Morning Dish

by - Published December 22, 2002 in Columns




The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 22th, 2002

by Phil Kasiecki

Two teams fell for the first time on Saturday, most notably the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats fell behind late in the first half and never led after that, as LSU held on for a 66-65 win without scoring in the final 1:44.

Arizona (5-1) led for much of the first half, as LSU (7-1) didn’t start to come alive until the latter portion of the half when they gained their first lead. After going up 66-60 on a jumper by Antonio Hudson (game-high 20 points), the Tigers would hold on for dear life as the Wildcats had their chances. Included was Ronald Dupree rebounding a missed free throw and calling a timeout that the Tigers did not have as he was falling out of bounds, which led to two technical free throws by Salim Stoudamire. The Wildcats shot just under 33% from the field in this game and were out-rebounded.

The other team to fall from the ranks of the undefeated was No. 6 Indiana, as No. 18 Kentucky knocked off the Hoosiers by a 70-64 margin in a game that ended with Indiana head coach Mike Davis showing that Freedom Hall is not his favorite place to visit. The lead changed hands six times in the final 2:16 of this game.

After trailing for a good portion of the first half, Kentucky (6-2) ended the half on a 15-2 run sparked by Keith Bogans (17 points) and Gerald Fitch (16 points), going to the locker room with a 33-26 lead. The Hoosiers (8-1) would stay within striking distance in the second half and regain the lead at 60-59 with 2:20 left on a layup by Jeff Newton (game-high 24 points, 11 rebounds).

With the Hoosiers down 65-64 on a jump hook by Marquis Estill (14 points), Bracey Wright (18 points) drove to the basket and missed a layup with 10 seconds left, rebounded by Bogans. Suddenly, Davis was on the court as he confronted the referee for a non-call on Wright’s layup. Davis was ejected, and Bogans would hit 5 of 6 free throws to seal the game.

Side Dishes

Staking Their Claim, Part 1: No. 2 Alabama improved to 8-0 with a 69-61 win over Providence, a game they broke open with 20 unanswered points late in the first half. Erwin Dudley and Mo Williams had 19 points each to lead the Tide, with Dudley hauling down 14 rebounds and Williams handing out 6 assists. Ryan Gomes played well in defeat with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Staking Their Claim, Part 2: No. 5 Pittsburgh improved to 8-0 with an 87-71 win at Rhode Island in the first sellout at the new Ryan Center. Brandon Knight had 22 points to lead the way, scoring 16 in the first half when he shot the ball well to help the Panthers open up an early lead. The Panthers shot nearly 56% from the field, held the Rams to 31% shooting and won the battle of the boards by a 45-27 margin, getting good help to that end from reserves Ontario Lett (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Chevon Troutman (10 points, 9 rebounds).

Braggin’ Rights Indeed: In the lone other matchup between Top 25 teams on Saturday, No. 12 Illinois improved to 8-0 with an 85-70 win over No. 11 Missouri in St. Louis. The Illini started three freshmen and were led by Dee Brown’s 21 points and 7 assists, while Brian Cook continues to have a solid senior season in posting 17 points and 9 rebounds. Missouri (6-1) was led by Rickey Paulding’s 17 points. Illinois out-rebounded Missouri 38-27 and held the Tigers to 37.7% shooting in the game that has been dubbed the Braggin’ Rights game.

Close Call in the Sunshine State: No. 13 Florida needed two overtimes and 33 points from freshman Matt Walsh to take out Miami in the Orange Bowl Classic, 94-93. Both teams shot the ball well and the Gators won despite committing 24 turnovers. Darius Rice led Miami (4-4) with 32 points, and James Jones added 26.

Taking It Easy: Most other games involving Top 25 teams saw the favorites win easily. No. 7 Oklahoma (6-1) dominated Georgia State, 89-62, as they shot 55% from the field and had nearly twice as many rebounds as the Panthers. No. 8 Connecticut (7-0) got 29 points from Ben Gordon in crushing UNC-Asheville, 117-67. No. 14 Marquette (7-1) had an easy time with Elon, 89-57. No. 17 Kansas (6-3) beat UCLA 87-70 in a game that was never close as the Bruins continue to struggle.

Milestone: No. 20 Stanford knocked off UNLV, 77-66, in the Las Vegas Showdown. The win was the 500th of Mike Montgomery’s coaching career, as he now has a record of 500-235. Montgomery is one of the steady coaches in Division I, as he has made the Cardinal a consistent contender in the Pac Ten without much fanfare and the challenges of recruiting at one of the top academic schools in the country. Congratulations, Coach.

Can It Get Any Worse? UCLA continues to struggle, but the Bruins aren’t alone in cases of teams falling from grace. The Pit used to be a place no visiting team wanted to play, but Southern Utah came in and handed the struggling Lobos their second straight home loss, 69-57. Massachusetts continued to struggle as well, losing at home to Lafayette 54-52.

Trying To Move In: Several teams may enter the Hoopville Top 25 this week. With wins on Saturday, Wake Forest (6-0), Wyoming (8-2), Texas Tech (7-1), Oklahoma State (8-1), Butler (8-0) and Brigham Young (8-1) are among those who have made their case.

Tonight’s Menu:

• In the only game of the day between two Top 25 teams, No. 25 Minnesota heads west to take on No. 3 Oregon.

• Two ACC upstarts have at it in Tallahassee, No. 23 North Carolina takes on Florida State.

• No. 9 Notre Dame welcomes Canisius.

• No. 10 Texas welcomes the always dangerous Princeton Tigers.

• Matchups of local interest include George Washington at Towson, Harvard at Boston College, Drake at Iowa State, and Gonzaga at Eastern Washington.

That’s it for this Sunday. Enjoy!

Big 12 Big and Bad

by - Published December 21, 2002 in Columns


The Biggest And Still The Baddest

by Bill Thayer

I’ll admit it, October was a great time. I couldn’t wait to hear Riot Act by Pearl Jam (in fact, I’m listening to it right now). I was on the edge of my seat, glued to the Winona Rider trial. And, while I didn’t buy a President Bush mask, I did all I could to imagine what Saturday Night Live would be if Will Farrell was still there doing his President Bush.

