Sunday, February 06, 2000

Coles concerned over struggling RedHawks

Says team lacks hustle

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Miami University's basketball team got in a little funk last season, coach Charlie Coles would go to Damon Frierson and Wally Szczerbiak.

        “It was very easy,” he said. “I'd say, "Are we all right?' They'd say, "Yeah, we're all right.' And we would be.”

  • When: 3p.m. today
  • Where: Evans Field House
  • Records: MU 10-9 (6-5 MAC); NIU 11-10 (5-7)
  • TV: None
  • Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3)
  • 1: Number of turnovers Miami had in the last 24 minutes of the Toledo game, not a stat usually equated with a loss
  • .607: Percentage of free throws Miami has made over the last four games. Before that, the RedHawks were in the top 20 nationally.
        This season, it is not like that. That's why Coles spent a lot of time worrying as the RedHawks got ready for today's game at Northern Illinois (3 p.m.).

        “I'm concerned more than I've been all year,” Coles said.

        The RedHawks (10-9, 6-5 Mid-American Conference) have lost two straight games. Their performance in a 71-61 loss to Toledo in Oxford may have been their worst effort of the season.

        With Szczerbiak and Frierson, Coles knew Miami was always going to bounce back — and not simply because it had two terrific players.

        “Those kids were driven,” Coles said.

        That was what was disturbing to Coles about the Toledo loss. The Rockets played harder.

        “We had no energy,” Coles said. “We were lackluster. We didn't have any zip. I've been contemplating this all week. I'm looking for signs of life.”

        To add to Miami's problems, Jason Grunkemeyer still hasn't practiced. Grunkemeyer, who averages 9.3 points a game and shoots 50.7 percent from 3- point range, missed the Toledo game because of back spasms.

        He may play today, but he won't be 100 percent.

        Grunkemeyer is one of Miami's best offensive weapons. He is the player for whom Miami most often runs set plays when the RedHawks need to score.

        “It hurts us when any of our top six guys are out,” Coles said. “Usually one of our four perimeter guys is going to have a good game. With three, I don't know.”

        Miami's leading scorer, Anthony Taylor, is also bothered by a bad back. Taylor, who averages 18.5 points a game, has scored four points in each of the RedHawks' last two games.

        “I'm not going to use the injury as an excuse,” he said. “It's OK. It's what Coach has been saying: I'm not moving without the ball. I've got to get back to that.”

        Northern (11-10, 5-7) is no powerhouse. But the Huskies are 6-3 at home, with victories over Wisconsin and Marshall.

        Northern's star is T.J. Lux, a 6-foot-9 senior who averages 19.9 points a game.

        “He's one of best players in the league,” Coles said. “He's a good offensive rebounder. He's not flashy, but he's a real hard worker.”

        Northern has lost two games in a row, but that doesn't mean much to Coles.

        “We have to play our best to win,” he said. “We've showed this year that we can't play fairly well and win.”

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