Monday, February 2, 2004

Miami, Ohio pick up fresh rivalry


RedHawks seek to avenge recent losses

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Anybody who doubted the intensity of the Miami-Ohio rivalry only has to look at last year's three-game series for confirmation.

The RedHawks won the opener, starting a five-game winning streak with a 12-point win in Athens.

But Ohio had the last word - twice. The Bobcats, on their way to a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Mid-American Conference East Division they'd been picked to win in the preseason, pulled off a 64-58 win in the second-to-last game of the regular season. That loss cost Miami a share of the division championship.

Eight days later, the two teams met again in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals at Gund Arena in Cleveland. Ohio, the 11th seed, overcame a seven-point deficit in the last 3:51 of regulation to force overtime. The Bobcats then knocked out the third-seeded RedHawks with a 65-55 win.

That sets the stage for today's 6:30 p.m. game at Ohio's Convocation Center.

"We owe them," Miami coach Charlie Coles said. "They kind of got us last year."

Coles, who is 16-13 against Ohio in his career and 8-7 against the Bobcats at Miami, didn't plan on mentioning the history to his players.

"I think we've just got to go down there and play," he said. "I think players come up with their own motivation. As coaches, I think we've just got to sit back and let them do it. If you've got to remind them, that's not good, but I don't think we'll have to."

Ohio lost the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Brandon Hunter, the Boston Celtics' second-round pick in the NBA draft, as well as sharpshooting La Salle product Steve Esterkamp and productive sixth man Sonny Johnson, the older brother of Miami's Juby Johnson. The Bobcats (6-13, 3-6) were expected to struggle this season, and a stretch in which they played nine of 11 games on the road only added to their problems. They opened a three-game homestand with a 73-61 win over Central Michigan Saturday.

Tonight's game promises many rebounding opportunities. The Bobcats were second to last in the MAC in field-goal percentage (40.9 percent) going into their game against the Chippewas. They had been last until the RedHawks fell to 40.4 percent by shooting 33 percent in their overtime win at Marshall on Wednesday.

Miami's win over the Thundering Herd was its sixth in the last seven games, helping keep the pressure on front-running Kent State in the East Division while opening a two-game lead over third-place Marshall.

Despite the hot streak, Coles didn't mind the slight break in the schedule, which he hoped would give Gene Seals and Danny Horace time to put ankle problems behind them. Seals started at Marshall, but scored one point and had one rebound in 18 minutes. Horace also played 18 minutes, contributing two points and one rebound.

"They're having all kinds of problems," Coles said. "We've got to get those guys well. I put Danny back in the game because Gene was limping worse than he was."

NOTE: ESPN's announcement of its Feb. 21 Bracket Buster pairings, which was scheduled for Sunday, was postponed to 4 p.m. today. Miami is scheduled to play a home game.

Miami at Ohio

Tipoff: 6:30 p.m. today, Convocation Center (13,000), Athens, Ohio.

Records: Miami 10-6 (6-2 Mid-American Conference), Ohio 6-13 (3-6).

TV: Fox Sports Ohio.

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450).

Line: Miami by 1.

Series: Ohio leads 86-81.

MIAMI

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
Chet MasonJr.6-410.9
Josh HausfeldSo.6-38.2
Juby JohnsonSr.6-515.4
Monty St. ClairFr.6-92.3
Gene SealsSr.6-65.9
Coach: Charlie Coles (130-99, eighth season; 222-183 overall)

OHIO

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
Sonny TroutmanFr.6-56.6
Terren HarbutJr.6-68.3
Clay McGowenJr.6-113.1
Whitney DavisFr.6-32.1
Thomas StephensSr.6-011.4
Coach: Tim O'Shea (23-34, second season; same overall).




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