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Conference USA Notebook

December 17, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Dropping Dimes

With the 2002-2003 season being labeled as the “Year of the point guard”, there should be no surprise Conference USA is following suit during the early going of the year. Several floor leaders are dropping dimes to teammates left and right, helping to push their respect teams to fast starts this December.

Leading the charge in C-USA is last year’s conference leader in assists, South Florida point guard Reggie Kohn. After averaging 6.9 dimes a year ago, Kohn is running a team that lost its two main scoring threats from last year. No matter to Kohn, whose passes continue to find his fellow Bulls in prime position for a basket. Through USF’s first six games, Kohn has recorded 38 assists and once again leads the conference with a 6.3 per game average. With the losses of Altron Jackson and B.B. Walton, Kohn is also contributing more with his own scoring, averaging just less than nine points per game. There is no better evidence of Kohn’s importance to the Bulls’ success then the team’s 4-2 start. During their four wins, Kohn averaged seven and a half assists and 12.3 points. During their two losses, Kohn averaged four assists and two points.

One of the early season individual surprises is coming out of the Cincinnati backcourt. Point guard Taron Barker is responding to the opening left by Steve Logan. After transferring to UC last year, Barker saw limited action behind the backcourt of Logan and Immanuel McElroy. The reins were turned over to Barker this year, and so far he is responding. During the Bearcats’ 4-2 start Barker is averaging 6.2 assists per game, and is starting to look comfortable as the team’s leader on the court. He set a career-high with eleven assists against Valparaiso two weeks ago and dished out seven during the team’s last win versus LaSalle. Like Kohn, Barker is taking on a larger scoring role as well. This was never more evident than against LaSalle, as he scored seventeen points, including four three-pointers.

Another guard Conference USA teams are accustom to watching pass all over them is TCU point guard Corey Santee. While it seems Santee has been playing forever, he is just starting his sophomore campaign. Yet Santee is already a seasoned veteran for the Horned Frogs, and their leader as well. After finishing second in the conference in assists a year ago, averaging 5.8 per game, Santee is dropping dimes at a 6.1 clip during the early going this year. With Junior Blount joining him in the backcourt, the two make for a lethal one-two combo. And just like the other C-USA point guards, Santee is adding scoring to his game this year. He is averaging more than seventeen points a game, including three games with 20 or more.

Lone star battles

Texas saw its fair share of heated action last week, and none had to do with made-for-TV movies involving Bear Bryant and the Junction Boys. Houston and TCU played intra-state games last week, with the Horned Frogs splattering the competition and the Cougars wondering what ever happened to Phi Slamma Jamma.

Last Tuesday TCU traveled to North Texas and defeated the Mean Green, 87-80. Both teams exploded during the second half, each scoring more than 50 points. The Horned Frogs’ Blount led the way, scoring 24 points. Santee added 22 and six assists and Bingo Merriex contributed 20, as TCU’s three-headed monster proved too much for North Texas to handle.

Houston did not fare as well as their C-USA counterpart, falling to Southwest Texas State, 68-59. Sloppy play by the Cougars killed any chance of the road win, as they committed eighteen turnovers, while handing out just four assists. The lone bright spot for Houston was Louis Truscott, who grabbed thirteen rebounds and netted fifteen points. Truscott is second in the conference in rebounds, averaging eleven and a half per contest.

Richmond’s hot debut

Despite Missouri’s 93-78 waxing of Memphis Saturday night, (Memphis) Tiger fans had a reason to be excited. Actually, 22 reasons to be excited. That was the scoring line for sophomore Billy Richmond, who made his Tiger debut in stellar fashion. After transferring from Vanderbilt, Richmond had to sit out until December 12 before he could don the Memphis blue and white. While Missouri’s comfortable win margin allowed for Richmond to see significant minutes, his performance showcased his immediate impact for John Calipari’s club. Richmond shot nine-of-nineteen from the field during the game. His 22 points already established a new career-high, clipping his old mark by one.

Successful Week for the Billikens

Saint Louis could not have asked for a better week. Not only did the team win its first important game of the season, but one of their players hopefully made his last first step at returning to the court. The Billikens defeated a tough Dayton team, 63-55, Saturday night. Marque Perry led SLU with 21 points as the Billikens ended the game on a 10-1 run. Dayton beat fellow C-USA mate Cincinnati a few weeks ago, proving their legitimacy as a solid club. The win is perhaps the jumpstart the Billikens need. More good news out of the Gateway to the West – sophomore Floyd McCain underwent successful back surgery Friday. McCain redshirted last season due to his back, but never fully recovered. The expected healing time for his latest setback is six months, but the team is hoping he will finally be healthy enough to return to the court after this recovery.

Louisville looks impressive

It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you only play one game a week. However, the Louisville Cardinals appeared to be in a rhythm for most of their last win, a 91-70 thumping of Seton Hall. After falling behind by thirteen points during the first half, the Cardinals went on an unbelievable 33-3 run to seal the deal. Reece Gaines continued his hot start to the season, scoring 23 points and dishing out seven assists. Louisville has even more reason to be happy, as big man Marvin Stone will finally be eligible in the coming weeks. The Cards finally break their one game a week trend, playing two this week.

Player of the week

Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati – Starting to show why he was a first-team all-conference pick, Maxiell scored a career-high eighteen points and grabbed twelve rebounds during the team’s 65-62 win against LaSalle.

Games to watch

Cincinnati vs. Oregon, Tuesday 9:00 p.m. – Unless the Bearcats can find a way to stop the Luke & Luke Show, this might not be such a great game to watch after all.

Southern Mississippi vs. Western Kentucky, Wednesday 7:00 p.m. – The Hilltoppers still do not receive enough due credit. The Eagles will need a hot-shooting night to topple the ‘Toppers.

DePaul vs. Saint Joseph’s, Saturday 3:30 p.m. – The Blue Demons received a rude awakening from Notre Dame last weekend. A solid St. Joe’s team will provide a better test of DePaul’s barometer.

     

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