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Conferene USA Notebook

November 27, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference-USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Depleted Tigers shocked by Austin Peay

When Memphis head coach John Calipari called upon a window washer to play, Tiger fans knew trouble lurked. Injuries and suspensions left Calipari with only seven regular players to dress and the lack of talent spelled disaster.

Memphis lost at home to Austin Peay 81-80, evening their record at 1-1. The bigger stories centered on who did not play and who dressed instead as opposed to the outcome of the game.
After a spectacular debut versus Syracuse, freshman Jeremy Hunt discovered that he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot that requires surgery. Hunt will be sidelined four to six weeks, which is a huge blow to the Tigers. Hunt scored nineteen points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists during his first-ever college game against the Orangeman.

Nathaniel Root replaced Hunt in the starting lineup versus the Governors. Also missing from the backcourt during the Austin Peay loss was junior guard Antonio Burks.

Burks received a three-game suspension due to his involvement with a rental car purchase despite the age requirement to rent a car exceeding his own age. Burks must sit out one more game before he is eligible to return to action.

So with a depleted team, Calipari filled the lineup with everyone except his own mother. In addition to the former team manager who was washing windows when Calipari called, he suited up a redshirt quarterback from the football team and a worker in the basketball office. Not exactly the bench stars the Memphis faithful expected.

With the lack of backcourt firepower, Memphis could never put away the Governors.
Guard Corey Gipson led Austin Peay with nineteen points, including a strong five-for-ten performance from beyond the arc.

The bright spot for Calipari’s bunch was senior big man Earl Barron. Barron finished with a double-double, pouring in 26 points to complement his ten rebounds.

The loss wiped out the momentum Memphis had after starting the season with a 70-63 win on national television more than a week ago.

However, the biggest blow is the loss of Hunt. Hunt showed no signs of freshman nervousness during his first game in a Tiger uniform. Calipari can now only hope the month and a half off will not put Hunt too far behind or out of basketball conditioning.

Burks’ suspension is another story entirely. Memphis is slowly gaining a poor reputation throughout the conference and this latest incident by no means helped to improve it.

While the suspension does not hurt as much as Hunt’s injury, in the long run it could be as detrimental to the program. In the meantime, Memphis awaits Burks’ return after the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game Monday evening.

Bearcats forget how to shoot

Sometimes teams win playing ugly. Saturday Cincinnati won playing uglier than Roseanne Barr during a hangover.

The Bearcats shot a horrid 27.9 percent from the field, yet managed to defeat Tennessee Tech, 54-48, to open their season at home.

At halftime the Bearcats apparently were bored and wanted a challenge. So after scoring 30 seconds into the second half, they failed to score a single point over the next 9:37, falling behind 35-29.

Thankfully for Cincinnati, Leonard Stokes made some of his shots. Stokes finished with 21 points, including seventeen in the second half. The Bearcats’ other two main scoring threats, Jason Maxiell and Field Williams, shot a combined four-for-31 from the field.

A key three-pointer from Taron Barker late sealed the win for Cincinnati, the 37th straight home-opening victory for the program.

The last time the Bearcats shot below 30 percent occurred back in January of 1994. Cincinnati next plays Tuesday night versus Florida A & M.

Wade and Marquette on fire

Though it’s early and their competition has been sub-par at best, Dwayne Wade and the Golden Eagles are showing their Top 20 ranking is no fluke. Wade torched Texas San Antonio for 32 points and thirteen rebounds as Marquette improved to 3-0 after an 80-68 victory Saturday night. Wade is averaging 24.3 points per game through the team’s first three games, scoring from both inside and out.

While early C-USA contenders Memphis and Cincinnati looked poor during the weekend and Louisville so far only faced lowly Air Force, Marquette is looking even stronger than last year’s squad. The Golden Eagles opened the season by joining Memphis with a win against a Big East opponent, defeating Villanova 73-61 before a nationwide audience.

Wade again takes his show on the road to another Big East opponent in the near future. After taking on Eastern Illinois Tuesday, the Golden Eagles travel to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame next Monday. With a road victory versus a tough Irish squad, expect to see Marquette climbing the polls.

Finley sparks Blazers’ 2-0 start

A preseason last-place prediction is not deterring UAB from starting the season off on the right foot and junior Morris Finley in particular. Finley netted nineteen and 23 points respectively during the Blazers’ back-to-back wins to start the season. UAB won 71-53 against Birmingham Southern Friday and 92-81 versus Chattanooga Sunday.

Finley shot eight-of-fourteen from the field during Sunday’s win, including three-for-seven from downtown. Showing his game is about more than filling up the hole, he led the team with eight assists. After breaking a vertebra in his back, ending his 2000-2001 season before it started, Finley appears to finally be back at 100 percent. Through the first two games Finley also showed his deadly outside shot, knocking down six-of-eleven from the beyond the arc.

Now it’s time for Finley and the Blazers to find out how good they really are. Wednesday UAB travels to Sin City to face the Runnin’ Rebels. A win in the desert would surely turn some heads within C-USA and probably Birmingham as well.


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