Saturday, February 21, 2004

RedHawks on roll, with flaws and all

Victory today would guarantee winning record

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Charlie Coles knows Miami isn't pretty. He knows the RedHawks shoot poorly, can't hold leads and often forget fundamentals at crucial moments.

He knows the offense isn't particularly thrilling. He knows he's no Dean Smith himself.

But the Miami coach also knows that the RedHawks are 14-8 overall and 10-4 in the Mid-American Conference. He knows they've won more games than in either of the previous two seasons. He knows they're guaranteed to at least finish .500, and that a win over Southwest Missouri State (SMS) today at Millett Hall will guarantee a winning record.

He knows that his team deserves some respect, more than it received after Miami's 64-63 overtime win over Ohio on Wednesday.

"We won the game," Coles said. "I've got to say it. Sometimes, it's pretty. Sometimes, it's not, but those are the players we've got.

"Kids go through a lot. They've been beaten up. I've been beaten up. It looks like I'm yelling at them all the time, but I'm trying to get them to believe.

"The ugly wins, the ugly losses, that's who we are. That ain't going to change. The kids have got to be doing something right."

Apparently, Coles' rant was touched off by the comment of a fan he heard after Miami pulled out its win over the Bobcats.

"He said, 'You overcoached the last 10 minutes,' " Coles said. "Wrong. I didn't coach at all the last 10 minutes. I didn't coach a very good game the last two or three minutes."

Ironically, respect is what today's game is about - at least in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

The Miami-SMS game is part of the ESPN Bracket Buster schedule, a one-day event designed - as the name suggests - to pit the types of teams that can pull upsets once they make the NCAA field.

The RedHawks, who went into the week with a ranking of 105 on the Web site, will most likely have to win the MAC Tournament championship to reach the Tournament, even if they do beat the Bears.

SMS (16-10, 8-7 Missouri Valley Conference) is in the same position. The Bears were No. 121 in the rankings, which are based on the same information used by the Selection Committee.

Since the NCAA Division I Tournament was expanded to include 64 teams in 1985, the MAC has sent more than one team five times, most recently in 1999.

"This is probably the best time of the season to do this type of thing, because it doesn't hurt your league standing, but you still want to win for your program and for your conference, and it could be meaningful for teams in our league like Kent State and Western Michigan to get a potential at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament," Coles said.

SMS has featured coaches such as Charlie Spoonhour, who moved on to St. Louis and UNLV, and former Indiana All-American Steve Alford, who now coaches at Iowa. Spoonhour guided the Bears to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments (1987 through 1990) and five in six years. Their last NCAA appearance was in 1999.

This year's Bears lost back-to-back games before beating Drake 68-59 on Tuesday with a starting lineup that included three freshmen.

NOTE: Tipoff for Miami's game against Marshall at Millett on March 6 has been changed from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

SMS at Miami

Tipoff: 5 p.m. today, Millett Hall (9,200), Oxford.

Records: Miami 14-8 (10-4 Mid-American Conference), SMS 16-10 (8-7 Missouri Valley Conference).

TV: ESPN Plus.

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

Line: Miami by 6.

Series: Miami leads, 1-0.


Chet MasonJr.6-410.5
Josh HausfeldSo.6-36.9
Juby JohnsonSr.6-515.4
Monty St. ClairFr.6-93.8
Danny HoraceJr.6-69.8
Coach: Charlie Coles (134-101, eighth season; 226-185 overall).


Nathan BilyeuFr.6-64.3
Deven MitchellFr.6-53.6
Monwell RandleSr.6-89.7
Merrill AndrewsSr.6-09.2
Blake AhearnFr.6-211.1
Coach: Barry Hinson (86-64, fifth season; 122-87 overall).

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