But the best part of October was putting together my top 25 list for Hoopville, a poll in which I voted Kansas No. 1 and had them joined by Big 12 running mates Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri in the top six.

And if you were to believe Mitch Schneider, I should hang my head in shame for doing so. But wait, what’s that I hear out in the heartland? Is that the sound of successful basketball being played?

Even though the Big 3 (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas for those of you scoring at home) didn’t win their biggest games of the season thus far, that’s no reason to cast aside a conference that top to bottom is the best in the nation. To see how good the conference is, you have to look past the top and start in the middle where some surprising teams may surprise you with where they land in March.

Iowa State was supposed to be rebuilding again this year, but that didn’t stop them from going into Iowa and scoring a win. One of their seven against only one loss. Nebraska may have lost to Div. II Alaska-Fairbanks (the same team that knocked off soon-to-be Big Sky champs Weber State in the same tournament) but they also trounced Minnesota by 20. The same Minnesota that was supposed to be near the top of the class of the Big Ten. And Texas A&M, Team Turmoil a year ago, has rallied around super-frosh Antoine Wright, the best recruit Melvin Watkins has landed since joining the Aggies, and taken out LSU and Tennessee. And you can never count out an Eddie Sutton team. Oklahoma State is using a balanced attack, the same one that steamrolled over Michigan State in Alaska. Meanwhile, Missouri has yet to take a loss as they head into this weekend’s showdown with Illinois.

That, my friends, is what you call depth. Including Baylor and Colorado, two young teams that have experienced their share of growing pains, I can count ten teams who could easily find their way into the field of 65 in March.

Ten teams. That’s more teams than are in the ACC. As many as are in the Pac Ten. And I’m pretty sure, based on their performance against Minnesota, that Nebraska could give a scare to any of the other conferences top teams.

No conference could match them team for team. The Pac-10? Arizona’s great but after that there’s a huge drop off. Big 10? Indiana and Illinois are as good as any of the top seven teams in the Big 12, but again there’s a huge dropoff. The only conference I can see making an argument for is the ACC, but there is so much unproven talent there and no team that I would say is one of the top ten in the nation. Meanwhile Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma all fall in the top ten category, with Kansas waiting to climb back in.

Oklahoma may have lost to Alabama, but remember how good they played towards the end of that contest. Instead of hanging their heads and taking a bad loss, they collected themselves and started playing the same physical style of basketball they used to reach the Final Four a year ago. Texas got outrun by Notre Dame, who has quieted any critics of their program, and then followed that by losing at Arizona. But they were in it until the end against the most talented team in the country in one of the toughest home courts in the nation.

While Kansas may have not deserved the No. 1 vote, they are slowly evolving. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Many people had the Jayhawks counted out but they went to Tulsa (what other major school would do that?) and escaped with a win. Keith Langford and Aaron Miles did what Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich had not been doing, they carried the Jayhawks. Collison and Hinrich will come around, and as long as Langford and Miles continue to improve, they will certainly get past the first weekend of the tournament.

The Big 12 had been hampered by a slower style in recent years. Last year, when they finally broke through and put two teams in the Final Four, it was in large part to the perimeter games of Kansas and Oklahoma. While each had a dominant big man, their runs were led by guards. College is a perimeter dominated game, and some of the most talented guards and wing players play in the Big 12 … Andre Emmett, Hinrich, John Lucas Jr., Rickey Paulding, Hollis Price, Jake Sullivan, Wright … the list goes on and on.

When the time comes to fill out your bracket remember pick against the pathetic Big 12. But, please, if you do, let me know so I can join your pool!

     

Morning Dish

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Columns

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 21st, 2002

by Brian Strong


They’re the two states that you think of first when you think hoops tradition. They were the last two states to have true state championships that included all levels in one tournament with only one winner in the end. They like their hoops traditional and pure in their pocket of the Midwest. And today the two schools that represent all of that state tradition best, the No. 18 University of Kentucky Wildcats and No. 6 Indiana University Hoosiers, will meet on a neutral court as they do every year.

They’ll split the court right down the middle at Louisville’s Freedom Hall – about 9,000 in crimson and 9,000 in blue. The series alternates year-to-year between the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and this venue. And although, it houses another of Kentucky’s bitter rivals it has been fairly kind to the Wildcats under certain circumstances. The Wildcats won their 1958 National Title in the building.

And what should make this year’s game as good as any in the history of the series is that both teams are considered contenders for this year’s title. Indiana comes into the game undefeated. Kentucky, although coming off a tough loss to Michigan State, has also shown signs that they can compete with the country’s best.

For Kentucky, Keith Bogans, who has been a notoriously streaky player throughout his career, has been great this season. It seems as though the added responsibility of being a senior has affected him positively. At Indiana, in addition to all of the veteran leadership that they present, freshman Bracey Wright has been stunning. Last year, head coach Mike Davis assured Hoosier faithful that help was on the way and he was not kidding. Wright leads the team in scoring and has become a beautiful complement to the long-distance threat of a guy like Tom Coverdale and the inside presence of George Leach. Both teams bring skill from all aspects of the game. The weapons on both ends of the floor are various and dangerous.

Two teams with more national titles than anyone…Two teams headed for great things this season…Two states who absolutely love their basketball… The way it appears, the sun should indeed shine bright on this old Kentucky Hall.

Side Dishes

Wyoming Senior Done: Cowboy senior guard Marcus Bailey had his career come to an abrupt end, suffering an ACL tear on Thursday night. Bailey was leading the team in points this season (15.1 ppg). “He’ll have surgery here soon and get off to a new challenge,” sad head coach Steve McClain. Bailey was a guy playing well in his last year for his home state school. He also had his team off to a good start (7-2). Bailey tore his ACL in the win over South Carolina while attempting an uncontested layup. Sometimes you just gotta wonder how and why.

