Sunday, February 29, 2004

RedHawks hit pothole in quest for No. 3 seed

Loss drops MU into tie with Toledo

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - Miami stumbled Saturday in its quest for a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

After losing 87-73 to Buffalo, the RedHawks landed in a tie with Toledo for the MAC Tournament's third seed and the first-round bye that accompanies it.

"It's soul-searching time, for the guys and for me," said RedHawks coach Charlie Coles, whose team has lost two in a row. "I've been searching for a long time. We've got two games left in the regular season, and then we're looking at hosting (a first-round tournament game), but I don't want to look at that right now."

Buffalo (14-11, 9-7) extended its winning streak to five games. The Bulls set a season high by shooting 57.9 percent (11-for-19) on 3-pointers, and their 56.9 overall percentage (29-for-51) was their second-best effort of the season. Sophomore Calvin Cage came off the bench to score a season-high 22 points and led four Buffalo players in double figures.

"We're still a very young team," said Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon, whose team defeated East Division leader Kent State 82-66 Wednesday. "When most college players were in high school, they scored a lot of points. They weren't selecting shots. It was just instinctive. Once they get to college, they think too much, and that's not productive. Now, they're getting more selective in their shots. The key thing is we're willing."

Coles found few redeeming qualities from the game.

"That was a thorough whipping," Coles said. "It wasn't just a defeat. I thought they were good, and we were a little bad."

Miami senior Juby Johnson, whose game-high 27 points were one short of matching his career high, described the RedHawks as "soft."

"We came out soft. There was no intensity, no fire," Johnson said.

The Bulls, who lost to Miami in Buffalo Jan. 7, never trailed after Turner Battle stole the ball from Johnson and raced downcourt for a layup and a 4-3 lead with 17:37 left in the first half. They led by as many as 21 with 17:44 left in the game. But Miami whittled the lead to six points on two free throws by Monty St. Clair with 10:36 left. Cage stopped the rally with a driving layup and a 3-pointer, again giving the Bulls a double-digit lead.

"We wanted to try to cut it to 10 points with 10 minutes left," said St. Clair, who scored 12 points despite playing with a broken left thumb that was heavily bandaged. "We actually got it down to 10 with 13 minutes left, but it's hard when you're down by 18 at halftime. We tried to do everything we could to get back into it."

Miami starters sat on the bench the last two minutes, an effort, Coles said, to give his reserves some playing time.

Team rebounds - 1.

St. Clair274822611112
Van Buskirk2000001000
Team rebounds - 4.

3-pointers - Buffalo 11-19 (Gilbert 1-3, Idbihi 0-1, Bird 1-3, Battle 3-3, Middleton 1-1, Cage 4-6, Bortz 1-2), Miami 7-17 (St. Clair 2-4, Horace 1-2, Hausfeld 0-2, Mason 0-2, Johnson 3-5, Penno 0-1, Hatcher 1-1). Technicals - Horace. Officials - Dan Fouser, Ron Groover, Bret Wegenke. Attendance - 4,129.

Women: RedHawks win their 12th consecutive game

OXFORD - Who would have thought Miami would enjoy this kind of season the year after Heather Cusick graduated?

The RedHawks lost their all-time scoring, 3-point and assists leader after last season. They responded by putting together their best season in 14 years.

Miami (20-6, 14-1 Mid-American Conference) posted its 12th consecutive victory and reached the 20-win level for the first time since the 1989-1990 season with a 98-71 win over the Buffalo Bulls on Saturday at Millett Hall.

"(People) forget that we had other people who stepped up and won games for us last year," Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said, "and Nicki Motto stepped in to lead us at point guard. She's solid, and she gets people the ball at the right time. It feels good that the spotlight isn't just on the leading scorer, but that we're winning by committee."

Said senior guard Colleen Day: "We knew that we had enough talent, and we knew we had the team chemistry. We tried to not let outside people get into our heads."

Sophomore Cindi Merrill led four Miami players in double figures with 20 points. The RedHawks, who wrap up the regular season Tuesday night against Kent State at Millett, will tie the school record for single-season wins if they beat the Golden Flashes and win the MAC Tournament. The 1981-1982 team set the record by going 24-9.

Miami earned the tournament's top seed after clinching the overall regular-season championship on Wednesday.

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