacts after committing a foul in the final seconds.
(Craig Ruttle photo)

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Wally Szczerbiak gave the Xavier fans what they wanted. He sat there on the floor, head down and took a little more of their abuse.

There were only six seconds left in Miami's loss 64-56 loss at Cincinnati Gardens Wednesday when Szczerbiak, the RedHawks star, took his seat near midcourt. He had been called for an intentional foul on James Posey. The call sealed the game.

"I knew I was beaten," Szczerbiak said. "The crowd had been on me the whole game. I like that. I figured I'd let them yell a little more. I can take a beating. I'll bounce back."

Szczerbiak led all scorers with 24 points, despite sitting out the last 8:23 of the first half. But, at the end, his usually reliable shot would not fall.

"He's such a good shooter," XU coach Skip Prosser said, "I was surprised every time one of those didn't go in."

So was Szczerbiak.

"I had some good looks," he said. "Coach called a great play that had worked for us before. But I couldn't knock the shot in."

That particular shot came with just under two minutes to play. Xavier had taken a 59-56 lead on a three by Gary Lumpkin.

James Posey snatches a rebound from Szczerbiak.
(Craig Ruttle photo)

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But the reason for the miss, Miami coach Charlie Coles said, may have come earlier. Xavier played relentless defense on Miami's big two, Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson, the whole second half. "It's hard to knock down those open threes when you're tired," Coles said.

Miami only shot 38.5 percent in the second half. Frierson, who had 10 points in the first half, was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting in the second half.

"We were taking a lot of outside shots," said Frierson, who had four assists and only two turnovers against XU's pressure. "We needed to get the ball inside."

Miami played its best basketball of the game and the year, according to Coles, with Szczerbiak on the bench.

XU was up 18-17 when Szczerbiak was called for his second foul. The RedHawks would go on a 13-4 run to take a 30-23 lead to the locker room.

Miami took its biggest lead -- 10 points at 33-23 -- when Szczerbiak hit a three 10 seconds into the second half. Then the XU defense came in waves.

"That's as well as we've played defensively against a team of that caliber that I can remember," Prosser said.

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