Mizzou’s Snyder gets extension: Missouri head coach Quin Snyder received a two-year contract extension Friday that would make him the Tigers’ coach through 2008. Snyder, 36 years old and a product of Coach K’s system at Duke, has shown promise in his first three years, leading the school to the NCAA tournament every year thus far. The Tigers, ranked No. 11 this week, made the tournament’s Elite Eight last season and are undefeated (6-0). In addition, to Snyder’s credit, all six players who have completed their eligibility during his tenure have obtained degrees.

Today/Tonight’s Menu:

• Indiana vs. Kentucky, 5:00 ET on CBS.

• UCLA at #17 Kansas, 5:00 ET on CBS. The Bruins are reeling. Can they right the ship?

• No. 11 Missouri at No. 12 Illinois, 5:30 ET on ESPN.

• No. 1 Arizona at LSU. Luke’s still out, but there’s plenty more game where these Wildcats come from.

That’s it for this Saturday. Enjoy your day, people.

Atlantic-10 Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Atlantic-10 Notebook

by Adam Shandler

Hawks Undefeated

But does anyone know that? Yes, the St. Joseph’s Hawks having been flying under the radar with their 6-0 record. They haven’t beaten anyone in the Top 25 but did waste up-and-comer Boston College in the beginning of the season, 85-58. A New Year’s Eve contest against Gonzaga might give them more street cred, but until then, Paul Martelli’s club is one of those Rodney Dangerfields of the college game.

More St. Joe’s News

The Hawks’ Jameer Nelson, a six-foot, Junior point guard, was named A-10 player of the week. In St. Joe’s 77-59 trouncing of Delaware, Nelson recorded 24 points, including 9-of-17 shooting — 3-of-6 from behind the arc. The Delaware win marks his 4th game scoring 20 points or more this season. Nelson ranks third in the league in scoring (18.8 ppg) and fourth in assists (5.0 apg).

Newbie of the Week

LaSalle has had some heartbreaks this year, including tough, close losses to Villanova (74-71) and Cincinnati (65-62), but the 3-3 Explorers can take solace in one thing: the extraordinary play of Freshman guard Jermaine Thomas. Thomas is this week’s A-10 Rookie of the Week. The 6-2 Frederick, Maryland native posted a 25-point night against the Bearcats. No rookie jitters that night, as Thomas hit 12-of-13 from the line. Look for Thomas to be an integral part of LaSalle’s charge toward the A-10 title fray in late February, early March.

The Explorers next face Southern Cal on December 21, and don’t begin conference play until January 8 when they head out to Dayton.

Richmond Rocks Stanford

The Richmond Spiders are one of those teams you just can’t seem to figure out. They lose to Hampton by one, beat Conference USA’s Charlotte and UAB, then fall to a Virginia Commonwealth squad still trying to get its sea legs. And after suffering an 83-77 defeat at the hands of a tough Pepperdine club in the first round of the Stanford Invitational, the Spiders go out and finish off the carcass that Montana killed the previous night. Yes, Richmond beat the 20th ranked Cardinal, 83-69 in the consolation bracket. Just hammered ‘em. Mike Skrocki scored 27 points to lead all scorers in a game where Richmond used an 11-4 second-half run to make this thing true.

And just when you thought Richmond might be for real, that “other” Spider team shows up. They lose to Providence 84-55 on December 19. The Spiders will have a nine-day layoff to lick their wounds, then they have to look sharp against Harvard in their own Richmond Tournament.

A-10 Test of the Week

The 5-2 Rhode Island Rams are a much-improved ballclub, but haven’t really been thrown to the wolves. (Or the Panthers. Yet.) Early wins over Southern Cal and Providence are nice, but we really need to see what this team is made of. Well, Rhody gets its chance to play giant-killer on December 21 as it faces Pittsburgh (Number 5 in the Hoopville Top 25 poll). Howard Smith is a great defensive point guard, but how will he match up against the fearsome Brandin Knight?

Expectations may not be high for this one, but expect an all-out effort from the Rams.

     

Southland Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Southland Notebook

by Jason Orts

SLC off to slow start

The Southland Conference has had a bit of a rough start to the season, as it is just 14-41 this season against division I foes and 29-41 overall. In fact, only three teams (Southwest Texas, McNeese State, and Stephen F. Austin) are over .500 so far this season.

Despite the slow start, several surprises have emerged this season. Felton Freeman of Sam Houston was not mentioned on the all-SLC preseason teams, but is leading the conference in scoring. Jeremiah Coleman of Southwest Texas has added a new dimension to the Bobcat attack with his all-around game, and is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

Actually, Southwest Texas’ fast start has been a surprise in itself, as it was picked to finish in the middle of the pack this season, but it has gotten solid play from several junior college transfers, such as Coleman and Terry Conerway to start strong.

Another surprise is that Nicholls State has already won two games this season. Okay, so neither of those wins came against a division I opponent, but the Colonels only won one game all of last season, so they will take any wins they can get.

Conference action just around the corner

The SLC will begin its conference season on Dec. 28, and there are some very interesting matchups right away. Southwest Texas will travel to take on McNeese State in a meeting between the two best teams thus far in the league and could establish a very early frontrunner for the title.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nicholls State will take on the only team that it was able to defeat last season – Southeastern Louisiana – on the conference’s opening day as well. Lamar and Sam Houston also square off that day, in a meeting between teams that were second and third in the preseason rankings, so the early conference matchups have a lot of luster.

Southwest Texas (5-1)

The Bobcats are off to their best start since joining the NCAA division I ranks in 1984 and have posted a league-best three wins over division I teams, including quality wins over the Universities of Houston and New Orleans.

The main reason for SWT’s early success has been its defense. The Bobcats finished near the bottom of the league in all defensive categories a year ago, but are fourth thus far in scoring defense and are holding opponents to just 39 percent shooting, second in the league.

Junior college transfers Jeremiah Coleman and Terry Conerway are SWT’s top two scorers, averaging 15.5 and 13 points per game, respectively. David Sykes is second in the SLC in assists and leads the league in steals, posting nearly three per game.

The Bobcats will begin a five-game road trip with a match up with the Arkansas Razorbacks before opening conference action on Dec. 28 in Lake Charles, La., taking on a McNeese State team that is on a 26-game home winning streak.

