Thursday, March 13, 2003
For Miami, first things first
RedHawks must focus on Ohio U., not the tournament championship
By Mark Schmetzer
The track record established in the Mid-American Conference this season supports Miami coach Charlie Coles' assertion that almost any team can win the MAC tournament.
Given the RedHawks' inconsistency in the regular season, should MU be counted in the group of contenders?
MIAMI vs. OHIO
Tipoff: 2 p.m. today, Gund Arena, Cleveland (20,562).
Records: Ohio 13-15, Miami
Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3).
Series: Ohio leads 86-80.
Line: Miami by 2.
"I don't know if I believe that we can play three straight great games," Coles said. "I know we can play one or two."
Coles is hoping to see one of those games today. Miami, which hung on to the third seed and first-round bye in the tournament despite losing its last three games, meets Ohio in the second of four quarterfinal games at Cleveland's Gund Arena. Tipoff is 2 p.m., or 30 minutes after the end of the noon game between seventh-seeded Marshall and second-seeded Kent State.
The winners of this afternoon's games play Friday's second semifinal game, at 8:30 p.m. The tournament championship game is 7 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on ESPN2. The champion receives the MAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division I tournament.
MAC West Division champion Central Michigan is the No. 1 seed. Kent State earned the No. 2 seed by winning the East Division championship.
A four-game winning streak had positioned the RedHawks (13-14, 11-7) to receive one of the top two seeds and win the MAC East Division, championship, but their three-game skid left them needing to reach the tournament championship game to avoid finishing below .500 for the second consecutive season. The last time Miami finished with losing records in back-to-back seasons was 1989-1990, when the RedHawks completed a run of three consecutive sub-.500 seasons.
The RedHawks have their hands full today. The 11th-seeded Bobcats (13-15, 8-10) beat them at Millett Hall just eight days ago. Senior Brandon Hunter scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting to lead an Ohio offense that shot 64.7 percent from the field in that 64-56 win.
Hunter personally pushed Ohio into the quarterfinals in Monday's 79-77 first-round victory over sixth-seeded Akron. He scored 20 points, including a putback at the buzzer, on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 on free throws.
The Bobcats, the preseason favorites to win the East Division, have won four of their last five games to restore some luster to a disappointing season.
The RedHawks, who finished second in the East Division, will try to focus on playing up to their potential, junior guard Juby Johnson said.
"If your mind is on tomorrow instead of what you're doing today, things aren't going to go your way," Johnson said.
"I think we can win the championship, but you can't play while you're thinking about winning the championship," Coles said. "You have to think about playing the game."
Coles is banking on Miami being able to take advantage of the MAC's overall balance.
"There's a fine line in this league between winning and losing, and everybody knows that," he said. "I think we can beat anybody. I think Ohio can beat anybody. I think Central Michigan can beat anybody in the league. We're not throwing in the towel."
Coach: Charlie Coles (120-92, seventh season; 212-176 overall).
Coach: Tim O'Shea (30-26,
second season; same overall).
TODAY'S BASKETBALL GAMES
Scores and game wrap-ups
Bearcats blindsided by Southern Miss
DAUGHERTY: Committee holds UC's fate
Like Mardi Gras for Southern Miss
Other Conference USA games
C-USA Tournament Glance
Marquette's Wade C-USA player of year
XU right at home in UD Arena
West again A-10 player of year
Dayton finally gets to play
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Middletown dumps boys basketball coach
Ky. Games: Holy Cross, Boone, Brossart advance