Thursday, March 09, 2000

Miami misses NCAA bid

RedHawks run out of luck in MAC final loss

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jason Stewart on defense
(AP photos)
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        CLEVELAND — There was no miracle shot. No one had the game of his life. And because of it, there will be no second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Miami RedHawks.

        Miami lost to Ball State 61-58 in the finals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Wednesday night at Gund Arena.

        “We had the best of luck all through the tournament,” Miami point guard Rob Mestas said. “That's not going to happen all the time.”

        Jason Grunkemeyer hit a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to save Miami in the quarterfinals. Jason Stewart hit a record 10 3-pointers in the semifinals.

Anthony Taylor
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        Miami ran out of miracles Wednesday. But afterward, the RedHawks weren't accepting any consolation prizes. Miami, the ninth seed, crashed the MAC party, knocking off No.1-seeded Bowling Green and No.5-seeded Marshall.

        “Three points from the NCAA from a team that was rated 222nd to start the year,” Mestas said. “The four seniors wanted it so bad. It didn't happen. We proved a lot of people wrong. But it's still disappointing.”

        Miami had lost seven of eight before going on the four-game winning streak leading to the tourney finals. And the RedHawks were a team that had lost Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson, two of the best players in school history, from last season.

        “This was a good year for us,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “But losing tonight is one of the great disappointments of my coaching life.”

        Coles was sad for the players.

        “Rob Mestas cried his eyes out when it was over,” Coles said. “He'll be mad for two weeks.”

        Stewart led Miami with 25 points. But he was 4-for-14 from 3-point range. Mestas, who had 11 points, was the only other RedHawk in double figures.

        Duane Clemens, the tourney MVP, led Ball State with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. BSU's 6-foot-11 center, Lonnie Jones, blocked seven shots. That had a lot to do with Miami shooting 21.1 percent in the second half.

        “He's a great presence,” Mestas said. “He was beating up everything we threw up. He makes you cautious when you go inside.”

        With the lane bottled up by Jones, Miami died by the 3 Wednesday. MU was 1-for-14 on 3s in the second half. Stewart was 1-for-9 in the half.

        Miami went from the 4:24 mark of the second half to :22 without a field goal. That allowed Ball State to build a 59-54 lead, and the RedHawks could not recover. Miami finishe the season 15-15. BSU, 22-8, earns the MAC's automatic NCAA bid. It was Miami's fourth straight MAC tournament title game. The RedHawks won the title in 1997 but have fallen in the last three championship games.

        This game was tight from the start. The teams traded scores for the first 121/2 minutes of the first half.

        Miami's leading scorer, Anthony Taylor, finally scored his first basket in Gund. He hit an inside shot with 14:08 to go. What got Taylor going? He accidently tipped a rebound in the BSU basket off a missed free throw. His first field goal after 12 misses followed immediately.

        Ball State then used a 10-1 run to go up 26-20. But, as it did throughout the MAC, Miami responded.

        Mestas hit a driving layup, Mike Ensminger followed with a conventional three-point play, and Stewart hit back-to-back 3s. The second 3 tied it at 31-all with 2:08 left in the half.

        Miami went into the locker room up 34-33, thanks to Mestas' driving layup with 3.2 seconds left.

        Ball State took control of the game early in the second half. The Cardinals started the half with an 11-2 run to go up 44-36 a little more than four minutes in the half.

        It would take Miami 111/2 minutes to recover. Taylor, who had eight points in the first half, did not score in the second half.

Miami seniors struggle in loss
Miami Notebook

MIAMI  (58)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Stewart         33  7-22   7-8   6-7  0  1   25
Lethunya        25   2-6   0-0   4-7  0  2    4
Ensminger       30   1-4   1-1   1-5  1  3    3
Mestas          40  5-14   0-0   0-2  3  3   11
Taylor          37  3-13   1-2   2-5  5  2    8
Grunkemeyer     11   0-2   1-2   0-1  0  1    1
Allendorf       24   2-4   2-2   6-8  0  2    6
TOTALS         200 20-65 12-15 19-35  9 14   58

Percentages: FG-.308, FT-.800. 3-Point Goals: 6-23, .261 (Stewart 4-14, Mestas 1-5, Taylor 1-2, Grunkemeyer 0-2). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 1 (Allendorf). Turnovers: 4 (Lethunya, Mestas, Stewart, Taylor). Steals: 4 (Mestas 3, Stewart).

BALL ST (61) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Murray 21 2-3 0-0 1-4 1 2 4 Smith 37 5-7 2-3 1-8 3 2 12 Jones 35 3-7 0-4 2-4 0 2 6 Clemens 40 6-15 1-2 0-4 4 2 14 Hosier 27 3-4 2-3 1-4 2 1 10 Jackson 14 1-3 2-2 1-2 0 0 5 Burns 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Moodie 22 4-6 0-0 1-1 0 2 10 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 24-45 7-14 7-27 10 12 61 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.533, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals: 6-10, .600 (Smith 0-1, Clemens 1-3, Hosier 2-2, Jackson 1-1, Moodie 2-3). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 7 (Jones 7). Turnovers: 10 (Hosier 3, Jones 3, Clemens, Jackson, Moodie, Smith). Steals: 3 (Clemens 2, Moodie). __________________________________ Miami 34 24 - 58 Ball St 33 28 - 61 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 7,204. Officials: Gary Bova, Tom Clark, Ed Colbert.

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