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Conference-USA Notebook

December 24, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Well, it was a blowout

As expected, the Oregon versus Cincinnati game featured several minutes of mop up time as the clock ticked away. Unexpectedly, it was due to the Bearcats blowing the Ducks out of the water. Playing outstanding on both sides of the ball, UC never trailed and shocked the country with its 77-52 drubbing over then No. 3 Oregon at the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night. Cincinnati raced to a 20-point lead at the half and stretched it to 35 at one point during the second half. The usual Bearcat suffocating defense shut down the highly touted Ducks offense.

Oregon entered the Jimmy V Classic averaging more than 92 points per game, but barely eclipsed their one-half average during 40 minutes. The Luke and Luke show was held in check, as Ridnour totaled just ten points and Jackson netted only nine. Overall the Ducks shot 36.4 percent and committed seventeen turnovers. The Ducks’ lack of production came from a combination of bad play on offense and excellent defense by Cincinnati. UC contended every shot and made steal after steal, and Oregon could not have hit water from a boat.

One Bearcat who hit almost everything he threw up was junior guard Tony Bobbitt. After scoring just 28 points during the first six games of the season, Bobbitt exploded for 29. In addition, Jason Maxiell scored a career-high for the second straight game, dropping in 20. Maxiell also recorded another double-double, grabbing thirteen rebounds. Afterwards though, everyone kept talking about Bobbitt. Entering the season with high expectations, the bust label already was being attached to his name. After Tuesday’s game however, the label vanished. Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s momentum also vanished Sunday evening, as they fell to Clemson 58-51. The hot shooting did not travel with the Bearcats to South Carolina, as they shot 34.5 percent from the field. Their record now stands at 5-3 as they continue to have an up and down season.

Another sweet win

The Bearcats were not the only team knocking off a sweet sixteen team from a year ago during the past week. Charlotte beat the Salukis of Southern Illinois, 80-67, Wednesday night, bringing their record back above .500 at 4-3. Butter Johnson led the way for the 49ers, scoring a career-high 22. Demon Brown added another stellar performance, netting 21. Brown has scored at least thirteen points every game and reached 20-plus three times. Charlotte is now 2-1 against tournament teams from a year ago, losing to Davidson, 75-56, and beating Miami, 69-64.

Land of Lincoln falls again

Keeping this game of connection going, Southern Illinois became the second team from the Land of Lincoln to lose to a C-USA team last week. South Florida narrowly defeated Northern Illinois Tuesday evening, 84-83. Senior center Will McDonald played his best game of this young season, scoring 28 points and corralling eleven rebounds. Assist superman Reggie Kohn dished out ten assists, reaching double figures for the second time this season. The Bulls then lost at Michigan State, 65-56, Saturday evening. The loss dropped USF to 5-3, as the Bulls have lost three of their last four.

Start of the Stone Age

Rick Pitino waited patiently this past month for his big man, Kentucky transfer Marvin Stone, to finally become eligible for the Cardinals. The wait was worth it, as Stone delivered nineteen points and eleven rebounds in his debut, a 89-62 win versus Manhattan Wednesday night. Stone finally provides Louisville with a traditional center who has scoring ability. Teaming up with Luke Whitehead (12.3 ppg), the two make up one of the best underneath duos in the league. With two games now under his belt, Stone now gets to serve some revenge, as the traditional Kentucky-Louisville game is Saturday.

Wade above the pack

Is it too early to make the case for Dwayne Wade to be national player of the year? After eight games, Wade is showing he is easily the conference’s cream of the crop. Looking around the nation though, it is hard to find a player producing more, or one who means more to his team than Wade does. Wade’s numbers to date read like this: 25.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. If he continues to play the way he is, expect to see the second national player of the year to come from C-USA in the last four years.

Who needs the NBA for 100-point games?

People say the art of shooting is dead. Well some C-USA teams would beg to differ. Four times last week a conference team hit triple-digits on the scoreboard. The Louisville Cardinals led the charge, reaching the plateau twice by identical scores, 104-63. Eastern Kentucky was Tuesday’s victim, while Furman played the embarrassing role Sunday. Tulane feasted on winless Savannah State Friday evening, cruising to a 103-47 win. However, the highest score of the week went to the UAB Blazers, who scorched Texas A&M Corpus Christi Thursday evening to the tune of 108-74.

Quick hits

Memphis’ Chris Massie became academically eligible with his passing of the fall academic quarter. Massie must now sit-out two additional games due to a NCAA violation for competing in a NBA draft camp last spring.

Charlotte’s Calvin Clemmons’ return from a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tear is still expected to be in three to six weeks. Clemmons suffered the injury against Richmond November 30th.

Houston’s Louis Truscott earned two double-double’s last week, bringing his season total to four this year. Truscott is averaging 16.1 points and is the conference’s leading rebounder at 11.6 per game.

Player of the week

Morris Finley, UAB

Finley averaged 26 points per game during the Blazers’ three wins last week. Finley did most of his damage from outside, hitting on fourteen-of-28 shots from beyond the arc. Finley’s stellar play is one of the reasons UAB is off to a 6-2 start.

Games to watch

Louisville vs. Kentucky, Saturday at 12:00 p.m. (All times Eastern)
Subplots are all around here. But are any really needed? Marvin Stone plays his first game against his former school. The Wildcats are hot after their win against Indiana. With a win, Louisville should vault back into the Top 25.

LSU vs. Tulane, Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Tigers shocked the nation with their win against then No. 1 Arizona Saturday night. While the Green Wave has struggled early on, they have the talent to defeat LSU in this battle of the Big Easy.

Illinois vs. Memphis, Saturday at 5:00 p.m.
The Fighting Illini beat Missouri with ease Saturday, a team Memphis lost to by fifteen. John Calipari is still without a big regular-season win since coming to the Tigers. Here is yet another chance.


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