Sunday, February 22, 1998
Miami controls MAC destiny

BY DAVE HELLER
Enquirer contributor

Figuring out the three-way tiebreaker in the Mid-Americn Conference is long and confusing and something Miami University hopes it doesn't have to worry about.

A Miami win over Bowling Green on Wednesday in Oxford in the regular-season finale puts the RedHawks in the MAC Tournament.

Miami put itself in that position with a 71-60 victory over Marshall at Millett Hall on Saturday.

The RedHawks (14-11 overall) are 8-9 in the MAC. Kent entered Saturday 8-8 in the conference; Marshall is 7-9; and Bowling Green entered its game Saturday night against Ohio U. at 6-10. Those four teams are fighting for the last three spots in the MAC tournament. A Miami loss to Bowling Green, and Marshall victories over Kent and Akron would keep Miami out of the tournament.

''We're not in the playoffs yet, that's our concern,'' Miami coach Charlie Coles said. ''Bowling Green could come in here and steal one.''

On Saturday, Miami looked like the team deserving to go to the tournament.

Junior forward Wally Szczerbiak scored a game-high 27 points, 20 in the second half when Miami pulled away.

After making just 3-of-9 shots in the first half, Szczerbiak made 7-of-8 attempts in the second half. He was 4-of-5 on three-pointers in the second half.

''He's had two phenomenal games this week, but I'm more impressed (with this performance) because he was struggling at first,'' Coles said.

Marshall coach Greg White was impressed.

''Wally's better than most players in this league (when he's playing) left-handed,'' White said. ''When he shoots, it's going in. When he misses, you can't believe it. He has as pure of a stroke as you'll ever see.''

Miami is 4-3 since Szczerbiak came back from a wrist injury, and Szczerbiak has been the RedHawks' leading scorer in five of those games. The RedHawks lost both games in which Szczerbiak wasn't their leading scorer.

''It all starts with the defense,'' Szczerbiak said, ''that ignites our offense,''

The defense certainly helped against Marshall.

The RedHawks defense held Marshall to 33 percent shooting in the second half and 30.8 percent in the first half. Marshall's 32.3 percent shooting for the game was the lowest of any Miami opponent this season. The RedHawks held Ohio to 33.9 percent shooting on Wednesday.

''My favorite stats is what the other team's shooting percentage is,'' Coles said. ''You hold them under 40 percent, you'll be in any ballgame.''

Making free throws down the stretch also helps. Damon Frierson - who had 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals - made 6-of-7 to help keep Marshall from pulling any closer than six points in the second half.

''Being down eight or 10 (points) to this club is like a 15-point lead because it's so difficult to climb back,'' White said.

Notebook: Miami could be tourney threat

MARSHALL (60)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Wright          28   2-7   2-3   2-8  1  0    6
King            26  5-13   2-2   0-3  2  3   14
Mckelvy         37   2-6   2-3   6-9  0  3    6
Young           35  5-11   2-2   2-7  3  4   14
Burgess         25   0-6   2-2   0-1  1  2    2
Gray             8   1-3   2-2   0-0  1  3    4
Morton          15   1-4   0-0   3-6  0  1    2
Dobbs           25  4-12   3-4   1-1  0  5   12
Carafelli        1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 20-62 15-18 14-35  8 21   60
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.323, FT-.833. 3-Point Goals:
5-20, .250 (Wright 0-1, King 2-5, Young 2-8,
Burgess 0-2, Gray 0-1, Morton 0-1, Dobbs 1-2).
Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots: 3 (Wright 2,
Mckelvy). Turnovers: 13 (Dobbs 3, Morton 3,
Wright 3, King 2, Burgess, Mckelvy). Steals: 8
(Young 3, Burgess 2, Gray, Mckelvy, Morton).

MIAMI   (71)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Estick          33   5-8   0-1   2-7  1  3   10
Szczerbiak      40 10-17   3-4   1-6  4  1   27
Lethunya        19   1-3   2-2   0-0  1  3    4
Taylor          36  3-10   3-3   0-2  4  3   10
Frierson        40  5-11  8-11   2-8  5  2   19
Chapman          1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Lackaff          3   0-2   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Smith            1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Allendorf        1   0-1   0-0   1-2  0  1    0
Ensminger       26   0-2   1-3  5-12  2  2    1
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 24-55 17-24 11-37 17 15   71
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.436, FT-.708. 3-Point Goals:
6-17, .353 (Szczerbiak 4-8, Taylor 1-5, Frierson
1-3, Lackaff 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked
shots: 1 (Szczerbiak). Turnovers: 11 (Taylor 4,
Frierson 2, Lethunya 2, Ensminger, Lackaff,
Szczerbiak). Steals: 11 (Szczerbiak 4, Frierson
3, Ensminger 2, Estick 2).
__________________________________
Marshall           23   37  -   60
Miami              27   44  -   71
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 5,611. Officials: Kyle
Ingram, Michael Smith, John Tipton.

Miami game coverage

Miami 85, Ohio U. 53 Feb. 19, 1998
Akron 74, Miami 63 Feb. 15, 1998
Kent 58, Miami 52 Feb. 12, 1998
Miami 74, Northern Illinois 71 Feb. 8, 1998
Miami 73, Ball State 67 Feb. 6, 1998
Eastern Michigan 71, Miami 67 Feb. 1, 1998
Toledo 63, Miami 50 Jan. 30, 1998
Miami 73, Ohio 58 Jan. 25, 1998
Miami 71, Marshall 54 Jan. 22, 1998
Kent 66, Miami 65 Jan. 18, 1998
Akron 64, Miami 51 Jan. 15, 1998
Toledo 76, Miami 56 Jan. 11, 1998
Miami 72, Eastern Michigan 64 Jan. 9, 1998
Western Michigan 63, Miami 47 Jan. 6, 1998
Miami 81, Central Michigan 65 Jan. 4, 1998
Bowling Green 72, Miami 59 Dec. 30, 1997
Syracuse 72, Miami 53 Dec. 14, 1997
Miami 71, LaSalle 66 Dec. 13, 1997
Miami 80, Xavier 72 Dec. 10, 1997
Miami 85, Virginia Commonwealth 75 Dec. 7, 1997
Miami 102, IUPUI 75 Dec. 2, 1997
Miami 66, Wisconsin-Green Bay 46 Nov. 26, 1997
Miami 94, Dayton 86 Nov. 23, 1997
Tennessee 75, Miami 74 Nov. 18, 1997