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Key matchup: Mike Miller vs. Morris Peterson

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2000


INDIANAPOLIS -- Normally, Florida's Mike Miller and Michigan State's Morris Peterson create all sorts of matchup problems for their opponents. But that won't work in the national championship game.

They match up against each other.

Easily the teams' most versatile players -- swingmen who blur the line between guard and forward -- Miller and Peterson are similar in size, skill and impact. Without them, neither team would be here.

Miller made the now-famous, 5-foot floater that dropped through at the buzzer for a 69-68 overtime victory against Butler in the first round. Peterson rescued the Spartans after sluggish first-half performances against Syracuse, Iowa State and Wisconsin.

Miller is 6 feet 8, 218 pounds; Peterson 6-7, 215 pounds. Miller was the most valuable player in the East Region; Peterson most valuable in the Midwest. Both are multidimensional players able to shoot from three-point range, drive to the basket, handle the ball in the open court, rebound and pass. But they are coming off vastly difference performances in the semifinals.

Peterson led all scorers with 20 points, including a critical three-pointer midway through the second half of MSU's 53-41 victory against Wisconsin. The Spartans' leading scorer in the tournament at 16.8 points a game, his offense takes pressure off his teammates.

"When Morris gets hot, he makes our job easier, because that's when you just concentrate on defense," MSU senior guard Mateen Cleaves said. "It's like, don't shoot, just give him the ball and don't let your man score."

Miller was an icy 3-for-13 from the floor, 0-for-6 from three-point range, in the Gators' 71-59 victory against North Carolina, with four of his 10 points coming at the free-throw line. Florida's depth allows it to overcome an occasional scoring lapse from Miller, particularly when he contributes rebounds and assists.

But crunch time is Miller time.

"If it comes down to it, you definitely want the ball in Mike's hands, he can do so many things with it," UF center Udonis Haslem said. "He can get guys shots, penetrate, shoot a floater like he did in the Butler game, rebound. He does a lot of things for us."

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