McNeese State (4-3)

The Cowboys lost on Thursday night to the number ten Texas Longhorns, 97-59, and now have a nine-day layoff before starting conference action at home taking on Southwest Texas. McNeese State was the league’s highest scoring team going into Thursday night’s game, averaging 81 points per outing.

But the Cowboys are only eighth in scoring defense and seventh in field goal defense, largely due to having played three very good teams, in Mississippi State, who beat the Cowboys in last year’s NCAA tournament, LSU, and Texas.

But while McNeese has yet to post a marquee win this season, they are still going to be tough during the conference season, because of proven players such as Jason Coleman and Demond Williams, who both are averaging double digits.

Stephen F. Austin (4-3)

The Lumberjacks are over .500 so far this season, but have only beaten a single division I foe, going 1-3 against such opponents.

While Stephen F. Austin is the best shooting team in the SLC, converting on 52 percent of its shots from the floor and 76 percent from the line, they are second to last in rebounding. Following the 103-79 win over Jackson State Thursday night, the Lumberjacks will travel to meet Louisiana-Monroe in their conference opener, Dec. 28.

The Lumberjacks are also tied atop the conference in scoring defense, giving up an average of 67.8 points per outing.

Percy Green, who led the team in scoring last season, is doing the same so far this year, averaging 12.7 points per game and is shooting 58 percent from the floor. Green is joined by Antonio Burks, who tallies 11 points and leads the team with five boards per game and shoots 57 percent.

Texas-San Antonio (3-3)

The Roadrunners lost two first-team all-SLC selections from last season in McEverett Powers and Devin Brown, but have managed to stay competitive early in the season. Texas-San Antonio is the only team to have defeated a school from the Big 12 conference in Texas A&M. The SLC is 1-8 overall against the Big 12 this season.

Ike Akotaboi is tied for second in the conference in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per contest, leading a young team that is in the middle of the pack in nearly every statistical category. LeRoy Hurd, a transfer from the University of Miami is complementing Akotaboi with 16.7 points of his own while leading the team grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game as well.

Texas-San Antonio will travel to take on UNC-Wilmington in its next game, a rematch of a 14-point Roadrunner loss in San Antonio last month.

Sam Houston State (2-3)

The Bearkats boast the top scorer in the league in Felton Freeman, who is averaging 19 points per game and is shooting a sizzling 73 percent from the floor. Donald Cole is tied for second, tallying 17.8 per game. Cole is also third in the conference in rebounding, grabbing 7.8 boards per game, while Robert Shannon leads the SLC in assists with 6.25 per contest.

Sam Houston is tied for the league lead in scoring defense, allowing 67.8 points per game and are third in scoring, averaging 79.2 points per outing. The Bearkats are shooting 50 percent from the floor as a team, which is good for second in the league, but are the SLC’s worst free throw shooting team, at 58 percent.

Sam Houston is leading the conference in blocked shots (6.25 per game), assists (19.75 per game), and steals (12.5 per game).

The Bearkats will take on Texas-Dallas on Saturday before opening the conference schedule at McNeese State Dec. 30.

Texas-Arlington (3-4)

Following an embarrassing 56-point loss to Creighton in the season opener, the Mavericks turned around the next night and defeated Alabama State, 59-47. But Alabama State is the only division I team that Texas-Arlington has been able to defeat so far, with the other two wins coming against division II schools.

The Mavericks have three players averaging in double figures in scoring in Keith Howell (13 points per game), Derrick Obasohan (11.3 per game), and Mack Collier (10.1 per game). Collier is also the team’s leading rebounder and is seventh in the league, pulling down 6.4 boards per game.

Texas-Arlington is currently ninth in the conference in both scoring and rebounding, which has contributed to its slow start. The Mavericks will go on the road to take on New Mexico State on Dec. 23 and will open their conference schedule at home on Dec. 28, facing Texas-San Antonio.

Lamar (2-4)

The Cardinals have yet to lose on their home floor this season, but they have yet to win on the road. That could have something to do with their opponents though, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Loyola-New Orleans at home and losing to Pacific, Rice, Texas Southern, and Wichita State on the road.

Lamar has the SLC’s best field goal defense, allowing just 36 percent of their opponents shots to go down so far this season and are the league’s best rebounding team, averaging just shy of 43 boards per game.

Demany Hendrix and Ron Austin lead the Lamar offensive attack, averaging 15.4 and 14.4 points per game, respectively. Lewis Arline is second in the league, grabbing 9.8 boards per contest and Jason Grant is second in blocked shots (2.4 per game).

Lamar will take on Texas-Pan American on Saturday before opening SLC action on the road at Sam Houston on Dec. 28.

Louisiana-Monroe (2-4)

The Indians have played five games against division I opponents, but have only been victorious in one (a 90-79 win over Texas Christian). They have lost to Centenary twice, as well as Baylor and Mississippi.

Partly due to the strength of its schedule, Louisiana-Monroe has the worst scoring defense in the league, giving up 81.7 points per contest, but is tops in the conference in rebounding margin, averaging 4.3 more boards than its opponents.

Kirby Lemons is the only player in the SLC averaging a double double per game (17.7 points, 11.3 rebounds). Reggie Griffin and Mark Keith are also averaging in double figures in scoring, each averaging 11.7 points per game.

The Indians will hit the road to take on Texas A&M on Sunday, before traveling for a Dec. 30 meeting with Nicholls State.

Nicholls State (2-5)

The Colonels have already doubled their win total from last season, defeating Loyola-New Orleans and Southern University.

But while Nicholls State has played fairly well defensively, ranking third in scoring defense, it still has struggled scoring, averaging only 47 points per game, good for last in the league and is shooting just 34 percent from the floor, also last in the SLC.

Earnest Porter is the only Colonel averaging in double figures, scoring 11.2 points per outing and also leads Nicholls State in rebounding, with 6.7 per game.

The Colonels will take on Mississippi Saturday and will open SLC play with Louisiana-Monroe at home.

