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Conference USA Notebook

December 10, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Not quite yet for Conference USA

Three Conference USA teams had the chance to knock off a Top 25 team last week. None of the three were able to pull off the upset.

The most far-fetched upset attempt came Tuesday when the Saint Louis Billikens traveled to the southwest and faced the nation’s best, No. 1 Arizona. The Billikens could not muster enough early Christmas magic to shock the Wildcats as they trailed by seventeen at the break, eventually losing 91-58. Saint Louis hung around for much of the first half until the superior athletes of Arizona took control. A 21-6 run during a six-minute stretch turned a four-point Wildcat lead into a nineteen-point advantage with three minutes remaining in the first half. The Billikens never responded and the Wildcats cruised to the win. Saint Louis struggled to sustain an offense, shooting 36 percent from the field. The lone bright spot for SLU came from senior forward Kenny Brown, who tallied his first double-double of the season with ten points and ten boards.

An intra-state and an intra-city match-up marked the other two defeats against ranked teams last week. Saturday, Cincinnati took the court (dedicated Ed Jucker Court, in honor of the late coach, before the game) to face rival no. 16 Xavier. Both teams struggled offensively and the Musketeers escaped with a 50-44 win. The Bearcats could not contain preseason All-American David West, who scored a game-high 23 points. During the week Cincinnati forward Jason Maxiell questioned West’s toughness. The trash talk backfired, as West made big shot after big shot. For the Bearcats, the offensive woes continue, as they still look for an offensive leader to emerge.

South Florida, who has surprisingly recovered from the loss of two premier scoring threats, tasted defeat for the first time this season Sunday when they fell to no. 7 Florida 68-52. The loss dropped the Bulls’ record to 4-1. South Florida fell behind 40-25 at the half, but made one final run at the favored Gators. The Bulls closed to within seven early on in the second half, but Florida retaliated with a 10-4 run, and USF never threatened again. Despite the loss, the Bulls are one of the early surprises in the conference. Leading USF so far is senior point guard Reggie Kohn. Kohn, the conference’s assist leader a year ago, is averaging ten points and nearly seven assists per game.

Huggins is White with enthusiasm

Despite the loss to Xavier Saturday, the weekend was far from a washout for Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins. Friday the team received word Florida transfer James White will join the Bearcats starting in December 2003.

White left the Gator program during the preseason this year. Touted as one of the top players of the 2001 recruiting class, White struggled last season for Billy Donovan’s Gators. White is an explosive player, known throughout the country for his out-of-the-gym leaping ability. He will fit perfectly into the Bearcats lineup next season, since Cincinnati will lose the services of senior swingman Leonard Stokes.

White plans to enroll in classes for the start of the winter quarter at Cincinnati. The 6-6 forward averaged six points per game as a freshman. He chose the Bearcats over Missouri.

Battle of the brothers

Tuesday’s East Carolina versus Radford game involved more than a contest between two teams. The game also pitted brother against brother. Senior Pirate point guard Travis Holcomb-Faye and freshman point guard Whit Holcomb-Faye faced off, reminiscent of the days they played each other in the backyard. The elder Holcomb-Faye’s team got the better of his younger brother’s team, as ECU whipped up on Radford, winning 89-42. Travis played his usual role of quiet-leader to a ‘T’, scoring eight points and dishing out a game-high seven assists. While Whit topped his older brother in the point’s category, finishing with thirteen, the older brother got the last laugh.

Travis Holcomb-Faye’s play is one of the reasons for their hot start. After a win against Old Dominion Saturday, their record now stands at a perfect 5-0.

Trouble in the bayou

After several seasons in the decline, this year was being touted as the return to glory for the Tulane Green Wave. So far though, it is starting to appear as the same old-story in the land of jazz and Cajun cooking. Picked to finish second in the National Division of the conference, Tulane has struggled out of the gate, owners of a 3-4 record. Last week, the Green Wave lost the battle of the Big Easy, losing to New Orleans 80-67. They followed up Thursday’s defeat with a 20-point loss at the hands of Vanderbilt, 66-46.

Inconsistency, along with their defense, is troubling Tulane during the early going. Pretty soon, the Big Easy will be in reference to the Green Waves’ defense and not just the city in which they play. However, they can make a huge statement this week as they face no. 19 Kentucky Tuesday night.

Player of the week – Erroyl Bing, East Carolina

The junior forward played two exceptional all-around games last week, leading the Pirates to a 5-0 start. Bing averaged eleven points, twelve rebounds and four and a half assists as ECU defeated Radford 89-42 and Old Dominion 75-67.

Games to watch

Kentucky at Tulane, Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The Wildcats are hot after going into the Dean Dome and whipping the Tar Heels 98-81. A win for the Green Wave would jumpstart their season.

Memphis at Missouri, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

So far Missouri is as good as advertised, starting the season 4-0. Memphis will find out where they really stand after several cream puff games.

Wisconsin at Marquette, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The battle for the land of cheese features two outstanding teams. How the Badgers can handle Dwayne Wade will be the difference in this one.


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