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NCAA Tournament Recap (Miami Ohio-UTAH)

Posted: Sun March 14, 1999 at 7:55 p.m. EST

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- After Wally Szczerbiak carried Miami of Ohio into the second round, his teammates returned the favor with a trip to the regional semifinals.

Szczerbiak scored 24 points as the 10th-seeded RedHawks rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit and stunned 1998 NCAA Tournament finalist and Utah, 66-58, in the second round of the Midwest Region.

John Estick added a season-high 18 points for Miami (24-7), which advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1978.

"I felt like today was the biggest challenge I had ever been a part of," said RedHawks coach Charlie Coles, who suffered a heart attack last year during the Mid-American Conference tournament. "After the first six minutes, I felt like we could play with them. We don't always look like we're playing like a team, but we're a team. This was another team victory and I feel very good about it."

Szczerbiak, who scored a career-high 43 points in a first-round victory over Washington, got off to a slow start but rebounded with 14 points in the final 10:13. He sank six free throws in the last 89 seconds.

"It's so special to do this with this group of players, coaches and administration," said Szczerbiak. "They have done a great job all the way down the line. We haven't gotten the recognition that Miami University deserves and it's good to see that they are getting their just due."

The RedHawks will play either third-seeded Kentucky or Kansas in the regional semifinals at the TWA Dome in St. Louis on Friday.

Senior Andre Miller scored 20 points for the Utes (28-5), who had won 23 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation. Miller and Szczerbiak were teammates on the American squad that won the gold medal at last summer's Goodwill Games.

"He is definitely one of the best players I've ever had to guard, if not the best," said Miller of Szczerbiak. "It was tough because every time he came down the court, he came off some picks to get open shots."

The defeat left defending champion Kentucky as the only 1998 Final Four team still alive. North Carolina lost in the first round on Thursday and Stanford fell in the second round Saturday.

"This was not as devastating as last year's loss to Kentucky," said Utes coach Rick Majerus, who may be the target of more big-name schools in the offseason. "I will reflect fondly and frequently of this regular season. I did not thing we were good enough to be a two seed in this region. I expected a four or five seed in another region."

Utah had Miami on the ropes with a 24-13 lead in the first half on a pair of free throws by Hanno Mottola, but Jason Stewart, a 33 percent 3-point shooter, came off the bench and drilled three of them in an 85-second span as the Redhawks went to intermission down 32-29.

Miami took its first lead at 34-32 on a lay-in by Rob Mestas, and a layup by Estick extended the lead to 40-35 with 14:32 to go.

The Utes pulled within 42-41 on a 16-footer by Tony Harvey but Szczerbiak grabbed an offensive rebound and spun into the lane for lay-in that triggered a 9-0 run. Damon Frierson hit three free throws, Estick scored off a pick-and-roll and Szczerbiak sank two foul shots to extend the lead to 51-41 with 8:04 left.

After an eight-footer by Hanno Mottola pulled Utah within 53-46 with 5:38 to go, Szczerbiak came up with a huge play, slapping a loose ball to Rob Mestas, who drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to push the lead back to 10.

The Utes made one last charge, closing to 58-55 with 1:45 to go when Miller sank two free throws. But with his back to the basket, Szczerbiak made a stellar ball fake on Alex Jensen at the foul line, leaving Jensen no choice but to foul him to prevent an easy dunk. Szczerbiak made both free throws to push the lead to five with 1:29 left.

Mottola missed a 3-pointer and Szczerbiak sank two more with 53 seconds to go. He made a pair around two foul shots by Frierson to seal the victory. The RedHawks, who did not attempt a free throw in the first half, hit 15-of-17 in the final 20 minutes.

"Last year, I was watching this tournament from bed. I'd been out of the hospital for a week," said Coles. "I wasn't very mobile and watched every game. He (Majerus) is a great, great coach and today had no bearing on who did a good job. I took to him as a giant in the profession and it was an honor to coach against him here."

Taylor scored 12 points for Miami, which made 48 percent (22-of-46) of its shots and went 7-of-18 from 3-point range. Szczerbiak also had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals as he and Frierson played all 40 minutes.

Mottola added 12 points for the Utes, who shot only 2-of-13 from 3-point range in the second half. Utah was unable to win the battle of the boards against the smaller RedHawks, settling for a 27-27 stalemate.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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