Thursday, March 04, 1999

Miami stumbles in MAC finals

NCAA bid at mercy of committee

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kent's Ed Norwell celebrates in front of Miami's Anthony Taylor.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        TOLEDO, Ohio — If Miami gets an NCAA Tournament bid, the RedHawks will have eight or nine days off before their first game.

        They can use it.

        Miami looked like a tired, hurting team in the Mid-American Conference Tournament final Wednesday night. You can make that tired, hurt and beaten.

        Kent was the last team standing in a 49-43 slugfest of a basketball game. Kent won its first MAC title of any kind and clinched the first NCAA men's basketball bid in school history. By doing so, the Golden Flashed put the “if” into Miami's NCAA equation.

        It's a small if.

        Miami entered the game with an RPI of 22. The RedHawks are 22-7 and they won the regular season title. That should good enough to make the 64-team field.

        “I don't know if we're in,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “If we are that's great. But nothing is going to take away from what we've done this year. Winning this league (in the regular season) this year is a beautiful thing.”

        The NCAA field will be announced Sunday on CBS.

        “We'll watch that show and pray,” Miami star Wally Szczerbiak said. “If we're in, it's a blessing.”

        Do players think they deserve a bid?

        “I think so. But I don't know what the committee thinks,” Szcerbiak said.

        Kent (23-6) and Miami played for the regular-season MAC title a week ago. Miami won that one 73-60. Wednesday night, Miami would have needed three halves to score 73 points.

        The RedHawks shot 32.7 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from the free throw line.

        The poor shooting accounted for the fact that Miami lost for the first time this year while committing fewer turnovers than the opposition. Kent had 13 to MU's 12.

        Szczerbiak led Miami with 17 points and 10 rebounds. But he followed his 5-for-15 shoot ing performance in the semifinals by going 4-for-17.

        Szczerbiak's knee may be bothering him more than he's letting on. He slightly dislocated his knee cap five days ago in practice. Wednesday was the third time he's played on it since.

        “I have no idea (if that's affecting him),” Coles said. “If I say one thing about that it takes away from what Kent did. I don't want to do that.”

        Szczerbiak used the same tact.

        “I'm not going to use it as an excuse,” he said.

        But he admitted, “It needs a couple days to heal. It will be OK.”

        Szczerbiak had little help Wednesday. John Estick scored 10 points, all in the second half, and Damon Frierson scored seven, all in the first half.

        Rob Mestas had five points on 2-for-10 shooting. No other Miami player had more than two points.

        “We didn't play together tonight,” Coles said. “We've got to get other people involved. If we have a second season, we've got to get that straightened out.”

        John Whorton, the tourney MVP, led Kent with 18 points. Kent shot 40.5 percent.

        Miami had nothing to show for its first five possessions of the game. Kent clicked pretty well early, taking a 9-3 lead 5:50 into it.

        Then Frierson took the offense into his own hands. First, he hit a three. Then, he hit a pull-up jumper off a clear play.

        The next time down, he found Mike Ensminger alone under the basket, and just like that Miami led 10-9.

        Once again, it was RedHawk defense that got them back in the game. Kent was barely getting shots off before the shot clock ran out. The Golden Flashes managed one field goal over a 91/2-minute span that got Miami the lead.

        Still, Frierson was the Lone Ranger on offense. When he hit a short jumper to put Miami up 12-11, he was 3-for-4 from the floor; Miami's other players were 1-for-12.

        But those turned out to be Frierson's last points of the game.

        Kent scored the last four points of the half, and the game went to break tied at 17.

        Szczerbiak finished the half with five points and four turnovers.

        Kent quickly went out to a 25-19 lead in the second half.

        But Estick, who was limited to six minutes by fouls in the first half, gave the RedHawks just what they needed: Offense. Estick scored Miami's first 10 points of the half.

        Szczerbiak hit a three for his first points from the floor in 26 minutes. The trey gave Miami 30-29 lead and some offensive life — briefly.

        The RedHawks quickly went back to their offensive struggles, and when Estick picked up his fourth foul with 7:55 to go, it looked like Miami was in deep trouble.

        It looked downright bleak two minutes later when Kent had a 38-32 lead.

        Miami would get no closer than five the rest of the way. The RedHawks just didn't seem to have the energy to make another run.

        “This morning one of the fans asked me to do something. He said, "Bring home a win,'” Coles said. “By the time I got to the elevator, I was tired. Asking us to do that, we would have to have been Superman. It's been a rough grind. I don't know we just gave out tonight or what.”


KENT (49)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Norvell         37   2-7   2-4   0-7  4  2    7
Massey          22   4-7   1-2   1-5  0  3    9
Whorton         31  7-11   4-5   2-6  2  1   18
Callaway        22   2-4   0-0   0-1  0  3    6
Mitchell        18   0-3   0-0   1-2  2  4    0
Huffman         24   1-4   3-4   0-4  0  1    5
Moore            1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Thomas          20   1-1   2-2   0-2  2  2    4
Vaughn           1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Meers           21   0-5   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Warren           3   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
TOTALS         200 17-42 12-17  4-27 10 17   49

Percentages: FG-.405, FT-.706. 3-Point Goals:
3-13, .231 (Norvell 1-4, Callaway 2-2, Mitchell
0-1, Huffman 0-1, Meers 0-5). Team rebounds: 6.
Blocked shots: 3 (Massey, Huffman, Thomas).
Turnovers: 13 (Huffman 3, Whorton 3, Callaway 2,
Massey 2, Norvell 2, Thomas). Steals: 4 (Callaway
2, Massey, Norvell).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Taylor          26   0-1   0-0   2-3  0  2    0
Szczerbiak      40  4-17   6-7  1-10  2  2   17
Estick          18   5-6   0-1   1-5  0  4   10
Mestas          35  2-10   0-0   0-1  2  3    5
Frierson        40   3-9   0-1   0-4  2  3    7
Stewart         25   1-4   0-2   3-4  1  2    2
Lethunya         4   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Ensminger       12   1-2   0-0   1-1  0  2    2
TOTALS         200 16-49  6-11  8-28  7 19   43

Percentages: FG-.327, FT-.545. 3-Point Goals:
5-21, .238 (Szczerbiak 3-9, Mestas 1-6, Frierson
1-4, Stewart 0-2). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked
shots: None. Turnovers: 12 (Szczerbiak 5,
Frierson 4, Taylor 2, Estick). Steals: 4
(Frierson 2, Mestas, Stewart).
Kent               17   32  -   49
Miami              17   26  -   43
Technical fouls: None.  A: 3,530. Officials: Tom
Clark, Randy Drury, Norm Nelson.

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