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Mid-Continent Notebook

December 8, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-Continent Notebook

by Matt Amis

Oral Roberts (6-0)

Oh, that crazy, unpredictable Mid-Con. With perennial power Valparaiso stumbling out of the gates, the Golden Eagles have taken full advantage and sprinted out to an unbeaten start.

In Itta Bena, Miss. Saturday night, Josh Atkinson nailed a career-high six 3-pointers, including two key threes in the closing minutes, helping ORU tie the best overall start in school history as the Golden Eagles took out Mississippi Valley State 85-75. ORU also got 19 points from Reggie Borges, 18 from reigning Mid-Con Player of the Week Tyrone Tiggs, and 11 from Luke Spencer-Gardner.

MVSU fans were left with a bad taste in their mouths, as the Delta Demons, playing their home opener, scored the first basket of the game but never led again. ORU held them to just 22.9 percent from the field in the first half, including a one-of-15 effort from long range, as the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 36-27 halftime lead.

The six consecutive W’s ties a 1990-91 school record in which the squad was in its second year of a two year stint at the NAIA level.

Most indicative of the Golden Eagles streak has been their ability to get to the line. ORU, which led the nation in free throw percentage (83.5 percent) heading into the game, hit 13-of-14 from the foul line in the first half and finished 33-of-40 (82.5 percent) for the game.

The Golden Eagles built a second-half lead to as many as 17 points thanks mainly to five straight points by Tiggs and back-to-back 3-pointers by Atkinson. Borges completed the 18-10 run to start the second half with his second three-point play, giving ORU a 54-37 lead with 14:36 to play.

Atkinson hit his biggest bucket of the night with 4:31 to play, giving ORU a 67-60 lead , and later answered with his personal-best sixth trey. The junior guard from Tulsa had set his original best of three three-pointers Wednesday in a 75-62 victory over SMU.

Oakland (3-2)

The Golden Grizzlies continued to establish themselves as a Mid-Con power (if there is such a thing) this week as they easily dispatched Adrian College Wednesday night before taking off on a two-week break. Amidst the 88-69 victory at the ‘O’rena, junior Mike Helms scored a game-high 34 points and in the process reached the 1,000-point plateau for his career, making him only the 21st player at Oakland to accomplish the feat.

Oakland also got a solid 27 points from their 6-7 point guard and Ball State transfer Rawle Marshall, who keyed a 12-3 Oakland run halfway through the second half to bury the visiting Bulldogs.

Kelly Williams, who finished with eight points, made a lay-up at 15:10 to begin a 10-3 run for the Golden Grizzlies and was capped by Marshall’s two-pointer to give Oakland a 27-point lead. Adrian battled back to cut the lead to 14 with just over four minutes to play, but Oakland was able to hold off the Bulldogs the rest of the way.

It was Helms, however, who stole the spotlights this week. His performance was his second consecutive 30-plus game, while he added a team-high six assists on his milestone night and his efforts catapulted him to second among Mid-Con scoring leaders at 28.4 ppg.

Oakland finished the game shooting 58 percent from the floor, while its defense came up with 12 steals and held Adrian to 38 percent shooting.

Southern Utah (2-3)

Don’t ask the Thunderbirds about buzzer-beaters. The staple of basketball highlight reels wasn’t kind to SUU Saturday as Jay Collins’ 3-point attempt rimmed out at the horn, providing Boise State with 73-71 in Cedar City for the Broncos first road game of the year.

The 6-4 junior guard Collins led Southern Utah with 15 points and seven assists as the Thunderbirds snapped a two-game win streak on their home floor, the 5,300-seat Centrum, a building in which they have won 87.8 percent of their games.

David Palmer (14), Donnie Jackson (12) and Al Williams (10) joined Collins in double-figure scoring for SUU, which was looking to become the latest team to climb over Valparaiso in the Mid-Con standings

Collins’ brick proved to be an especially painful missed opportunity, because it came after Boise State’s C.J. Williams missed the second of two free throws with 4.4 second to play. Williams had hit three straight free throws in the final 23 seconds of the game.