Southeastern Louisiana (2-5)

The Lions have started the season with a tough schedule, taking on five division I foes, including a game against number three Pittsburgh, going 0-5 in those games. Their only wins thus far came against Belhaven and Loyola-New Orleans.

They simply have not been able to put anything together as they rank at or near the bottom of almost every statistical category. While Amir Abdur-Rahim and Marcus Smith are among the league’s top ten scorers, no Lion is in the top 20 in rebounding.

Southeastern Louisiana will have a 10-day layoff, before playing its first SLC game of the year at Nicholls State on Dec. 28.

Northwestern State (0-6)

The Demons are the only SLC team to have played only division I opponents this season, beginning with a hard-fought 60-54 loss to New Mexico in an historically tough place to play, “The Pit.” Northwestern State played its first five games on the road, before returning home and falling in overtime to Grambling.

The Demons are second in rebounding thus far, but have not been able to do much with the boards, and are in the bottom half in the league in most categories. Clifton Lee and Byron Allen are tied for the team lead in scoring (12 points per game) and are also the top two on the squad in rebounding.

Northwestern State will have two weeks off before taking on Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 30 in its conference opener.

     

MEAC Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Mid-Eastern Conference Notebook

by Amanda M. Breedlove

Bethune-Cookman:

The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats have experienced a rough start to their season, dropping their record to 1-4(1-0) after a 81-55 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette on December 18. Bethune-Cookman’s leading scorer, Richard Toussaint, (averaging 20 points per game) poured in 22 points in the game, but the Wildcats could not overcome the Cajuns’ 53.6 shooting percentage and 69% second-half shooting. The Wildcats’ only win of the season came from their victory at conference opponent Florida A&M. They won that game 71-69 at Florida A&M on December 3 thanks to Toussaint’s lay-up with 2.1 seconds to play. Bethune-Cookman will now have a 10-day break before its next game, which is December 28 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Coppin State:

The Coppin State Eagles are fighting to turn their season around early after losing six out of their first seven games. In their most recent game on December 14, the Eagles faced the No.7 Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners mounted a 69-47 win with the high-scoring contributions of Hollis Price and Quannas White, who scored 22 points and 13 points in the game, respectively. The Eagles, who shot only 37.5% from the field during the first half, fall to 1-6 on the season. Coppin State’s first win of the season came on December 8 at home against conference rival Morgan State. The team was propelled to a 73-59 victory by junior Jimmy Boykin’s 23-point performance, giving it a 1-0 MEAC record. The Eagles will travel to Lawrenceville, New Jersey for their next game, a match-up against Rider University on December 21.

Delaware State:

The Hornets, now 2-5 on the season, played two games in a three-day span in the past week, winning 70-63 at home over Wagner College on December 14 and losing at Creighton, 68-48 on December 16. Delaware State is currently in the middle of a long break, and will not play another game until it visits Rutgers on December 28.

Florida A&M:

Beginning their season by playing some of the top-ranked teams in the country, the Florida A&M Rattlers are off to a good start. Though starting with two straight losses and notching a 71-69 loss in their first conference game to Bethune-Cookman on December 3, the Rattlers have since won their last two. The team, now with an even 3-3 record, beat Central Florida 55-54 on December 7 before defeating Alabama A&M 91-89 on December 16. Florida A&M will continue its tough schedule over the Christmas holiday as it faces No. 5 Oregon on December 20 and No. 13 Florida on December 30. Six-foot-three junior guard Terrence Woods paces the Rattlers with an average of 19.6 points per game and an 84.8% average at the free-throw line.

Hampton:

Hampton University continues to be a bright spot in the MEAC as the defending back-to-back conference champs blast open the season undefeated. The Pirates are 4-0 as they head into tonight’s home game against Virginia Commonwealth, after knocking off Norfolk State 72-62 on December 7. Mackel Purvis has scored an average of 16.5 points per game this year to lead the team in scoring, followed closely by Barry Hairston, who is averaging 16 points per game. Hampton opens conference play on January 4 at Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Howard:

The Bison are 1-5 after dropping their fourth-straight game. They lost 61-58 at American University on December 9 despite Kyle Williams’ 23-point contribution. Howard’s lone win came against Radford early in the season on November 26, a 62-58 victory. The Bison will face Georgetown on December 20 and then take eight days off before meeting Oral Roberts University on December 29.

Maryland-Eastern Shore:

In the latest loss in a season of struggle for the Fighting Hawks,Maryland-Eastern Shore has yet to claim a win this year and is sitting low at 0-7. The Fighting Hawks lost to Robert Morris 93-74 on December 18 in their first home game since November 30. These losses came despite the sparkling performance of Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Tee Trotter, a junior guard who with 21.6 points per game is the team’s leading scorer. Trotter scored a team-high 26 points in a loss to Robert Morris this week and has scored more than 30 points in a game twice already this season. The Fighting Hawks will look for their first win against Hartford on December 28.

Morgan State:

The Morgan State Bears are looking at a lackluster season with a four-game losing streak and only one win in eight games. In the Bears’ most recent performance, they suffered an embarassing 72-46 loss at Canisius on December 17. Only three days before, Morgan State also lost to Virginia Tech 71-64. The Bears play at William & Mary on December 22.

North Carolina A&T:

In what could easily be called their most exciting and toughest games of the season, the NC A&T Aggies faced the then No.3 Duke Blue Devils on December 17.The undefeated Blue Devils (6-0) forced 28 turnovers from the Aggies on the way to an easy 91-57 win. The Aggies, now 1-5, did however have a solid performance from rookie guard Steven Koger, who scored a team-high 16 points in the loss. North Carolina A&T will face another Atlantic Coast Conference school in its next game, a December 28 match-up against Wake Forest University. The Aggies begin Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play on January 4 against Coppin State.

Norfolk State:

The Norfolk State University Spartans follow suit with most of the conference, posting a meager 1-5 record. The last game the Spartans played, on December 16, was an embarassing 84-48 rout at the hands of Georgetown. The Spartans’ Derrick Smith, who is averaging 14.0 points per game this season, scored a game-high 23 points in the loss. Georgetown’s Brandan Bowman, a freshman, led his team with 18 points in the game. The Spartans will play UNC-Greensboro on December 21 and Virginia Military Institute on December 28.

