Sunday, February 8, 2004

RedHawks end recent trend of late losses

Miami gives up lead in second half, but key 3-pointers earn victory

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - The pattern was disturbingly familiar to Miami coach Charlie Coles.

He watched Saturday as the RedHawks built a nine-point halftime lead over Toledo, only to squander it and fall behind by four points with 2:33 left in the game.

Too many times, Coles had watched the RedHawks lose games in which they had led in the second half. Fresh in his memory was Monday's overtime loss at Ohio, a game Miami led by 11 after halftime.

But then Josh Hausfeld and William Hatcher each made a 3-point shot and Juby Johnson sank two free throws as the RedHawks outscored the Rockets 8-0 down the stretch for a 61-57 Mid-American Conference win.

"That's the first time in a long time we've been in that position and actually won the game," Coles said.

Miami (12-7, 8-3), which was playing its third game in six days, solidified its hold on second place in the MAC East Division and moved within a half-game of Toledo (15-5, 9-3) in the race for the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament, which is scheduled to start one month from today. Toledo is in second place in the MAC West Division. The tournament's third seed, which includes a first-round bye, goes to the second-place team with the best record.

Toledo took its first four-point lead, 49-45, when Johnson fouled Rockets scoring leader Keith Triplett on a 3-point try and the senior sank all three free throws with 6:31 left in the game. The RedHawks fought back and took a 52-51 lead on a Hatcher 3-pointer with 4:15 left, but Toledo regained its four-point advantage when Ricardo Thomas stripped the ball from Johnson and fed Sammy Villegas for a dunk.

Hausfeld responded with his 3-pointer. Villegas missed a 3-pointer and Hatcher followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing in traffic that he launched with four seconds left on the shot clock and 1:14 left in the game.

"I didn't know where to go," said Hatcher, a sophomore who came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points. "The shot clock was running down. It was a tight situation, and when all else fails, put it up. I felt such a rush when it went through the net."

When Johnson turned over the ball, Coles got nervous. But then his team surprised him.

"That closing four minutes for us was something different," Coles said. "Really, nowadays, you have to have kids who can make shots when everything else has broken down. Today, we did that for the first time."

Johnson's two free throws with seven seconds left gave him a team-high 17 points.

Triplett led all scorers with 18 points.

"We felt like we were in control until Hatcher hit that big 3," Triplett said.

"You have to give them credit for making a lot of plays late in the shot clock," said Toledo coach Stan Joplin, whose team hadn't played in a week. "They made big plays."

Team rebounds - 3.

St. Clair17040011300
Team rebounds - 4.

3-pointers - UT 6-18 (Ingram 0-2, Villegas 4-8, Triplett 1-6, Howell 1-1, Thomas 0-1) MU 7-20 (St. Clair 0-1, Horace 1-3, Hausfeld 2-3, Mason 0-3, Johnson 1-3, Seals 0-1, VanderSluis 0-1, Hatcher 3-5). Technicals - None. Officials - Clark, Kruger, Laning. Attendance - 4,318.

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