Friday, March 12, 1999

Miami needs support of full cast

Wally, Damon look for help against Huskies

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW ORLEANS — Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson are the players who got Miami here — here being the Big Dance, not the Big Easy. But for the RedHawks to keep dancing, their two senior stars need help.

Miami (10) vs. Washington (7)
  • Tipoff: 2:52 p.m.
  • Where: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La.
  • Records:
Miami 22-7, Washington 17-11
  • TV:
Channel 12.
  • Radio:
WCKY (1360-AM), WMOH (1450-AM), WFMG (101.3-FM), WYLX (97.3-AM).

  4: Washington players whose fathers played in the NBA: Brian Brown (Fred), Marlon Shelton (Lonnie), Donald Watts (Slick), Michael Westphal (Paul)
  5-10: Washington's record away from home
  .273: Rob Mestas' shooting percentage over the last 11 games
        While much of the talk has been about what Miami must do to stop Washington's Todd MacCulloch today, if the Miami offense doesn't get going that may be irrelevant.

        “I'm concerned about our offense,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “We're not going shut them out, so we're going to have to score some points. We haven't been scoring much lately.”

        Finding some offensive balance has been the first priority going into today's 2:52 p.m. first-round game with Washington in the first round of the Midwest Regional.

        “We've worked really hard on that,” Frierson said. “We've worked on setting screens, running our offense. It's going to take a total team effort.”

        Szczerbiak and Frierson scored more than half of Miami's points this year. But other players — Rob Mestas, Jason Stew art, Anthony Taylor and Jason Grunkemeyer — could be counted on to hit a basket in the crunch to take the pressure of the big two.

        That didn't happen in the Mid-American Conference tournament. Grunkemeyer didn't play because of an injured back. Mestas fell into an awful shooting slump (5-of-19). Stewart and Taylor disappeared (three points each in the three games).

        “We need to get other people

        involved,” Coles said. “We've got to go back to playing as a team.”

        The good news is Grunkemeyer is likely to play today, and Stewart and Taylor shot well in practice Thursday.

        MacCulloch and Szczerbiak are getting most of the attention. But Washington coach Bob Bender agrees that role players, not stars, often decide games like these.

        “I think this could be one of the better matchups,” he said. “You have two similar teams in that we both have great players. But a lot of times, it's the guys on the floor with those players who make the difference.”

        Coles agrees. He's is aware that MacCulloch averages 19 points and is second in the nation in rebounds per game at 12 and first in in shooting percentage at 66 percent. But he also knows that Donald Watts, the 6-foot-4 son of former NBA player Slick Watts, averages 12.5 points and 3.7 assists, and Deon Luton averages 14.5 points.

        “You can't do it with one guy,” Coles said.

        Or two. Still, Szczerbiak and Frierson, as seniors and Miami's two best players, will set the tone for the RedHawks.

        The biggest thing Washington has going for it — other than MacCulloch — is last year's NCAA run. The Huskies, an 11th seed last year, beat Xavier and Richmond to reach the Sweet 16. There they lost by one to Connecticut.

        The Miami players who were here two years ago — Szczerbiak, Frierson, Mestas and Taylor — say they are more prepared this time.

        In 1997, Miami, a No.13 seed, lost to No.4-seeded Clemson 68-56. It was a game Miami was never really in.

        “We were all wide-eyed,” Mestas said. “Our expectations are a lot different this time. We feel we can play with these guys and we can win.”

        Miami (22-7) is a No.10 seed this time, facing a No.7 seed in Washington. The Huskies (17-11) have lost four of their last six.

        The Miami players wouldn't look at a win today as an upset. Both No.10 seeds beat the No.7 seeds Thursday.

        “We've worked really hard to get to this point,” Szczerbiak said. “But we don't feel like our work is done. We feel like we have a good shot to win.”


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