Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Miami still in the hunt

RedHawks can pass Marshall with win

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Miami, the defending Mid-American Conference champion, doesn't appear ready to give up that title so easily.

        The RedHawks have won four of their last five MAC games to join the title race.

  • When: 7 tonight
  • Where: Henderson Center (9,043), Huntington, W.Va.
  • Records: Miami 9-7 (5-3 MAC), Marshall 14-4 (6-3)
  • TV: None
  • Radio: WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3)
  • 86.5: Number of points Marshall averages a game, most in the MAC
  • 62.9: Number of points Miami gives up a game, fewest in the MAC
        The RedHawks (9-7, 5-3 MAC) have a chance to help their cause at 7 tonight when they play Marshall in Huntington, W.Va.

        Marshall (14-4, 6-3) is a half-game ahead of Miami. The MAC's top three — Bowling Green (6-1), Akron (8-2) and Kent (6-2) — are within reach of the RedHawks and the Thundering Herd.

        But Miami coach Charlie Coles isn't ready to put his team in that company yet.

        “I think Akron, Kent, BG and Marshall are at the top of the class,” he said. “The rest of us are just trying to stay respectable. It's going to be tough to crack into that top group.

        “The toughest part of our schedule is coming up. We've got a tall mountain to climb.”

        That starts with Marshall. The Thundering Herd are 9-0 at home this season. Marshall is 20-2 at home since the start of last season, and one loss was to Miami.

        “It's crazy down there,” Miami point guard Rob Mestas said. “Marshall has great fans. They really know basketball.”

        Marshall is the kind of team that plays to the crowd. The Herd are scoring 86.5 points a game this year, best in the MAC. They love to run after turnovers and long misses.

        “The key for us is transition defense and rebounding,” Miami guard Anthony Taylor said. “It's a tough place to play. We have to stick together like we did at Akron.”

        Miami is the most deliberate team in the MAC. The Red- Hawks, when playing well, will run their offense until they get a good shot. On defense, they make the opposing team work.

        “Teams don't shoot as quickly against us,” Coles said.

        That's why Miami is allowing only 62.9 points a game, fewest in the MAC.

        Miami beat Marshall twice last year. The RedHawks ran with Marshall in an 81-79 overtime win at Oxford. Miami played more its style at Marshall, winning 63-55.

        Marshall is led by two sophomores. Tamar Slay, a 6-foot guard, leads the MAC in scoring at 21.3 ppg. J.R. VanHoose, a 6-10 center-forward, is fifth in the MAC in scoring at 18.8 ppg and second in rebounding at 9.1 a game.

        The point guard, Cornelius Jackson, averages 10.8 points and leads the MAC at 7.9 assists a game.

        “They have great guard play,” Mestas said. “Anthony and me have to play good defense against them.”

        BG, Akron, Kent, Marshall and Miami — the top five teams overall — are all in the MAC East, but overall standings determine seeds for the MAC tournament.

        Finishing in the top three is important, because the first three teams overall get byes in the MAC tourney.


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