Friday , Mar , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Ducks and RedHawks clash in first round of NCAA Tournament

Spokane, WA (Sports Network) – Tied for the fewest wins among the programs
invited to take part in the 69th annual NCAA Tournament, the RedHawks of Miami-
Ohio have something to prove as they hit the floor at Spoke Memorial Arena
versus local favorite Oregon in the first round of the tournament.

Seeded 14th in the Midwest Region, the RedHawks are entering their 17th NCAA
Tournament even though they were mediocre at best during the 2006-07 regular
season. However, Miami is a perfect example of a team getting hot at the right
time as it lost the last two regular-season outings versus Ohio University and
Bowling Green on the road and then ran the table in the Mid-American Conference
Tournament. First there was a 19-point rout of Ohio, followed by a 58-53
victory over top seed Toledo, capped with a thrilling 53-52 triumph against
second-seeded Akron in the title game. The RedHawks, who are just 6-18 all-time
in this tournament and haven’t been here since 1999, made it to the Midwest
Regional Semifinal that year as a 10th seed, before bowing to third-seeded
Kentucky in a 58-43 setback.

As for the Ducks, who are also ranked 10th in the AP poll this week, they are
making their ninth appearance in the tournament and have a 9-7 record to show
for their previous efforts. The squad hit a rough patch in February, losing
five of six games, but then got hot when it counted, similar to Miami. Oregon
closed the regular season on a three-game win streak and then crushed Arizona,
California and USC during the league tournament. Each of the tourney wins came
by at least 18 points, which is one of the reasons why the Ducks are the third
seed in the region.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood,
Oregon won the only previous meeting between the squads with a 74-38 rout
during the Cleveland Classic held back in 1938-39. Coincidentally, that was
also the same season in which the Ducks closed out the campaign with a 46-33
win over Ohio State in the very first NCAA Tournament title game held in

The winner of this contest will be back in action on Sunday to challenge the
winner of the Winthrop/Notre Dame affair in the second round.

The RedHawks made an improbable run to the MAC Tournament title last week, the
first for the team since 1997. Tim Pollitz, an All-MAC First Team member who
was also named the MAC Tournament MVP, led Miami in scoring in 17 games this
season, scoring at least 20 points nine times. Pollitz averaged 15.9 ppg,
shooting 56.9 percent from the field, but just 65.1 percent at the free-throw
line. Nathan Peavy added another 14.2 ppg and was the top man on the glass for
the RedHawks with his 6.3 rpg. Peavy shot an impressive 53.1 percent from the
floor and also matched Michael Bramos (11.0 ppg) for the team high with 38
blocked shots, but his mere 30 assists in 32 starts was less than perfect for
someone who handled the ball as much as he did. After those three double-digit
scorers, the production dropped off severely for the RedHawks, which is how the
squad arrived at a mere 59.6 ppg this season. Not only was that last in the
MAC, it also ranked 311th out of 325 Division I programs. However, the squad
made that number stand up more often than not, thanks to a scoring defense that
allowed just 57.4 ppg, which was first in the conference and 10th in the
country heading into the postseason.

Making a name for himself during the Pac-10 Tournament, specifically in the
title game versus USC, Bryce Taylor set tournament records with a perfect 11-
of-11 effort from the field and 7-of-7 shooting behind the three-point line as
he established a career-high 32 points. During his run over the Trojans, Taylor
crossed the 1,000-point plateau for his career, marking the first time in
school history that the Ducks had three 1,000-point scorers at the same time,
joining Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston. Taylor, a starter in all 33 games,
finished second on the team in scoring with his 14.8 ppg, as he shot 52.2
percent from the field and 42 percent behind the three-point line. Brooks
topped the scoring list with his 17.6 ppg and was also first with 135 assists,
while Tajuan Porter (14.4 ppg), Hairston (11.1 ppg) and Maarty Leunen (10.8
ppg) all maintained a double-digit scoring average for the Ducks through the
conference tournament. Shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range, Oregon was
not afraid to let loose from the perimeter, which is how the squad placed
eighth in the country with 9.5 three-point baskets per game. But when those
shots were not falling, it was up to Leunen to work on the inside and lead the
unit with eight and a half rebounds per game.