E. Michigan Climbs Into The NCAAs

Earl Boykins scored 29 points and had seven assists to lead Eastern Michigan to a 92-77 victory over Miami of Ohio Wednesday night in the Mid-American Conference championship to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The skinny, 5-foot-5 guard set a three-game tournament scoring record with 89 points, breaking the mark of 86 set by Miami's Ron Harper in 1985. Boykins was a unanimous selection as the tournament MVP.

The fourth-seeded Eagles (20-9), winners of four in a row and 11 of their last 13, got revenge for losing in last year's MAC title game to the RedHawks. They were appearing in a record fourth straight conference final.

Derrick Dial added 22 points, James Head 13, Jon Zajac 12 and Nkechi Ezugwu 10 for Eastern, which hit 34-of-67 shots from the field (51 percent).

Boykins added seven assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Wally Szczerbiak had 26 points and 12 rebounds for seventh-seeded Miami (17-12), while Damon Frierson had 18 points, John Estick 14 and Refiloe Lethunya had 10.

It was the third game without coach Charlie Coles for the RedHawks. In Saturday's quarterfinal upset at second-seeded Western Michigan, Coles suffered a first-half heart attack. He remains hospitalized.

Boykins scored 35 points and sealed a 93-92 victory over Ball State in Tuesday's semifinal by stripping Ball State's Lamont Roland as he dribbled in for a possible go-ahead basket with 10 seconds left in overtime.

The littlest player on the court saved some magic for the championship game.

Boykins dazzled near the end of the first half, scoring all of Eastern's points in a 10-4 run that expanded the Eagles' lead from 32-28 to 42-32.

After hitting two free throws, he made three straight 15-foot jumpers then scored on a layup off a fast break assist from Corey Tarrant.

He put a capper on the surge by beating a defender, encountering a wall of defenders and bouncing a pass to a wide open Ezugwu for a dunk at the 1:17 mark that made it 44-34.

Ahead 46-36 at the break, Eastern maintained a lead of at least eight points until Boykins led them on another run.

Boykins rolled off a high pick and hit a 3-pointer at the 10:38 mark to put the Eagles ahead 68-54. After a missed Miami free throw, he drove directly at 6-foot-10 Rich Allendorf and looped in a 10-footer for a 70-54 lead.

When Dial came off another pick at the arc to hit a 3-pointer and the accompanying foul shot at the 7:28 mark, Eastern was on top 76-56.

The lead never fell below 12 again.

Dial had been the story early on, hitting his first four shots -- all on 3-pointers -- as the Eagles zipped to a 15-5 lead. Miami, running with the smaller and deeper Eagles, got as close as 30-28 on Szczerbiak's 18-footer with 6:38 left in the half.

Miami became the fifth No. 7 seed to make it to the fials; all have lost. The RedHawks came into the game on a five-game winning streak.

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