Thursday, March 09, 2000

Miami seniors struggle in loss

Foursome can't carry RedHawks to NCAAs

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CLEVELAND — The Miami RedHawks lived off their seniors throughout the Mid-American Conference tournament.

        In Wednesday's championship game, they died with them.

        Against Ball State the smoke dissipated, the mirrors fogged over, and whatever magic the elder RedHawks had used to pull their team into the MAC finals wore off.

        Point guard Rob Mestas, whose sure-handed dribbling allowed him to single-handedly set the tempo throughout the tournament, couldn't find the basket against the Cardinals.

        Forward Jason Stewart, who electrified the crowd and rewrote the record books with his 10-of-12 3-point shooting Monday, couldn't shoot his way back into that can't-miss zone.

        Miami was exposed for what it is: a hard-working defensive team that struggles to score.

        “We had four seniors and wanted to win so bad,” Mestas said. “I'm just so proud to be part of this program.”

        Mestas shot 5-of-14. Stewart shot 7-of-22 and 4-of-14 from 3-point range.

        And the team's leading scorer, Anthony Taylor? He never did escape the Gund Arena jinx. After not hitting a shot from the field in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the tournament, Taylor finally scored two.

        For the wrong team.

        With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Taylor accidentally tipped in a rebound after a Ball State free throw. He finished with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.

        The fourth Miami senior to play his last game Wednesday was Refiloe Lethunya, who gave his usual workmanlike night of four points and seven rebounds.

        “A lot of people are saying they are proud of us,” Taylor said. “We're going to be remembered for proving a lot of people wrong.”

        After Ball State rushed the court in celebration, Mestas retreated to the bench and hid his head in his jersey.

        “To get this close (to the NCAA Tournament), it's hard to be happy,” Mestas said. “Maybe if you catch me in a week or two, I might be happy about it.”

        Miami's seniors shot and scrapped their way to within three points of the NCAA Tournament. But close doesn't count, and the seniors knew it.

        “The saddest thing about losing is I don't get to work with these guys no more,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “And that's tough. Five years from now, I'm really going to appreciate this team.”

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- Miami seniors struggle in loss
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