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December 31, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, December 31, 2002

by Adam Shandler

Hoopville’s Number 2 Alabama will need to make this New Year’s resolution: shoot better earlier in the game to avoid being upset by unranked opponents.

‘Bama missed nine of its first ten shots and Utah stumped the Tide, 51-49, in one of three big flabbergasters last night. Nick Jacobsen led the Utes with a quiet 13 points, but sealed the win with two determining free throws with 24 seconds remaining. Erwin Dudley had a chance to tie it with a garbage bucket underneath, but the usually reliable center just couldn’t hit the mark.

“This won’t break us. You walk into an environment like this, and it’s tough,” said ‘Bama coach Mark Gottfried. The game entertained 14,665 screaming Utes fans at the Huntsman Center. “The place is sold out. There’s no one for us except the guys on our bench.”

Alabama falls to 9-1. Rick Majerus’s Utes improve to 8-3.

Also from the “What the Heck Department”, 12th-ranked Marquette took a slingshot to the noggin’, falling to East Carolina 73-70 in Conference USA action. Again, it all comes down to free throws. Derrick Wiley nailed a pair with just over half a minute left to earn the Pirates the win, some respect, and some sports page ink. Gabriel Mikulas led ECU with 22 points, 11 boards. The 9-2 Pirates end the calendar year with a heartwarming conference win, just a week after falling asleep against Coastal Carolina.

Dwayne Wade was one of four Golden Eagles in double figures. He finished with 21 for 8-2 Marquette.

Another Hoopville Top 25’er fell victim to upset fever. Number 14 Michigan State couldn’t overcome an inspired Toldeo club and lost, 81-76. The Spartans streak of 36 non-conference wins, dating back to 1997, is now over.

Once again, free throws is the catch phrase. The Rockets missed only six free throws the entire night and Kevin Triplett shot 9-of-10 from the line to help outdistance his team from its host.

The moral, kids? Shovel that driveway and practice those free throws!

After being down 65-52, the Spartans staged a nice little run to tie it up at 71 with a Chris Hill 3-pointer. But Toledo’s efficiency from the line was too much and MSU never got closer than the final score.

Said Spartan coach Tom Izzo, “”The better team won tonight. They outplayed us in just about every phase. We tried a phony comeback and lost. We didn’t deserve to win at the end.”

Side Dishes

Texas Triumphs…But: That gust of wind you heard out of Austin was no low pressure system. It was a collective sigh of relief being exhaled from the lungs of Longhorn fans. Number 9 Texas scooted by Louisiana Tech, 58-50, despite hitting only one field goal in the final minutes and getting out-rebounded 39-31. Brandon Mouton had 16 for the ‘Horns.

Woe is Walton: The good news for Arizona: they are back on the winning track after taking home the Fiesta Bowl Classic trophy with an 85-71 win over Boston U. The bad news: Luke Walton is out. Again. Walton suffered his fourth ankle sprain of the season when he came down on teammate Jason Gardner’s foot. No word yet on how long Big Red will be out, but it looks certain that he will miss the PAC-10 opener against Oregon on Janurary 2nd.

Mike Davis to Miss the Ball: Indiana U. has spoken and the Big Ten has agreed. IU, well-experienced in matters of erupting coaches, has suspended head coach Mike Davis for one game. Davis will miss the Hoosiers’ game tonight against Ball State. For those of you who couldn’t hear the shrieking two weeks ago, Davis ran out onto the floor and hollered at refs to protest a “non-call” during IU’s loss to Kentucky.

An Undefeated Falls And A Record Is Tied: Butler was soooo close to a possible Top 25 ranking this year with its 10-0 record. But after last night’s 81-78 loss to Hawaii in the Rainbow Classic, that just may not happen. On the flipside for the Bulldogs, Darnell Archey tied the Division I record for consecutive free throws made with 73, matching the total of Villanova’s Gary Buchanan during the 2000-01 season.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The ball drops – in more ways than one tonight with a handful of Top 25 teams in action. Pitt, Number 3 in our poll, puts its 9-0 record on the line against desperate Georgia.

• As mentioned previously, 15th ranked Indiana will be Mike Davis-less as the Hoosiers square off against in-state rival Ball State.

• Kyle Korver ends 2002 with one of his greatest defensive challenges. Number 17 and undefeated Creighton and 19th ranked Xavier duke it out in Cincy.

• In a Philadelphia Big 5 contest, Temple and Villanova square off in a 4 PM (ET) duel, while another Philly team, St. Joe’s tackles always dangerous Gonzaga on the road.

That’s the final dish for ’02. Be safe out there tonight. Designate a driver. Take your mittens. Happy New Year.

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