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NCAA Tournament Recap (Lafayette-Miami Fla)

Posted: Sat March 13, 1999 at 1:00 a.m EST

BOSTON (Ticker) -- It took Miami just five years to go from laughingstock to its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

Johnny Hemsley drilled two of his team-record nine 3-pointers during a 12-0 run that opened the second half as the Hurricanes cruised past 15th-seeded Lafayette, 75-54, in a first-round East Region contest.

Miami (23-6) went 7-20, including 0-18 in the Big East Conference, during the 1993-94 season, but last year returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1960. The Hurricanes also own only one victory in the National Invitation Tournament, a 71-70 triumph over St. Francis of New York in 1963.

"This means a lot to our team because this is our first win in the NCAA Tournament," Hemsley said. "We had our shot at UCLA last year and game up short."

Hemsley hit five 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, but the Hurricanes held just a 34-29 advantage at halftime. Miami then exploded in the opening moments of the second half, getting six points from Hemsley and four by Tim James to open a 46-29 lead on James' layup with 15:43 remaining.

"I told our staff before the game, this (Lafayette) was the kind of team that would be very difficult to blow away because they execute well and shoot well from the perimeter," Miami coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We knew we had a chance to wear them down by using our depth and we did that."

The 6-5 Hemsley was 10-of-15 from the field, connected on 9-of-12 from beyond the arc and hit both his free throw attempts mto finish with 31 points. He also had four steals, two rebounds and two assists.

"Johnny obviously had a good game," Hamilton added. "But he doesn't have to be on, he just has to be open because they ran the matchup zone defense. He had a lot of open looks."

Lafayette (22-8) went scoreless for first 4:36 of the second half until Ross Harm's was able to convert a layup. But by that time, it was too late and Miami romped to the victory.

The Hurricanes will play 10th-seeded Purdue in the second round Sunday.

Mario Bland opened the scoring in the second half with a layup 16 seconds into the period and Hemsley followed moments later with a 3-pointer from the right corner. James had a steal, raced the length of the court for a layup and was fouled as the ball dropped through. Although he missed the free throw, the Hurricanes led 41-29 with 18:49 to play.

James, who is being bothered by a bad back, missed two free throws just under the 17-minute mark, but the Hurricanes grabbed the rebound and Hemsley took advantage by burying a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Another layup by James made it 46-29 with 15:43 to go and Miami was never threatened down the stretch.

The Leopards played well early and led 14-11 with 10:44 remaining in the first half after Brian Ehlers, who led the team with 14 points, connected on the second of two free throws. But Hemsley nailed consecutive 3-pointers in a 47-second span and a jumper by Dwayne Wimbley gave the Hurricanes a 19-14 lead.

"A lot of games we have come out slowly, but not because we were not attacking," said Hemsley. "Lafayatte was kind of funny because we really did not know a lot about them. It took us a while to figure out what they were doing on defense."

Lafayette used an 8-3 run -- Miami's only points durig the spurt came on a 3-pointer by Hemsley -- to tie it 22-22 on a jumper by Ehlers with just under five minutes left in the half. But Hemsley hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, and after Tyson Whitfield missed two free throws, he drained one from the left wing to make ti 28-22 with 3:35 to go before halftime.

Ehlers scored five straight points in the waning moments of the half, but a bucket by Elton Tyler and two free throws by Vernon Jennings helped Miami take a 34-29 advantage into the locker room.

"I really liked what we were doing in the first half," Leopards coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "We hit a lot of shots. That first half went pretty much the way we had practiced. Our zone was working, we wanted to limit their transition, but Hemsley started hitting some bombs and that stretched us out a little bit. And it showed in the second half."

Kevin Houston scored 10 points and was the only other player in double figures for Miami, which shot 48 percent (27-of-56) anc connected on 10-of-16 from 3-point range. James, Jennings and John Salmons grabbed seven rebounds apiece as the Hurricanes built a 47-34 advantage on the boards.

Tim Bieg dished out nine assists for the Leopards, who connected on just 32 percent (19-of-60) of their field goals, including going 7-of-26 from beyond the arc. Lafayette committed 17 turnovers, leading to 20 points for the Hurricanes.

"It was a lot more draining than playing in the Patriot League," Bieg said. "They (Villanova) are a lot stronger and a lot quicker. This is probably the most draining game I've played. Physically, it showed in the second half."

The Leopards scored just 18 points off 23 Miami miscues.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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