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Sun Belt Notebook

December 13, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Sun Belt Notebook

by Andria Wenzel

Arkansas-Little Rock Comes Close

For the first time in the entire evening the University of Arkansas-Little Rock could not take advantage of No. 25 Minnesota’s mistakes. In overtime the Gophers missed four straight free throws, but the Trojans (4-3) could not stumble on the scoring opportunity they needed to send the game in to double overtime, and the Gophers (5-1) went on for the 86-84 win. The Trojans, who mounted a 15-3 run in the first half to take a 46-44 halftime lead, looked as though they could possibly upset the Gophers with a seven point lead and less than nine minutes remaining. But Minnesota proved why their in the Top 25 by showing poise in the final minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime. UALR’s biggest problem was that they had no answer for Rick Rickert, who finished his night with 25 points.

Guard Jibrhan Ike finished the night with 20 points for the Trojans, but the real story was Nick Zachery, who seemed to make key shots at every crucial moment of the game. Once again the sophomore with the soft touch was able to hit a number of three-pointers throughout the game. Zachery and Ike were the sparks behind the first half scoring run and Zachery hit the 3-pointer to tie the game at 74, sending it into overtime. No team yet has been able to stifle the sharp-shooting sophomore just yet. Guard Tony Travis finished with 14 for the Trojans and guard Mark Green had 12. The Trojans did pick up a win earlier in the week when they toppled Alcorn State, 68-58. Again Zachery, Ike, and Green delivered solid efforts, scoring 13, 12, and 10 respectively. Danny McCall and Jake Yancey also finished in double figures.

Mr. Smith goes to New Orleans

Make no mistake about it, Johnell Smith may be coming off the bench for the University of New Orleans, but the junior transfer has been making the most of every second he is on the basketball court. He was recently named the Sun Belt’s Player of the Week after leading UNO to a 77-69 win over Southern Louisiana, keeping his Privateers undefeated at 6-0.

Smith’s all-round performance in 25 minutes of action resulted in a career-high 22 points as well as five assists and three steals. But the Lions were able to finally find an answer for forward Hector Romero. The senior may have raised his season total of double-doubles to four, but the Lions were the first team to hold Romero under 20 points this season. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Center Nerijus Lisauskas helped out in the frontcourt with 13 points, while guard Kyle Buggs continues to silently but surely put up solid efforts night after night. He finished with 11.

Fontenet passes to Fontenet . . .

Thank goodness someone along the line invented numbers for jerseys, because otherwise there would be no way to tell which Fontenet twin was draining trey after trey in the New Mexico Aggies’ 78-65 win over the University of Texas-El Paso.

Jason and James Fontenet along with Brandon Mason lit up the Miners from behind the arc. New Mexico State (5-1) connected on remarkable 14-of-29 3-point shots and both Fontents as well as Mason were the catalysts.

Jason Fontenet knocked down three treys and finished with 17 points. Off the bench, James Fontenet was able to best his twin with 19 points and made five shots from downtown. But Mason topped them all, with a season-high 22 points and 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc.

Mean Green Trio

The trio of Chris Davis, Leonard Hopkins, and Jermaine Green was finally broken up when Jerome Rogers scored 16 points in a 65-56 victory over Winthrop to win the 2002 Brothers Heat and Air Shootout. With two wins and one loss, North Texas became a .500 ball club within the last week.

Green did his part against Winthrop with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Hopkins finished with nine. In the first game of the tournament against Weber State, the Mean Green was led by Hopkins, who scored a career-high 24 points in the 76-72 win. Green had 15 as did Davis, who will soon set UNT’s all-time scoring record. Hopkins and Green were both named to the all-tournament team.

North Texas couldn’t continue their previous success and were outmatched by TCU, 87-80. A 15-3 scoring run in the second half proved to be to big a whole for the Mean Green to pull themselves out of and the Frogs (4-2) went onto a 87-70 victory. This time it was Green leading the troops with 22 points, while Davis scored a season-high 19.

Above the Belt

Two Sun Belt teams got to go up against some of the best of what Division I basketball has to offer and both teams could not notch the perennial upsets. South Alabama (3-3) had the best opportunity when they roamed north to visit Rick Pitino, who is in his second year at the helm of the Louisville Cardinals.

Unfortunately it was not the time for the student to upset his teacher just yet. Jaguars coach John Pelphrey once played for Pitino at Kentucky, but the well-traveled Pitino was able to rally his Cardinals back from a 40-38 halftime deficit for the 90-79 win.

Chris Young was the reason why the Jaguars were in the game. He scored 22 points in the first half, nailing six 3-pointers. The Louisville defense came out in the second half with an answer for Young, as they held him scoreless until just seconds were left in the game and the score was already decided. Senior forward Henry Williams finished second on the team with 18 points and senior guard Demetrice Williams had 12.

Middle Tennessee State faired no better when they opened up the Purdue Tournament against the Boilermakers. The Blue Raiders never had a chance, as they were torched 85-56. They rebounded in the second game of the tournament against IUPUI, wining third place with their 64-60 victory. MTSU (2-5) was led by senior forward William Pippen, who has been starring for the Blue Raiders of late. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds while junior guard Tommy Gunn continued to impress with 14 points.

Sliding down the Hill . . .

Western Kentucky continues its slow descent off the radar screen, as they fell 83-72 to Murray State. The Hilltoppers (2-3) were predicted to have a big impact this season, but as of yet they have been unable to get wins in their last two contests.

Despite shooting 57 percent from the floor, the Hilltoppers were buried by Murray State on the boards, 34-26. Junior guard Mike Wells has been leading WKU all season and had 15 points in the loss. But Wells may have found the best complement to his game, as freshman guard Anthony Winchester exploited Murray State for 16 points.

Other Notes

After losing to Binghamton 74-69, Denver (3-3) held Western Illinois under 50 points in a 75-48 win. Junior forward Zelijko Zupic, thrust into the starting lineup just one game prior led the Pioneers with 21 points. Junior center Brett Starkey continues to improve game after game, and had 16 points and 12 rebounds. The backcourt was again controlled by senior B.J Pratt, who has been constantly relied upon to run the offense. He finished 14 points and six rebounds.

Arkansas State never even broke a sweat in their 120-55 win over NAIA Division III Lyon College. The Indians’ Tevoris Thompson set a new school record knocking down nine 3-pointers in the game. He finished the night with 41 points.

Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2) dropped their second straight, losing to Birmingham-Southern College 92-86. Florida International (4-3) also went winless, uncharacteristically dropping two-straight at the Pizza Hut Classic. The Golden Panthers fell 61-48 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 64-54 to Samford.


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