Thursday, March 11, 1999

MacCulloch tall order for Miami 'D'

7-footer's 66% shooting leads nation

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD, Ohio — Don't look for Miami University to use a gimmick defense Friday to guard Washington center Todd MacCulloch. Annoyance, yes. Gimmick, no.

        MacCulloch is 7 feet, 280 pounds. He leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 66 percent.

        “I'll try to push him around,” said MU center John Estick said. “I don't know if I'll be able to do it. He's 280 pounds. But I'll try to annoy him. I'll try to get under his skin and see what happens with that.”

        Miami doesn't start anyone taller than 6-8. And the 6-8 player is Wally Szczerbiak, who Miami is unlikely to risk getting in foul trouble.

        So Miami will start with 6-6 Estick on MacCulloch.

        MacCulloch, a senior from Manitoba, Canada, was first team all-Pac 10 for the second straight year. He averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds (second in the nation) and 1.6 blocks a game this year. He isn't nimble, in fact, he's fairly plodding. He wears a crew cut, so he is often compared to former Oklahoma State star Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.

        “(MacCulloch) has done what he's done against great competition,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “So you know he's pretty good.”

        Szczerbiak says Miami will play MacCulloch like other teams play Szczerbiak. Several teams have guarded the Miami star with a smaller, quicker player.

        “I correlate it to the way teams play me,” Szczerbiak said. “They bump me, push me. That's what we'll try to do. Make him expend energy.”

        The key will be making MacCulloch work to get the ball.

        Once he gets it, he's fairly unstoppable. He keeps the ball — out of the reach smaller players — and has a soft touch from inside 10 feet.”

        “We'll double him once he gets the ball,” Szczerbiak said. “But you try to keep him from getting the ball.”

        MacCulloch's not a great free-throw shooter. He hit only 59.4 percent on the year.

        That's not lost on Miami. In fact, during the first meeting after the RedHawks found out they were playing Washington, Szczerbiak asked about MacCulloch's free-throw shooting.

        Mike Ensminger, Miami's chief inside stopper and Dean's List student, said: “59.4. 119 of 199.”

        He's 206 of 311 from the floor, so you don't have to be as good at math as Ensminger to know Miami will not be afraid to send MacCulloch to the line. Ensminger is good bet to use his five fouls.

        Ensminger, like Estick, is only 6-6. But both are strong, physical players. Estick weighs 250 pounds and bench presses 355, Ensminger weighs 249 and benches 300-plus.

        Coles wouldn't say whether he'll use 6-11 Jay Locklier or 6-10 Rich Allendorf, his two little-used sophomores.

        Except for Locklier's eight-minute, five-rebound performance against Toledo Feb. 17 when Ensminger was ill, neither Locklier nor Allendorf has played any meaningful minutes since November.

        “I don't know if we'll use them,” Coles said. “If we do and they contribute, it would be nice.”


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