Valparaiso (2-3)

One of America’s favorite yearly Cinderellas continued its slide under new head coach Scott Drew, who stepped into the shoes of his renowned father Homer in April. After a 76-50 drubbing at the hands of traditional powerhouse Cincinnati, the Crusaders dropped their second straight contest 80-62 to host Loyola.

Three Crusaders scored in double-figures, led by Raitis Grafs, who chipped in 14 points, but Loyola raced out to a 6-0 lead to start the game and never looked back. After a 16-5 Valpo run that reduced the deficit to 63-52 with 8:29 left, Loyola promptly responded with five straight points by Demetrius Williams to send the Crusaders packing.

The pre-season first team All-Conference selection Grafs also added nine rebounds in the loss.

Suffice to say, the Crusader’s Achilles-heel was scoring. Valpo finished shooting 39 percent overall, including a horrific 3-26 from 3-point range.

Don’t look now. Things won’t get any easier for last year’s Mid-Con champs, as they will conclude a three-game road stretch on Wednesday at the Horizon League’s early surprise team, Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Indiana Purdue (3-6)

Without so much as a consolation prize, the Jaguars walked away empty-handed from the Boilermaker Invitational this weekend. In what proved to be a sign of things to come for the Jags, both Josh Murray and freshman Brandon Cole sustained injuries at practice the night before the first game.

Forced to play musical chairs with his lineup, head coach Ron Hunter’s squad got off to a slow start and never recovered on their way to a 81-74 loss to San Diego. With only seven healthy players dressed, senior Josh Mullins registered 15 points and a team-high five rebounds.

In the Saturday afternoon consolation game with Middle Tennessee State, Indiana Purdue fell once again, 64-60. Despite Mullins’ 18 points and eight rebounds, the Jags found themselves on the short end of identical 32-30 scores in each half.

Indiana Purdue now gets 11 days to heal before a Dec. 18 game with Cleveland State.

Western Illinois (1-5)

As far as weekends go, they don’t get much worse than the one the Leathernecks had. After a 59-44 loss Friday night to Iowa State, Western Illinois dropped its fifth straight on Saturday– a 75-48 debacle to Denver in the midst of a season-opening seven-game road trip.

In the consolation game of the Iowa State Cyclone Challenge, the Leathernecks were outscored 51-21 in the first half and never got closer than 21. Denver outshot Western Illinois 46 percent (29-63) to 37 percent (20-54), and outrebounded the Leathernecks, 39-33.

Shawn Mason led the Leathernecks with 13 points while Luis Rivas scored 12 off the bench and snagged a team-high six rebounds.

Chicago State (0-3)

The Cougars made waste of team leader Rubeen Perry’s 18 points and nine boards, as Chicago State remained winless on the season, dropping a 69-58 decision to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Tuesday.

On a bright note, Chicago State’s loss pushed the team’s losing streak to 22 games dating back to last season, the longest current skid in the country. The Cougars have also dropped 19 straight road games.

In front of 3,197 UW-Green Bay faithful, Chicago State stayed out of arms-length in what was an ugly battle with the Horizon basement-dwellers.

Missouri-Kansas City (0-4)

What else can Michael Watson do? The pre-season Mid-Con Player of the Year led the last-place Kangaroos with 36 points but couldn’t stop UMKC from losing its fourth in a row Saturday, 62-59 to Colorado.

The Kangaroos got to within a bucket on a 3-pointer by Watson with 25 seconds left but Colorado’s Blair Wilson hit two free throws five seconds later to put the game on ice.

Watson, who hit a season-high eight 3-pointers, was the only UMKC player to reach double digit points and is now the Mid-Con’s leading scorer with 31.0 ppg.

More from the Michael Watson department: He now has 1,227 career points and his 18.4 career scoring average ranks second on the school’s all-time list. He also tied for 10th on the school’s career steals chart (93) with David Robinson.

     

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