Monday, March 15, 1999

Stewart seizes the day

Three-pointers key comeback win over Utah

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW ORLEANS — Miami University needed a life preserver Sunday afternoon and it found one in the form of Jason Stewart, a 6-foot-5 guard who couldn't shoot straight the last 10 games.

        Stewart's three three-point shots in an 85-second span cut Utah's lead from 11 points to two and gave the RedHawks the confidence they needed to pull out a 66-58 victory over the Utes in the second round of Midwest Regional here.

        Stewart, a junior, finished with 12 points, hitting 4-of-9 three-point attempts. But he hit his first three for nine points in that 85-second stretch to turn the game around.

        “We needed someone to step up,” Coles said, “and Jason Stewart did.”

        He was an unlikely hero.

        Stewart had scored a total of three points in the his last four games and 18 in his last 10. He had hit only 22.5 percent of his three-pointers in that span.

        “I didn't really consider myself in a slump,” he said.

        That's the shooter in him.

        “Stew will put up a shot,” Coles said. “He's never lacked confidence.”

        Coles was searching for the right combination when he called on the Stewart.

        He tried Jason Grunkemeyer for six minutes in a designated shooter role, but Grunkemeyer is still moving gingerly after a bout with back spasms. With Utah double-teaming Wally Szczerbiak, the wing was open.

        Szczerbiak found Stewart open on the right side for the first three. Damon Frierson assisted on the next two in almost the same spot from right wing.

        Stewart finally missed his fourth shot, but by then Utah knew it was in a game, and Miami knew it could win.

        Stewart is a transfer from Furman. There, he carried a lot of the offensive burden, averag ing 16 points as a sophomore. At Miami, his role is hitting threes to relieve the pressure on Szczerbiak.

        “It's tough when you get one of two looks and if you miss, you're out,” Stewart said. “It's been a big transition.”

        But Stewart is happy at Miami.

        “I love the school and I love playing for Coach Coles,” he said.

        Stewart ended up playing 28 minutes, the most he's played since the Kent game Jan. 20. It was the first time he's been in double figures since the Akron game Jan. 16.

        “I got good looks today,” he said, “and my shot went down. That's my role.”


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