South Carolina State:

Moses Malone, Jr., was named the MEAC Player of the Week and has led the Bulldogs in scoring in their last five games. The team, however, is lagging, earning a 1-5 record and dropping its last two. On December 18, South Carolina State was hung out to dry by Wake Forest in a 100-57 loss. The Bulldogs will return to action on December 21 at The Citadel.

     

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Big East Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big East Notebook

by Kevin Reilly

With Christmas less than a week away, it’s time to check on what Santa may be bringing some members of the Big East Conference

Pittsburgh

Hype-proofing for the Panthers. Some pundits including myself are not sold on
this crew’s upper echelon ranking. A win over the Ohio State Buckeyes gave
Ben Howland’s guys a 7-0 start, their best in 15 years. How about this stat.
Pitt has won 39 of their last 40 when they hold the opposition under 60 points.

Notre Dame

Respect for the Irish. Okay, they have beaten Marquette, Maryland and Texas.
How will they fare in conference play? As far as national play, I think they may be one of the best surprises this season, but league play this winter will be brutal. Coach Brey has a special mix with this crew.

Louis Orr (Seton Hall)

How about a few more fannies in the seats for his team’s Continental Arena
performances. Mysterious reporting of crowd size over the years here in NJ.
I have been at games where the announced crowd was double that which was
actually present. Back to Orr, what a class act and what experience. This is the kind of guy you root for a la Jim O’Brien at Ohio State.

John Beilein (West Virginia)

Can we award him the Coach of the Year trophy before New Year’s Day?
He’s been doing it with mirrors, scotch tape and chewing gum down in Morgantown.
He’s got walk-ons in the rotation in leaving the gates at a 5-1 mark. His son
has been playing as a freshmen and wasn’t even given a thought as a possible contributor preseason. They have already knocked off Florida and grabbed some votes in the Top 25 polls.

Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)

Plain and simple, all Coach Boeheim wants is for frosh phenom Carmelo Anthony
to be under the Christmas tree next year up in Syracuse. That’s wishful thinking,
but nevertheless Boeheim will continue to get it done. If Anthony leaves early,
you know some other blue-chipper will be waiting in the wings.

Villanova

Seasoning and maturity for Jay Wright’s youngsters. There have been some ups and downs, but needless to say, the Wildcats will be in the hunt with a great blend
of veterans and rookies

Troy Bell (Boston College)

A little bit of national attention for this guy, please. I can’t remember a more quiet
2,000 point career scorer. Hopefully, the Eagles upset at Iowa State caught some eyes.

Emeka Okafor (UConn)

A spot in the draft lottery at seasons end may be in Santa’s bag this year.
This guy is simply a stat sheet stuffer. He’s a double-double guy on a nightly basis
and blocks six shots an outing. Tremendous upside as well. At 6-9 and 240
he’s got that NBA body and he is still only a sophomore.

Willie Shaw (St. John’s) and Danny Miller (Notre Dame)

New leases on their basketball lives for these two guys. Shaw has reemerged
for the Johnnies and Miller has resurfaced at South Bend. These two players
will be integral parts of their teams’ success.

     

Northeast Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Northeast Conference Notebook

by Chris Roddy

1983 – The Assist, The Shot and The Championship

It was never a pass. It was a bad, off-centered shot.

And a lot of people still remember the 1983 NCAA championship game because of the frenetic last second heave of a North Carolina State guard.

Tie game, 52-52. About eight ticks left on the clock. The University of Houston team, featuring future greats Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, set up a 1-3-1 defense to prevent a last second heroic shot.

And then it happened. Guard Thurl Bailey got the dish from Sidney Lowe, but was smothered by Olajuwon. Bailey swung the ball around to the top of the key.

Into the hands of Dereck Whittenberg.

The N.C. State guard squared up and let go a wild shot at the basket. He missed. He missed with an air ball. But, his shot fell right into the hands of teammate, Lorenzo Charles. In one emphatic slam-dunk, Charles won the NCAA Championship and would forever stymie fans as to whether Whittenberg had passed or shot the ball.

But that isn’t the interesting part of the story.

Whittenberg, the current head coach of Wagner University, scored over 120+ points in the ’83 tourney, leading all scorers. He guided the Wolfpack to a double overtime victory over Pepperdine in the first round. His deadly accuracy from beyond the arch propelled the Cinderella team past UNLV and Virginia, both one-point wins. He was selected to the ACC Tournament team and Most Valuable Player for West Region and NCAA Finals.

He is 22nd on the all-time scoring leaders at N.C. State. Whittenberg, almost ten years later, is still second in career three-pointers at his alma mater.

He went on to coach under legendary Jimmy V. as well as stints at Long Beach and Georgia Tech. He slowly faded out of memory only to surface in momentary highlight reels during March Madness. Now he patrols the sidelines at Wagner, bringing skills and experience to a burgeoning conference.

A few weeks ago, Whittenberg was honored at an N.C. State home football game. A good number of the face painted fans, mere glimmers in the stars in ’83, didn’t know this man wearing a flashy Wolfpack red sports coat. And the contingent that knew of him (or at least the game) still debate if it was a shot or assist.

It’s funny that a player’s entire career might revolve around a single shot. For all the minutes on the court, hours of practice and years of learning, it all can boil down to a single moment.

The game is full of moments. That’s why we watch and they play. I was happy to see Whittenberg get his moment of recognition. And as far as I’m concerned, he wasn’t the “guy” who missed the shot. He was the MVP of the 1983 N.C. State championship team. No question, no debate.

Quinn-, Quini-, err, the Bobcats are the NEC’s Meow

Maybe it’s more of a growl than a meow, but a certain Connecticut university has won five in a row. What if we also mention that the Quinnipiac (I feel like I did when spelling Mississippi for the first time) Bobcats are 10-3 in their last thirteen games dating back to last season?

