March 12, 1999
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Wally Szczerbiak won't go to the second round of the NCAA tournament alone. But he almost single-handedly got Miami of Ohio there.
After scoring a career-high 43 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, Szczerbiak blocked Washington's last-second shot as Miami beat the Huskies 59-58 Friday to advance in the Midwest Regional.
"I was really nervous. But when he blocked the shot and there was no foul, and when I saw the ball was in Wally's hands, I knew we had it," said Damon Frierson, one of only two other Miami players to score.
Szczerbiak missed the last of his 33 shots, giving Washington (17-12) a chance to set up a potential game-winning shot.
The Huskies called timeout with 23.2 seconds left to set up a play. Washington couldn't get the ball to Donald Watts, who finished with 28 points, and Greg Clark's shot was blocked by Szczerbiak.
"I was just trying to get ready to help ... I didn't want to foul," Szczerbiak said of the final sequence. "I just reached up and got a piece of the ball. When I got the ball, I thought we still had some time, but when I looked up the clock had all zeroes."
Tenth-seeded Miami (23-7), a Mid-American Conference team that got an at-large berth to the tourney, plays second-seeded Utah on Sunday.
Watts scored nine points during a spurt that gave Washington its largest lead of the game.
The son of former NBA player Slick Watts converted a four-point play, making the free throw after a 3-pointer. He also had a 12-footer before a leaner in the lane and free throw with 13:21 left put the Huskies ahead 43-37.
But Szczerbiak responded with an 18-foot baseline shot and a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the next 90 seconds to get the Red Hawks back within a point.
"We didn't keep Szczerbiak out of his comfort zone. He's an open shot shooter and we didn't keep him from shooting open shots," Watts said.
Miami went ahead to stay when Szczerbiak hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 9:24 left to make it 49-47. But the margin was never greater than five the rest of the game.
"I know Wally wanted to play well. He was fired up, didn't say much and the other guys got him open," said Miami coach Charlie Coles.
Szczerbiak, a second-team AP All-American, took 33 of Miami's 55 shots, and made 18 of them. He sank all five 3-pointers for the Red Hawks.
"That's quite a bit (33 shots), but I think just about every shot was a good shot," Szczerbiak said. "That's a credit to all of the guys getting me open."
Todd MacCulloch, Washington's 7-footer, had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies, who advanced to the NCAA round of 16 last year before losing to Connecticut on Richard Hamilton's buzzer-beating putback.
Obviously tired from playing the entire game, except for a 33-second break between timeouts, Szczerbiak still was able to produce when needed.
Miami was trying to protect the lead by running time off the shot clock. As the 35 seconds ticked down, Frierson started to make a move inside, but he heard Szczerbiak calling for the ball from behind. Szczerbiak hit the 3-pointer for a 57-52 lead.
With 1:11 left, the 6-foot-8 Szczerbiak found a hole and drove the lane for a layup for Miami's last points.
Frierson, who has combined with Szczerbiak to form the top scoring duo in Miami history, added 12 points. Combined, the two have scored 3,428 career points. John Estick had Miami's remaining four points.
Szczerbiak had 21 points by halftime, when Miami led 29-26.
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer