Sunday, March 1, 1998
One for Charlie
Miami regroups for victory

The Cincinnati Enquirer

frierson
Miami's Damon Frierson manages to pass while being double-teamed by Western Michigan's Rashod Johnson and Shaun Jackson.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Miami players did what they thought Charlie Coles would have wanted them to do Saturday.

''He's a fighter,'' Wally Szczerbiak said. ''He would have told us to play. He would have said, 'No excuses.' Although he has been told he should not coach (because of his heart), he has refused to quit.''

So after hearing Coles had survived a heart attack and was in critical but stable condition after collapsing a little more than an hour earlier, the Miami players voted to go ahead and play against Western Michigan.

And play they did. The RedHawks, the seventh seed, beat second-seeded Western 67-63 in quarterfinals of the Mid-American Tournament. The game was tied at 14 with 11:23 left in the first half when Coles fell. Medical personnel worked for 20 minutes to revive him before he was taken to the hospital. Coles remains in Kalamazoo in Bronson Methodist Hospital's cardiac care unit.

Obviously, it was difficult for the team to continue.

''It was the toughest thing I've been through in my life - other than death of my mother,'' said assistant coach Ray Martin, who took over Coles' duties. ''Basketball is one thing, life and death is another.''

But the RedHawks probably put together their best effort of the year. Szczerbiak scored 30 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.

Damon Frierson added 17 points. John Estick and Anthony Taylor had 10 points each and Estick added 11 rebounds.

The RedHawks were outstanding in defense and rebounding. Miami held Western, which led the MAC in the three-point shooting at 42.2 percent, to one three in 19 tries (MU made 10 of 19) and outrebounded WMU 42-37.

''There's no doubt that what happened motivated us,'' Szczerbiak said. ''We tried to get into the mind-set that we're playing a basketball game. But it was very emotional.''

Miami advances to semifinals in Toledo against sixth-seeded Kent, which upset Akron 95-88 Saturday.

The RedHawks, who struggled just to make the MAC tournament field of eight, are now two games from an NCAA berth. Miami regarded the Western game on the road as the most difficult it would face in the MAC tourney.

''We definitely thought this would be the toughest game,'' Szczerbiak said, ''and it was a tough game. We knew if we got to Toledo we'd have as good a chance as anyone of winning.''

But that was before Coles' heart attack.

The players were returning to the floor after the timeout when Coles fell.

''I looked over and saw him collapse,'' Szczerbiak said. ''Everything was normal before that.''

Miami fell 25-19 in the first five minutes after the game resumed. But the interim staff - Martin, James Whitford and Don Moormeier - steadied the RedHawks.

''Coach Coles did a great job preparing us for anything,'' said Martin, whose only head coaching experience was with the Harvard freshman team in 1977. ''Obviously you're never ready for anything like this, but James, who scouted them, was very, very well-prepared.'' Miami tied it at 27 on a three-pointer, then a three-point play by Szczerbiak.

By halftime, Miami had 35-31 lead.

Back-to-back threes in a 24-second span by Szczerbiak pushed Miami's lead to 45-35 a little over three minutes into the second half.

Western would make a charge, taking a 55-53 lead with 6:17 to play.

But Szczerbiak hit back-to-back threes again to restore the lead to 59-55.

''Szczerbiak really stepped up,'' said Saddi Washington, who led WMU with 20 points. ''Good players are supposed to rise to the occasion, and he did that today.''

After Szczerbiak put Miami back ahead, Western was forced to foul. Frierson, who had an awful shooting day from the field (3 for 16), converted six straight free throws in the last 2:07 to preserve the win.

Miami improved to 16-11; Western is 20-7, with some hope of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

Miami, meanwhile, plays on. The team stayed in Kalamazoo Saturday night. They hope to visit Coles today.

''It's been very emotional,'' Martin said. ''They players wanted to stay here with Coach Coles. Hopefully, we'll visit him tomorrow, then head back to Oxford, to get ready for Kent.''

Coles suffers heart attack


MIAMI     (67)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Estick          28   5-6   0-0  3-11  0  2   10
Szczerbiak      40 10-18   4-5  5-16  1  2   30
Lethunya        29   0-4   0-0   1-6  0  3    0
Taylor          38   4-6   1-1   1-2  3  1   10
Frierson        38  3-16   8-8   0-0  1  4   17
Lackaff          3   0-2   0-0   0-0  0  2    0
Ensminger       24   0-4   0-0   2-6  0  1    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 22-56 13-14 12-41  5 15   67
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.393, FT-.929. 3-Point Goals:
10-19, .526 (Szczerbiak 6-9, Taylor 1-3, Frierson
3-5, Lackaff 0-2). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked
shots: 3 (Szczerbiak 2, Lethunya). Turnovers: 19
(Taylor 6, Frierson 4, Estick 3, Ensminger 2,
Lethunya 2, Szczerbiak 2). Steals: 1 (Estick).

WESTERN MICH (63)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Washington      38  9-22   2-2   1-3  3  1   20
Toothman        37   2-5   2-2   2-8  0  0    6
Jackson         36  6-11   1-1  4-10  2  3   13
Kimbrough       40   2-8   2-2   0-4  6  2    6
Johnson         32  6-20   0-2   3-4  1  5   13
Jones            9   1-1   2-2   1-1  0  1    4
Bullock          6   0-1   1-2   0-2  0  0    1
Vantimmeren      2   0-0   0-0   1-2  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 26-68 10-13 12-34 12 12   63
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.382, FT-.769. 3-Point Goals:
1-19, .053 (Washington 0-6, Kimbrough 0-1,
Johnson 1-11, Bullock 0-1). Team rebounds: 3.
Blocked shots: 3 (Jackson 2, Kimbrough).
Turnovers: 11 (Johnson 3, Toothman 3, Bullock 2,
Washington 2, Jackson). Steals: 5 (Johnson 3,
Jackson, Toothman).
__________________________________
Miami              35   32  -   67
Western Mich       31   32  -   63
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 4,293. Officials:
Richard Honig, Bill Ek, Donald Griffin.

Game reports

Miami 61, Bowling Green 52 Feb. 26, 1998
Miami 71, Marshall 60 Feb. 22, 1998
Miami 85, Ohio U. 53 Feb. 19, 1998
Akron 74, Miami 63 Feb. 12, 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