The streaking Bobcats downed Dartmouth this past Wednesday, 81-72, and sport the best record in the NEC at 5-1. After losing to then ranked No. 14 Connecticut, the ‘Cats have been clawing and scratching opponents into shreds. They held an always-scrappy Manhattanville team to 34 points and have beaten two tough CAA teams in Hofstra and Drexel.

Senior forward, Jeremy Bishop, has been absolutely key to Quinnipiac’s success. Last season’s NCAA leading rebounder (yes, the NEC is home to some sweet playas), Bishop ripped on average twelve boards per game. He averaged a double-double in 2001-02. Averaged. The soft-spoken big man was smokin’ last weekend, scoring 23 points and reeling in eleven boards against Drexel.

Player of the Week

Freshman Guard, Darshan Luckey, St. Francis (PA)

Everyone is talking about the Tar Heels’ and Illini’s diaper dandies. How come no one is going after Luckey’s basketball charms? The frosh guard had an uncharacteristic off night against Robert Morris over the weekend. He only managed 20 points and five rebounds. He leads the NEC in scoring and has blown by defenders with incredible speed and senior-esque ball handling skills. Lucky? No, Luckey. He’s on pace to be the NEC’s first ever freshman to lead the league in scoring. And it has nothing to do with, you know, luck.

     

ACC Notebook

by - Published December 20, 2002 in Conference Notes



Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos


Handing Out End of Semester Grades

Although this season is only a few weeks old, the kids have some results to critique. In the spirit of last week’s break for final exams, the players’ on-court performance has enough content for grading. Duke is at the top off the ACC’s class for now. Clemson and Wake Forest have submitted surprisingly solid results, while Maryland finds itself at the bottom of the ACC’s standings. From top to bottom, the ACC can be proud of its nine teams, all earning solid marks after several tough tests.

Clemson Tigers (5-0): A
Average scoring margin: +12.8
FG percentage: 48.1%
Opp. FG percentage: 39.1%
Average rebounding margin: +9.4

Clemson’s first tests have been relatively simple. But it’s how the team performed that matters and Clemson has done exactly what it should – win by grinding opponents into the dirt. Senior guard Ed Scott paced the team to a 5-0 start with 18 points per game matched with six assists per game in a lineup that essentially depends on six players. Ten of Clemson’s first eleven games are home games, including a Dec. 22 date with perennial powerhouse Cincinnati. This Tiger team would frighten more ACC opponents with an upset in that game.

No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (5-0): A
Average scoring margin: +22.2
FG percentage: 47.4%
Opp. FG percentage: 42.0%
Average rebounding margin: +5.6

Duke may have had easier assignments than its peers, but the Blue Devils demonstrated consistent effort worthy of an A. Five different players average double figures in points. Senior guard and All-American candidate Chris Duhon has an outstanding assist average of nearly nine per game. And all those freshmen add depth to this team – nine players average thirteen minutes or better per game.

Florida State Seminoles (5-1): A -
Average scoring margin: +19.6
FG percentage: 45.5%
Opp. FG percentage: 33.0%
Average rebounding margin: +0.4

Coach Leonard Hamilton wasted no time teaching his players how to produce better results. Through hard studying of Hamilton’s system, the Seminoles are a single point loss to No. 12 Florida away from being undefeated and receiving more national media attention. Rather than depend on a single star, the Seminoles have eight players playing an average of 18 minutes or more. Only two players average points in double figures, but six players average seven points or more. The team is well-rounded in scoring, but needs to work harder to improve on a low rebounding margin.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2): A –
Average scoring margin: +15.8
FG percentage: 44.4%
Opp. FG percentage: 39.0%
Average rebounding margin: +14.0

Georgia Tech must have offended the basketball gods. First, No. 23 Minnesota defeated the Yellow Jackets with a turn-around three pointer at the buzzer that seemingly hovered on the rim for a couple days before falling backward into the cup. Then, unranked Tennessee came to Atlanta and fell behind by two with half of a second remaining. That is just enough time to legally catch the ball and shoot it. A 50-foot prayer shot was answered. Tech could easily be 6-0. And probably ranked, too. Instead, they must settle for the ACC’s second best rebounding margin and a contender for ACC rookie of the year in forward Chris Bosh, who is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. The team has excellent depth and solid contributors at every position. Coach Paul Hewitt need only improve pre-game rituals to win the favor of the basketball gods and this team will be on the victorious side of close games.

No. 24 Maryland Terrapins (4-3): B
Average scoring margin: +14.4
FG percentage: 45.1%
Opp. FG percentage: 35.4%
Average rebounding margin: +1.7

The reigning national champions find themselves at the bottom of the ACC based on non-conference records alone. In the champion’s defense, though, the three losses are to No. 6 Indiana, No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 12 Florida. Not bad losses, but difficult to swallow for fans hoping for a repeat of last year’s fairy tale season. Alas, the Terrapins are still searching to replace four of the starters from last year. Only three players average more than seven points per game and coach Gary Williams shifts his lineup based on his players’ productivity on any given night. Maryland has a solid defense to build upon, holding teams to an abysmal shooting percentage. A Final Four run to New Orleans this season would be an even grander fairy tale story for the kids.

No. 23 North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2): B +
Average scoring margin: +3.8
FG percentage: 47.9%
Opp. FG percentage: 40.6%
Average rebounding margin: -1.5

The Tar Heels’ super freshmen trio know their game in and out. As a result, the Heels have upset No. 18 Kansas and No. 22 Stanford en route to a solid 5-2 start. But guards Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants and forward Sean May cannot play poorly or run into foul trouble. When that occurs, the Heels struggle defending anyone as No. 16 Kentucky and No. 17 Illinois pulverized the young Heels. Coach Matt Doherty must teach the other youngsters to deliver when it counts for the winning ways to continue throughout the season.

North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-0): A –
Average scoring margin: +24.0
FG percentage: 50.4%
Opp. FG percentage: 40.9%
Average rebounding margin: +6.4

Despite a setback to one of the team’s best players, guard Ilian Evtimov, NC State tossed aside its first five opponents with ease. Sophomore guard Julius Hodge leads the team with 18 points per game. The team’s weakest section is on the bench. Although three players contribute quality minutes, none manage more than five points per game.

