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Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

December 24, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

by Matt Amis

When it comes right down to it, there are few, if any, more dominating conferences in the nation than Mid-Con.

OK, maybe not.

But it sure seemed that way Saturday. Chalk it up to holiday spirit or weak opponents, but either way the Mid-Con enjoyed what was easily its best day of the 2002-03 season on Saturday, as six teams in non-conference action posted a combined 6-0 record. Losing streaks? Fuggedaboudit! Western Illinois snapped a 7-game skid, UMKC won its first of the year, Oral Roberts got back to its winning ways and yes, even Chicago State won a game.

The conference received the early Christmas gift of respect, as prior to Saturday, only one team had a record over .500.

Chicago State (1-6)

The Tiny Tim of collegiate basketball finally put an end to the nation’s longest losing streak at 24 games with a win over Northern Iowa, which was also the Cougars’ first home win in 11 tries. For a team not used to winning, the Cougars showed some surprising poise down the stretch. Down 60-57 with just more than three minutes left, Rubeen Perry nailed a three-pointer to tie the game. From there, Steve Turner, Kelvin Smallwood and Craig Franklin chipped in to cap a 10-0 run that put the game away. Smallwood finished with 17 points and Perry added 14 points, but it was Smallwood who was most impressive, making major contributions in his first collegiate start, posting a line of 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

CSU fans will hold their collective breaths Monday, as the Cougars will attempt to post a two-game winning streak when they host Texas Southern at the CSU Dickens Center

IUPUI (5-6)

The Jaguars followed the trend of rare Mid-Con clutch shooting Saturday against visiting Bradley. With IUPUI down by a 68-64 score late in the second half, junior Matt Crenshaw scooped in a pair of lay-ins and Josh Mullins nailed a trey to give IUPUI the lead. The Braves battled back though and pushed the game to a 73-73 tie in the waning moments.

In a see-saw battle of a game, featuring 13 ties on the evening, it was the Jaguars who dealt the final blow. When both teams opted against a timeout, Crenshaw beat his man off the dribble and flipped up a scoop shot from the right side that kissed high off the glass and through with six seconds remaining.

Chris Sanders made 5-of-11 treys on his way to 21 points, while Odell Bradley matched his career high with 21 of his own, and Mullins contributed 15.

UMKC (1-7)

What’s more rare than the Grinch saving Christmas? How about a UMKC blowout? The Kangaroos won their first game in eight tries for 2002, and kept the Mid-Con’s record against Youngstown State perfect (5-0) since the Penguins left the league after the 2000-01 season. The Kangaroos used a 16-6 run late in the first half to take control of the game, ultimately handling Youngstown State by a 71-59 tally.

Surprisingly, it was someone other than the nation’s leading scorer Michael Watson who propelled UMKC to its first W.

While Watson led all scorers with 22 points, it was Carlton Aaron who stole the limelight by scoring 18 points and adding 20 rebounds, the second-highest single-game total in school history. James Williams added his own double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Kangaroos dominated the glass, outrebounding YSU, 52-35.

Oral Roberts (7-2)

Tis the season for giving, and good people over at Mississippi Valley State gave the Golden Eagles just what they asked for — an end to their two-game losing streak and perhaps some continuation of their national attention.

At home in the Mabee Center, the Golden Eagles got back to their winning ways with their second win of the season over MVS, 96-63. ORU raced out to 15-4 lead to start the game, and used a 23-6 run to take a 25-point lead into the break. Reggie Borges scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Borges, a 6-8 senior forward, collected his second double-double of the season and was 9-of-12 from the field, hitting five of six free throws in just 25 minutes of action. He was one of four Golden Eagles to score in double-figures.

ORU took control of the game early, racing to a 15-4 lead following Tyrone Tiggs’ 3-pointer at 15:54 of the first half. And it was more of the same in the second half, as ORU opened several leads over 30 points. The Golden Eagles grabbed a 36-point margin, their largest, at 85-49 with 8:16 to play and coasted to their ninth straight home win.

Tiggs scored 16 points with seven rebounds and four assists in support of Borges. Ralph Charles added a season-high 12 points and Cameron Tragardh had 11 points and eight rebounds. Luke Spencer-Gardner tossed in eight points and nine assists. ORU dominated the Delta Devils on the glass, owning a 53-34 rebounding edge.

The Golden Eagles return to action when they face Howard in the opening round of the College of Charleston State Farm Good Neighbor Classic, Dec. 29 in Charleston, SC.

Southern Utah (5-4)

The Thunderbirds scored the first eight points and never looked back Saturday while picking up a surprising 69-57 win on the road over New Mexico

In a holiday return to his home state, Jay Collins put the star atop the tree, leading the Thunderbirds with 17 points, while also adding seven rebounds and five assists. Another New Mexico native, Kevin Henry added 10 points, as Southern Utah shot 59 percent (26-of-44) from the field in the win.

Robbie Williams also added 13 in the win, as Southern Utah won its first game of the season on the road.

Western Illinois (2-7)

The Leathernecks stopped a seven-game losing streak at the expense of Concordia by pulling away in the second half on their way to a 97-78 home victory. Luis Rivas scored six of his 22 first-half points in a 14-5 run, which snapped a tie score and gave the Leathernecks a 46-37 lead at the break.

Rivas finished with a career-high 32 points and added six rebounds. J.D. Summers (19), Barry Welsh (14), Will Lewis (11) and Shawn Mason (11) also nabbed double figures in the scoring column.

The Leathernecks jumped out to a 46-37 halftime lead on 54.5 percent (18-of-33) shooting from the floor, and held the Cardinals (4-7) to just five field goals inside the three-point line. Western Illinois then used an 11-3 run in the first 3:03 of the second half to gain a 19-point advantage, and stretched its lead to as many as 24 on two occasions. Using its definitive size advantage, Western outscored Concordia 48-22 in the paint.

Valparaiso (4-4)

Senior center and reigning Mid-Con Player of the Week, Raitis Grafs no doubt wished his opponents a Priecigus Ziemassvetkus (Merry Christmas) this weekend. The Riga, Latvia native led all scorers with 19 points as Valpo inched its way back to the Mendoza line, toppling Belmont 83-65.

Stalin Ortiz tallied 13, Joaquim Gomes had 12, and Seth Colclasure added 10 for the Crusaders.

The Crusaders got off to a quick start in the second half, leading Belmont 51-36 in the first four minutes. But Belmont, which shot 57 percent (12-of-21) from three-point territory, was able to go on a 10-0 run to cut the Valpo lead to five points. However, Valpo’s swarming defense held Belmont to just 39 percent shooting in the second half.

Proving once again the holidays are about giving as well as receiving, the Crusaders dished out 24 assists and turned the ball over just 10 times.


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