For RedHawks, It's Wally's World
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 13, 1999; Page D7
NEW ORLEANS, March 12 Miami of Ohio's Wally Szczerbiak began capturing widespread attention last summer when his leadership of the 1998 U.S. Goodwill Games men's basketball team resulted in a gold medal and numerous preseason all-America honors and national player of the year nominations.
But because he was hidden away in the Mid-American Conference, which largely is ignored by national television cameras, few people actually had seen him play until this afternoon, when he put on one of the more amazing individual performances in NCAA tournament history.
The 6-foot-8, 243-pound senior forward scored a career-high 43 points, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and saved the game at the end with one of his game-high three blocks as the RedHawks defeated Washington, 59-58, in a Midwest Region first-round game at the Louisiana Superdome.
It was the third time in this NCAA tournament that a No. 10 seed has knocked off a No. 7, and it propelled Miami (23-7) into second-round game Sunday against second-seeded Utah, which defeated No. 15 Arkansas State, 80-58. Washington (17-12) ended its season by losing five of its last seven games.
A second-team all-American, Szczerbiak made 18 of 33 shots, including 5 of 12 from three-point range. It wasn't among the top 20 scoring totals in tournament history, but few of the players on that list tallied as great a percentage of their team's points as Szczerbiak did. Guard Damon Frierson (12 points) and forward John Estick (4 points) were the only other players to score for Miami, meaning Szczerbiak accounted for nearly 75 percent of its total.
"That's quite a bit," Szczerbiak said of his 33 shots, "but I think just about every shot was a good shot. That's a credit to all of the guys getting me open."
Szczerbiak missed his last shot, a 12-footer from the lane with about 27 seconds left. But he made up for it on the other end.
After a Washington timeout with 23.2 seconds left, Miami's Anthony Taylor knocked the ball away from Donald Watts (28 points). Washington guard Senque Carey picked up the ball, but his shot was blocked by Szczerbiak, who hauled it in and dribbled out past midcourt as the game ended.
"I didn't want to foul, but he put the ball right there so I stuck my hand out and got a piece of it and got the loose ball and celebrated," said Szczerbiak, who played all but 49 seconds of the game.
"We had the play we wanted to run when I came off the screen," Watts said. "I got the ball and it was knocked out of my hands and then I felt fortunate that it went into one of my teammates' hands. Then it was knocked out of his hands, and the game was over."
And with it the season for Washington, the Pacific-10 Conference's fourth-place team.
Today, there had been five ties and four lead changes when Washington went ahead 38-35 on a four-point play by Watts with 15:24 left. The advantage got to 43-37 before Miami regained the lead on what else Szczerbiak's three-pointer from the right corner that made it 49-47.
Miami twice went up by five points, the last time at 57-52 on another three-pointer by Szczerbiak.
UTAH 80, ARKANSAS ST. 58:
Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State (18-12) bolted to a 13-4 lead after back-to-back three-pointers from Antonio Harvey and 5-foot-6 Chico Fletcher.
But the Utes charged back and went ahead by as many as 10 before taking a 36-30 halftime lead. Arkansas State closed to 41-39, watched Utah go on a 7-0 run, but then pulled to 48-42 with 12:22 left. Any momentum Arkansas State had, however, was lost on Utah's next possession.
Mottola, 6-10, was stuffed inside by Arkansas State's 6-7 Freddy Hicks. But the ball went out to Utah's Tony Harvey, who canned a three-pointer. It ignited a 15-0 run that included eight points by Mottola, and the Utes never looked back.
KENTUCKY 82, NEW MEXICO ST. 60:
Heshimu Evans scored nine of his 15 in the run to give Kentucky a 70-44 lead before Billy Keys hit a jumper from the right side with 5:59 left. Wayne Turner scored 14 for Kentucky, which hit 30 of 49 shots (61.2 percent), including 8 of 14 on three-pointers.
KANSAS 95, EVANSVILLE 74:
But he was the main bright spot for the 11th-seeded Missouri Valley champions, who eventually proved no match for the bigger and stronger sixth-seeded Jayhawks (22-9), who had a 45-15 rebounding advantage, and made 33 of 43 shots from the lane.
Kansas took the lead for good with 4:23 left in the first half when Eric Chenowith's three-point play made it 36-33. The Purple Aces trailed 47-45 early in the second half, but Kansas responded with a 7-0 burst that continued into a 10-2 run.
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