Virginia Cavaliers (3-2): B
Average scoring margin: +3.6
FG percentage: 45.9 %
Opp. FG percentage: 42.3%
Average rebounding margin: -1.2

The Cavaliers jumped all over Kentucky during their pre-season vacation in Maui. The team’s good performance in that tournament yielded a temporary ranking. But the Big Ten appears to be Virginia’s kryptonite, as the Cavaliers lost to No. 6 Indiana and No. 21 Michigan State. Forward Travis Watson has been a beast inside this season, grabbing nearly 11 rebounds to match 15 points each game. Despite Watson’s stellar efforts, the rest of the team fails to rebound consistently. Another young team in the ACC, Virginia has work to do to become a contender at the top of the ACC, which is more balanced than it has been in years.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0): A
Average scoring margin: +13.3
FG percentage: 46.3%
Opp. FG percentage: 41.3%
Average rebounding margin: +14.8

Senior forward Josh Howard put up the most dominant averages of any ACC player through three games – 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 1 block, 93.8% free throw shooting and 50.0% three point shooting. That’s first team ACC-caliber play. Joining Howard’s heroics are four other solid starters averaging double figures. Production drastically decreases off the bench, but the young role players should continue to develop. Wake Forest has the smallest portfolio to critique, but it is a solid accumulation of solid wins with dominant rebounding.

News and notes:

Take Me Back, Please!

Last season, forward Clarence Moore started 29 games for Georgia Tech, averaging nine points and five rebounds per game. Then he quit the team. Now he wants the Yellow Jackets to take him back. Coach Paul Hewitt said he is willing to allow Moore a second life with the up-and-coming Georgia Tech squad. Moore practiced with the team, but he will not be in a game until, at earliest, the end of the month.

Back to the Court

Virginia sophomore guard Jermaine Harper joined the team after the University reinstated him. Harper was suspended indefinitely last month after a run-in with the Albemarle County police on charges of driving under the influence. Harper practiced Thursday and is eligible to play in upcoming games. Last season, Harper averaged six points and two rebounds as one of coach Pete Gillen’s bench players.

Southern Discomfort

Florida State sophomore guard Andrew Wilson has no luck. After only seven minutes last season, he injured his knee, causing him to miss the entire campaign. This season, he averaged 8 points per game and started all five games, leading the team to a 4-1 record, including an impressive win over cross-state rival Miami. Wilson’s comeback attempt suffered a major setback, though. In the aforementioned win over Miami, Wilson tore a ligament in his right wrist and will miss at least six weeks.

ACC Player of the Week:

NC State sophomore guard Julius Hodge tallied a triple-double against North Carolina A&T with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He added two steals and blocks to the box score to pad the already-impressive statistics.

ACC Rookie of the Week:

Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh wins the honor again in a week of few teams playing any games. Bosh’s twelve points and nine rebounds couldn’t prevent the Yellow Jackets from another heartbreaking buzzer-beater at the hands of Tennessee.

     

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Ohio State’s Jim O’Brien

by - Published December 19, 2002 in Columns



Ohio State’s Jim O’Brien – One of the good guys.

by Michael Ermitage

He’s a soft-spoken guy. Not like Big Ten-brethren Gene Keady or Tom Izzo. His composed sideline personality is as even and pleasing as his dark suits. And his white-as-notebook paper smile instantly conveys an easiness that makes you think of ’50s television dads. But in this world of sound bytes and highlight packages, nobody knows of Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien.

O’Brien has matter-of-factly directed Ohio State to two Big Ten championships and one Final Four in his five years in Columbus. He’s done this without marquee talent, or without much talent at all. He has two former players in the NBA – Michael Redd and Ken Johnson. In the grand barometer of coaching, O’Brien scores highly, getting the most out of little.

Few have noticed O’Brien’s quiet success. Perhaps coaching basketball in football-crazed Ohio has diminished the luster. Or maybe it is the lack of star power on the club the keeps O’Brien a relative character actor in college basketball’s big-budget film. Maybe it’s the lack of gel in his hair, or the lack of designer labels on his suits. Whatever the case may be, O’Brien’s ability to succeed without much fanfare at Ohio State, is just one small detail.

Beyond win/loss records (O’Brien is 102-57 at OSU going into this season), the Buckeye coach is a good guy. A poster boy for what college athletics are all about. He brings in marginal to good players, makes them better, makes them champions, helps them get their education, and teaches them that life is more than hardwood and nets, more than Sportscenter and video games. O’Brien does this by example.

The slender, graying O’Brien was a better than average player when he played for Bob Cousy and Chuck Daly at Boston College in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He was team captain, and still holds the Eagle record for assists in a single game and was named to two Boston College all-decade teams. He never let his on-the-court success interrupt his off-the-court concentration, earning the University’s scholar-athlete award as a senior. That dedication to the classroom has not waned; instead O’Brien has forced that academia-first mindset on his players. As a result, all 30 players that have completed their eligibility under O’Brien have left Ohio State with their degrees.

In addition to instilling academics as a priority with his players, O’Brien has also focused on the community. Since arriving in Columbus, he has made himself a part of 13 charitable organizations. He is an active contributor to the American Red Cross, the Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, March of Dimes, Easter Seals, Huntington’s Disease, Buckeye Ranch, James Cancer Hospital, Koger for Kids, and the Parkinson’s, Diabetes and Make a Wish foundations.

For his work around the community, O’Brien was recently awarded the OSU Distinguished Service Award. The award was presented by a fraternity on the Ohio State campus and after giving a speech to accept the award, one Buckeye student summed it up best, “Coach O’Brien exemplifies everything an Ohio State coach or staff member associated within the university should embody,” said Blair Zackon. “Everything he mentioned can be pointed toward good life lessons. Having him speak to us in such an intimate setting was inspirational to a lot of us.”

The Buckeyes entered the 2002-2003 season as a Big Ten afterthought. And the team’s early-season performances have not proven the critics wrong . . . yet. However, it is not wise to ever dismiss a Jim O’Brien-coached basketball team. And it is even more foolish to ever dismiss Jim O’Brien.

     

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