Thursday, March 13, 2003

For Miami, first things first

RedHawks must focus on Ohio U., not the tournament championship

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

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.

Tipoff: 2 p.m. today, Gund Arena, Cleveland (20,562).
Records: Ohio 13-15, Miami 13-14.
Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3).
TV: None.
Series: Ohio leads 86-80.
Line: Miami by 2.
Given the RedHawks' inconsistency in the regular season, should MU be counted in the group of contenders?

"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."

The lineups:
Juby JohnsonJr.6-514.9
Danny HoraceSo.6-511.6
Chet MasonJr.6-310.1
Josh HausfeldFr.6-37.1
Bryan ReedSr.6-62.5
Coach: Charlie Coles (120-92, seventh season; 212-176 overall).

Brandon HunterSr.6-721.5
Steve EsterkampSr.6-614.9
Jaivon HarrisJr.6-57.5
Jeff HalbertFr.6-56.8
Thomas StephensSr.6-05.6
Coach: Tim O'Shea (30-26, second season; same overall).

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

For Miami, first things first
Does UK need to lose?
UK sweeps SEC coaches' honors
Big East: St. John's trips Notre Dame
Wagner wins Northeast berth
Weber St. to represent Big Sky
Georgia players sue school

Bengals clearing path for Palmer
TE Kelly first addition to Bengals' offense
Playoffs Spikes' top priority in Buffalo
Blake steps into Arizona QB job
Luchey ready to start winning
NFL minorities organize
Raiders sign ex-49er Stubblefield
Officiating mistakes lead to dismissals

Manzanillo could land in bullpen
Reds Notebook: Wilson's debut delayed
Yankees 10, Reds 5
Schott hospitalized again
Piazza charges mound after plunking
Other spring training games
Spring Training Standings
Bonds' ball dispute settled
Baseball Notebook: Ex-Red may have cancer

Arnie and Jack stage final go-round

Roddick rides serve to second-round win

Today's basketball schedule
NCH girls carry city banner to state
6-8 Clemons leads Reading to final
Madeira's surprise run ends
Middletown dumps boys basketball coach
Ky. Games: Holy Cross, Boone, Brossart advance