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Moutain West Notebook

December 10, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Mountain West Notebook

by Bob Thurman

A Compelling Week

The Mountain West endured its toughest week of the season so far, and came out of it okay. The league’s top two teams, UNLV and BYU, both had a pair of challenging road games this week. UNLV first had to travel to in-state rival Nevada, which is becoming no easy chore. The Rebels were pushed to the brink, before Marcus Banks sealed the game on a short jumper with less than a second to play, making the final score, 82-80. On Saturday, UNLV had to travel to Madison to play an angry Wisconsin team, who lost earlier in the week to Wake Forest. The Badgers played inspired and beat the Rebels, 91-74. BYU had similar results. Earlier in the week, Travis Hansen led BYU to a 64 – 60 win over Arizona State. Then on Saturday, BYU faced one of the best mid-major teams in the country … Creighton. The Bluejays’ pressure defense forced BYU into a season-high 23 turnovers and gave the Cougars their first loss of the season, 74-64. Thus, there are no undefeated teams remaining in the MWC.

Elsewhere, Wyoming continued to struggle as they lost at Washington, 79-70. The Cowboys, who played without starting center Uche Nsonwu-Amadi, got little contribution from his replacements and turned the ball over 25 times. It was Washington’s first victory of the season. Meanwhile, Utah is starting to bounce back after a rough start to the season. The Utes polished off Winthrop, 72-42, then easily beat Arizona State, 78-55. The Utes were paced by newcomer Tim Frost, whose 18 points and 7 rebounds helped the Utes get payback for their earlier loss this season against the Sun Devils in Maui.

San Diego State in the Spotlight

San Diego State had the honor of playing the biggest game of the week by hosting the top team in the country, Arizona. Before the game, the Aztecs got some great news when star recruit Evan Burns was finally declared eligible by the NCAA. Burns showed some ability in his 17 minutes of play, scoring seven points, grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists. The rest of the team played well too, but Lute Olson kept bringing talent off the bench and the Wildcats won, 89-81. It was Arizona’s first road game of the season and easily their toughest test. This should give a boost of confidence to a young Aztec team that has struggled so far this season. With the addition of Burns, look for them to start turning around their season.

Big Time Hoops in Portland

As you may know, Saturday was a big day in college hoops with numerous big games all across the country. I was fortunate to witness one of those games in Portland, Oregon. The Rose Garden was packed for the game between local favorite Oregon and powerhouse Kansas. The first half was one of the better halves I have seen this season, with each team showcasing its strengths. Oregon was led by its exciting duo of Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson. The Jayhawks had no answer for them, but scrapped away and closed the margin to four points at half, 47-43.

The second half was dominated by whistle happy referees, who took the game away from the players, especially Kansas who was forced to go to their bench often due to frontcourt foul trouble. But the Jayhawks kept answering every Oregon run and got within a point with three minutes to play. However, Luke Ridnour hit some key baskets down the stretch, including a long three-pointer coming off a screen to clinch the win, 84 – 78. In front of a national audience, the Ducks proved they are one of the top ten teams in the country and should give Arizona quite a challenge in the Pac-Ten. Despite the loss, Kansas should feel good about their performance considering All-American Nick Collison had an awful game and the Jayhawks’ bench came in and provided some quality minutes, which was one of their biggest concerns coming into this season.

This Week’s MWC Heat-Miser Award

Marcus Banks, UNLV
35 points, 12-19 FG, 5 assists, 5 steals versus Nevada

My preseason player of the year showed why I chose him by completing taking over this game and carrying the Rebels to a victory in a game they should have lost. Both offensively and defensively, he dominated down the stretch, which fittingly ended on his game-winning shot with less than a second to play.

This Week’s MWC Snow-Miser Award

Demetrius Hunter, UNLV
3 points, 1-6 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 5 fouls versus Wisconsin

Banks’ running mate failed to produce in the Rebel’s biggest game of the season. Not only was the transfer from Georgetown inept on offense, he could not keep up with the Badger’s starting backcourt, who outscored the Rebel’s starting backcourt, 35-10.


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