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NCAA Tournament Recap (Miami Ohio-Kentucky)

Posted: Sat March 20, 1999 at 2:19 a.m EST

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- In "Wally's World," Kentucky was still the better team.

The defending NCAA Tournament champion and third-seeded Wildcats let Wally Szczerbiak score his points, but clamped down defensively on everyone else and pounded 10th-seeded Miami of Ohio, 58-43, in the Midwest Region semifinals.

Szczerbiak, in his final collegiate game, finished with 23 points but had to earn every one of them as Kentucky (28-8) used 6-9 forward Scott Padgett, 6-10 Jamaal Magloire, 6-11 freshman Souleymane Camara and a series of zone defenses to prevent him from dominating the contest.

Szczerbiak had 15 of the RedHawks 19 first-half points, but could not sustain that pace in the second half as the deeper Wildcats had just too many bodies and too much balance.

"We knew Wally would get his points, but we wanted to play great team defense, make other players make plays" said Padgett. "We wanted to force him to put the ball on the floor instead of catching and shooting."

"They didn't give us anything easy," admitted Szczerbiak. "It was tough to finish over the taller guys. Their bench was a factor. It doesn't matter who's scoring (for them). Their bench plays a big part, any time a player can get hot. That's the way the game unfolded."

Padgett had eight of his 17 points in a game-breaking run midway through the second half and 14 in the final 20 minutes for Kentucky, which will play top-seeded Michigan State in the Midwest Region final Sunday.

Heshimu Evans added 11 for the Wildcats, who are gunning for their third NCAA Tournament title and fourth straight Final Four appearance in that span. They have won 20 of their last 21 NCAA Tournament games since 1996. Kentucky has won two of its seven titles the years it has beaten Miami, doing so in 1958 and again 20 years later.

Damon Frierson added nine points for the RedHawks (24-8), who lost to Kentucky for the fourth time in the NCAA Tournament in as many chances. Miami was in the regional semifinals for the first time since 1978 and has dropped 18 straight to the Wildcats.

The RedHawks pulled within 26-21 in the opening minute of the second half, but Padgett and Camara had jumpers around a three-point play by Evans that pushed Kentucky ahead 33-21 at the 16:27 mark.

Miami closed to 35-28 on a 3-pointer by Frierson with 11:17 left, but Padgett took the game over. He drew a foul on Szczerbiak with 10:41 to play and hit two free throws before sinking a 3-pointer at the 9:20 mark to make it 40-28. A steal led to a lay-in by Wayne Turner before Padgett drilled a deep 3-pointer from the left wing, capping the run to make it 45-28 with 8:04 remaining.

"I was glad I finally helped contribute something to the team," said Padgett. "In the first half and the second, I made silly fouls and found myself on the bench."

Evans had six points in a 7-0 run to givce Kentucky its largest lead at 56-34 with 4:42 to play.

Szczerbiak scored Miami's first five points as he kept the RedHawks close in the first 2:40. But the Wildcats reeled off 10 straight points as they held Miami scoreless for almost nine minutes. Camara had baskets around 3-pointers by Saul Smith and Desmond Allison as Kentucky held a 16-6 lead with 10:27 left.

Szczerbiak ended the run with a 3-pointer at the 8:55 mark, and two free throws by Anthony Taylor 2:33 later was Miami's first points by someone other than Szczerbiak. A driving lay-in by Szczerbiak pulled the RedHawks within 19-15, and they stayed within four points until Smith bounded in for a loose ball and hit an off-balance 19-footer as time expired.

It was originally ruled a two-pointer, but the alternate official alerted the referees that Smith was behind the 3-point line when he left the ground, and Kentucky started the second half ahead 26-19. Szczerbiak made 5-of-9 shots in the first half, but the rest of the team went 1-of-12. The RedHawks stayed close by forcing 10 turnovers.

"You're not going to stop Wally Szczerbiak from scoring," said Wildcats coach Tubby Smith. "He's too versatile, too multi-dimensional. We wanted to make sure the other guys don't beat you. If you see how we shut the others down, we were magnificent defensively."

Kentucky's bench accounted for 21 points, with Smith scoring seven, Camara six and Magloire five. The Wildcats shot 48 percent (20-of-42) from the field and held a commanding 37-18 edge on the boards.

Miami shot just 32 percent (14-of-44) from the field and outside of Szczerbiak, the rest of the team made only 6-of-28 attempts. The senior was 8-of-16 from the field and had only two rebounds and two assists.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP



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