Saturday, January 06, 2001

MAC isn't getting easier for Miami

Marshall may be even better than Toledo

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Miami University's four-game losing streak is perplexing: How can a team win at No.10 Notre Dame and lose to Wright State and North Carolina-Wilmington?

        The fact Mike Ensminger won't be in the starting lineup against Marshall today (4p.m.) at Millett Hall gives you a clue about why the RedHawks have struggled since the Notre Dame win.

  • When: 4 p.m. today.
  • Where: Millett Hall (9,200).
  • Records: Miami (4-7, 0-1 Mid-American Conference), Marshall (8-1, 2-0).
  • TV: None.
  • Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450).
  Travis Young-6-0-Sr.-14.5
  C. Jackson-6-4-Sr.-8.2
  J.R. VanHoose-6-10-Jr.-17.2
  Tamar Slay-6-9-Jr.-19.7
  L. Williams-6-8-Jr.-10.7
  Coach: Greg White (76-46, fifth season; 195-196 overall)

  Doug Davis -6-3-Jr.-8.6
  Rich Allendorf-6-10-Sr.-4.6
  Alex Shorts-6-8-So.-13.3
  Julius Johnson-6-5-Fr.-5.2
  Coach: Charlie Coles (81-51, fifth season; 173-136 overall)
  • 313th: Miami's ranking in Division I in assists per game (9.75).
  • 81.6: Points a game Marshall is averaging, second in the MAC.
  • 7: Games in a row Marshall has won.
        Ensminger is expected to play, but his back has kept him from practicing since Christmas break. And as Ensminger goes, so goes Miami.

        Ensminger, an Oak Hills graduate, averages only 5.5 points a game. But he leads the team in rebounding (6.5) and is second in assists (2.5). And his importance goes far beyond numbers.

        He is the team's most experienced player, its best inside defender and its leader.

        “It's hard for us to get things done when Mike doesn't practice,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said.

        Ensminger's back will not allow him to both practice and play games.

        “It's tough,” Ensminger said, “because I don't feel like I'm there for the guys. But if I practice, it takes away from my play in games.”

        Ensminger had surgery to repair a herniated disc before his sophomore year at Oak Hills. It has troubled him on and off since.

        “The disc is pinching a nerve,” Ensminger said. “It goes right down my leg. I'm trying to fight through it. I've been going to therapy three times a day. This is my senior year. I don't want to sit out.”

        The fact Ensminger has been unable to contribute as much has made the losing streak doubly frustrating.

        “Anytime you're on a four-game slide, it's tough,” he said. “Coach has done a good job keeping things positive. We can't seem to play with that total intensity, that total focus. Against Toledo, we'd get a little run going and cut it to two or three, then we'd get lackadaisical.”

        The RedHawks lost at Toledo 76-62 Wednesday in the Mid-American Conference opener.

        If there's a better MAC team than Toledo, it's Mar shall.

        The Thundering Herd come to Oxford 8-1. Their only loss was at Cincinnati, 79-75, Nov.21.

        Marshall has two of the top players in the MAC in Tamar Slay, a 6-foot-9 junior, and J.R. VanHoose, a 6-10 junior. Slay averages 19.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. He can shoot the 3 as well as go inside. VanHoose averages 17.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. The Herd also have a pair of senior guards in Travis Young (14.5 ppg) and Cornelius Jackson (8.2 ppg).

        Miami is just concerned about getting itself back to playing well.

        Coles has seen some signs.

        “I was encouraged against Toledo,” he said. “We moved the ball better. We actually had 15 assists against Toledo.”

        But Miami faces long odds against Marshall today.

        “We have no margin for error,” Ensminger said. “People say that's what happens with young and inexperienced teams. But there's no reason to be playing the way we're playing. We have to keep after the task and pull through it.”

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