Saturday, March 20, 1999

Enough Wally, but not enough help

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — Wally Szczerbiak played brilliantly in his final college game, but he didn't have enough help.

        Szczerbiak scored 23 points in a 58-43 loss to defending national champion Kentucky on Friday at the Trans World Dome before a regional record crowd of 42,440.

        “I'll leave with a lot of good memories,” Szczerbiak said. “If I didn't come to Miami, I wouldn't be the person I am. And we leave here doing something no other Miami team has done.”

        This was the first Miami team to win two games in the NCAA Tournament, but the RedHawks had no chance to win a third with Szczerbiak carrying so much of the load.

        Damon Frierson finished with nine points — all in the second half — and Anthony Taylor had seven points. No other Miami player had more than two.

        “When we were good this year,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said, “Jason Grunkemeyer and Jason Stewart were making shots. Grunkemeyer has been out; he hasn't had a lot of reps lately.

        “Stew had some open looks, and he didn't make them.”

        Stewart and Grunkemeyer were both 0-for-2 from three-point range and did not score.

        UK put Miami away with a 10-0 run midway through the second half. The Wildcats were in a zone at the time.

        “That was the key to the game,” Coles said. “We weren't ready for that zone. I think they thought they could beat us. But I didn't think they'd have to use a zone to do it.”

        Miami ends the best season in school history at 24-8. Kentucky has now beaten Miami 18 consecutive times, dating to 1928.

        Miami, which handled Utah's bigger lineup so well, couldn't deal with UK's tall, athletic lineup. UK outrebounded Miami 37-18.

        “Their big guys have those long arms,” 5-foot-10 point guard Rob Mestas said. “It was hard to see over them.”

        Miami's greatest fear was to fall behind quickly, and that's what happened. UK had a 16-5 lead a little more than 91/2 minutes into the game.

        And Szczerbiak, who made his first two shots, missed his next three. His next basket was a three-pointer at the 8:52 mark with a defender in his face.

        Szczerbiak was still the only RedHawk who had scored.

        Coles tried to find an answer like Stewart was against Utah. Coles used nine different players in the first half.

        Taylor's two free throws at the 6:22 mark were the first points by a Miami player other than Szczerbiak.

        But Miami's defense — it's strength down the stretch — kept the RedHawks close.

        Szczerbiak hit a three-pointer, then a driving layup, and the UK lead was four at 19-15. But the Wildcats rallied to take a 26-19 halftime lead.

        Szczerbiak scored 15 of Miami's 19 points in the half. He was 5-for-9 from the field. The rest of the team was 1-for-11. Frierson, Miami's second-leading scorer, was 0-for-5 from the field and did not score in the half. Frierson ended up 3-of-10.

        “I was surprised he didn't take his shot,” Coles said. “We wanted him to. I would have rather have him 3-for-18 than 3-for-10. But, again, you got to look at who was guarding him. UK's pretty good.”

        In the second half, UK climbed to within seven at the 11:10 mark, but the game got away from the RedHawks shortly thereafter. The Miami offense was stagnant, and UK burned the RedHawks by scoring in transition.

        There were no tears in the Miami locker room.

        “It's disheartening that we didn't execute like we did in the first two games,” Ensminger said. “But we can't let this ruin a great season.”


- Enough Wally, but not enough help
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