Saturday, March 13, 1999


Szczerbiak puts on greatest show in red and white

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Wally Szczerbiak is mobbed by teammates and cheerleaders.
(AP photo)
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        NEW ORLEANS — The game ended fittingly enough with the ball in Wally Szczerbiak's hands. He had just blocked Greg Clark's shot to seal Miami's 59-58 victory over Washington Friday.

        Szczerbiak recovered the ball and cradled it, expecting to be fouled.

        Then he glanced at the clock.

        “I saw all zeros,” he said. “That was it.”

        Szczerbiak sprinted up court and then launched the ball toward the ceiling of the Superdome. It was the only air ball he threw up all day. Then Szczerbiak was swallowed by his teammates in a group hug at mid-court.

        The celebration was as sweet as the game Szczerbiak played, which was probably the greatest in Miami history. He had a career-high 43 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal.

        The thing that amazed him was he took 33 shots.

        “That's a lot,” he said. “But they were all good shots.”

        Evidenced by the fact that 18 of them went in.

Coach Charlie Coles hugs Rob Mestas.
(AP photo)
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        The sub-title for the NCAA's first round is now The World Meets Wally World.

        Miami, which won only its second NCAA game in 21 years, faces No.2 seed Utah in the second round Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

        By then, they may have calmed down. Friday was not a day for serenity.

        Miami coach Charlie Coles, who had promised himself he would be restrained in victory, was not. He ran toward half-court himself and pointed toward Szczerbiak's father, Walt.

        “I'm very, very serious about this,” Coles said. “I planned to be real mild if we won. But then I saw Mr. Szczerbiak ... I ran all the way across the court and made a fool of myself. But that's OK, we may never be back this way again.”

        Coles admitted that this victory was special. His season ended last year when he suffered a cardiac arrest on the sidelines.

        “There was a lot of emotion,” he said, “because a lot of things have happened. These kids have seen me fall out. They have seen me almost gone. Or gone and come back. I've got two seniors (Damon Frierson and Szczerbiak) who are perfect citizens. They'll graduate on time. It was good to get back here (to the NCAA) and play well. That's all we wanted to do.”

Damon Frierson had 12 points.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        They did that and so much more.

        Szczerbiak scored 72.8 percent of Miami's points, and Frierson (12 points) and John Estick (four points) were the only other RedHawks to score. But Szczerbiak had a lot of help.

        “This may sound funny,” Coles said. “But this was a great team effort.”

        He's right. Consider:

        • Forwards John Estick and Mike Ensminger, both 6-foot-6, held Washington's star center, Todd MacCulloch, without a field goal for the last 29 minutes of the game. MacCulloch, 7-foot, 280-pounder, finished with 11 points, eight under his average.

        • Miami's Frierson and Rob Mestas had 12 assists and only one turnover. The RedHawks had only five turnovers as a team to 11 for the Huskies. “That's pretty good,” said Mestas, who had eight assists and one turnover, “against a pressure team like them.”

        • Miami got nine offensive rebounds, three from Ensminger that prolonged possessions when the RedHawks were protecting their lead.

        “We knew it would take a total team effort,” Frierson said. “Anyone was up to the challenge.”

        The game was technically an upset. Washington came in as the seventh seed; Miami the 10th. Washington comes from the Pac-10, arguably the best conference in America; Miami comes from the Mid-American Conference, maybe the 10th-best conference in America.

        But Washington learned a lesson that the folks in the MAC know very well: Leave Szczerbiak open and he'll score at will.

        Szczerbiak came out firing. He scored Miami's first six points and was astonished at how open he was.

        “Those were the most wide open looks I got all year,” he said.

        Miami would go out to a 13-6 lead. But Washington came right back and went up 17-15.

        The pattern was set. The game would go back and forth. The biggest lead of the second half was six by Washington at 43-37.

        Miami took control with an 11-2 run midway through the second half. That put MU up 54-49 with 7:18 to go. Washington would not lead again.

        Still, it came down to the very end. Szczerbiak missed a 12-footer with 27.6 seconds left that would have iced the game.

        “The most open look I got all day,” he said.

        The miss gave Washington the ball and a chance to win. The Huskies called timeout with 23.2 left and drew up a a play for Donald Watts, who had 28 points and was 4-for-4 from three-point range.

        Watts came off a ball screen. That forced Anthony Taylor and Mestas to switch, with Taylor guarding Watts.

        Taylor remembered the scouting report. It said Watts dribbles twice and goes right before shooting.

        “As soon as he took that first dribble, I swiped at the ball,” Taylor said.

        The ball flew toward the right sideline. Clark, Szczerbiak's man, recovered it.

        “I didn't want to foul him,” Szczerbiak said.

        He got all ball and the celebration was on.

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MIAMI  (59)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Estick          24   2-3   0-0   1-3  0  4    4
Mestas          40   0-2   0-0   1-3  8  4    0
Szczerbiak      40 18-33   2-3  2-12  2  2   43
Taylor          16   0-2   0-0   0-1  0  2    0
Frierson        40  5-12   2-2   0-0  4  2   12
Grunkemeyer      5   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Stewart         13   0-3   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Lethunya         6   0-0   0-0   0-1  0  1    0
Ensminger       16   0-0   0-0   3-5  0  1    0
TOTALS         200 25-55   4-5  7-25 14 18   59

Percentages: FG-.455, FT-.800. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Szczerbiak 5-12, Taylor 0-1, Frierson 0-1, Stewart 0-3). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 3 (Szczerbiak 3). Turnovers: 5 (Ensminger, Estick, Mestas, Szczerbiak, Taylor). Steals: 4 (Frierson 2, Stewart, Szczerbiak).

WASHINGTON (58) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Green 14 1-3 1-2 1-2 2 1 3 Carey 31 1-4 0-0 1-2 2 2 2 Macculloch 37 4-6 3-6 1-9 0 0 11 Watts 40 8-12 8-8 0-5 3 1 28 Luton 39 4-9 1-3 0-3 3 1 11 Clark 26 1-4 0-0 0-0 0 2 3 Johnson 9 0-1 0-0 0-3 0 1 0 Walcott 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 19-39 13-19 3-24 11 8 58 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.487, FT-.684. 3-Point Goals: 7-14, .500 (Carey 0-2, Watts 4-4, Luton 2-5, Clark 1-2, Johnson 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 2 (Macculloch 2). Turnovers: 11 (Carey 4, Watts 4, Luton, Macculloch, Walcott). Steals: 3 (Clark 2, Macculloch). __________________________________ Miami 29 30 - 59 Washington 26 32 - 58 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 13,363. Officials: Andre Patillo, David Day, Joe Mingle.