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Atlantic 10 Notebook

January 6, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic-10 Notebook

by Jason Haslam

Owls, Musketeers and Hawks . . . I Dub Thee ‘Upsetters’

This past week three Atlantic 10 teams pulled out some big wins against ranked opponents that all had been on hot streaks. Temple, coming off two weeks of rest, fended off Indiana to give the Hoosiers its second loss 71-64, while Xavier handed the surprising Creighton Blue Jays its first loss of the season, 75-73 on a last second tip-in by David West. And St. Joseph’s worked overtime to halt Gonzaga’s 29-game home winning streak on New Year’s Eve, 79-78, led by Jameer Nelson’s 34 points.

Owls Upset Hoosiers, But Keeping Losing

After a two week layoff, and practice throughout the holidays, John Chaney’s young squad pulled off a huge upset Dec. 28 at The Liacouras Center, led by lone senior small forward Alex Wesby’s 26 points. With Hoosier coach Mike Davis awaiting the decision from the Big Ten on his disruptive behavior near the end of his squad’s loss to Kentucky two weeks ago. A despondent Davis admitted that the looming suspension had affected him throughout the loss to the Owls, in which he was relatively staid, and rarely left the bench for the duration of the game.

The Owls meanwhile are now sitting at 2-8 (as of Jan. 4), following two disappointing losses to Villanova and Wisconsin. The problems with the Owls have been the same since the start of the season; no inside presence and no true floor general to create some semblance. Freshman guard Maurice Collins has been plugged at the point in the past three games he has been flourishing, shooting 18-for-40 averaging 14 points a game, and over 35 minutes. Collins is displaying more assertiveness and looks destined for stardom.

The real problem for the Owls has been a void in the interior game. Chaney possesses only two big men. Sophomore power forward Glen Elliot and freshman center Keith Butler have been extremely disappointing and against a smaller, quicker Wisconsin team, neither saw more than 10 minutes of playing time.

“I try to breathe my hate and disdain into them, but it’s just not working,” Chaney said. “They’re just nice guys.”

Through 10 games Butler actually has more fouls than he does points (23 fouls to 22 points) and this soft spot in the middle has allowed teams to penetrate the sagging matchup zone defense allowing for lots of open looks and offensive rebounds. While the Owls are shooting a league-low 37 percent from the field, they are also allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 46 percent from the field. If adjustments aren’t made and stronger cohesion unable to develop, expect the Owls to continue to founder below .500 and miss out on the NCAA tournament for an unprecedented two years in a row.

Xavier Gets A Big Win…But At A Heavy Cost

Just when you think David West can’t be asked to do anymore, now he will be. In a dramatic victory over previously undefeated Creighton, West and the Musketeers handed the Blue Jays their first loss of the season on a lay-up with 4.1 seconds left. Unfortunately the win, was overshadowed by senior point guard Lionel Chalmers suffering a broken a foot in the opening minutes of the game. The early prognosis is he will be out at least a month.

Chalmers is currently the team’s third leading scorer at 12.5 points a game and is also handing out 4.6 assists and leading the squad in three-point shooting at 39 percent. West is currently leading the team in minutes, points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and free-throw percentage. Can he do anything else that he isn’t already doing?

Despite the loss of Chalmers, the Musketeers should be fine after enduring a brutal non-conference schedule, which they just concluded by losing at number two-ranked Alabama, Saturday night 65-58. Four of their first five league games are at home.

St. Joe’s Rings in the New Year With Some Sweet Revenge

Jameer Nelson’s 34 points was just enough for his Hawks to topple Gonzaga and end their 29-game home winning streak 79-78, exactly a year ago after the ‘Zags pulled out a win on Hawk Hill. With the win the, Hawks are one of the hottest teams in the nation at 9-1 and an RPI rating of three. Surprisingly the Hawks have been able to do it without a legitimate presence down low.

Nelson, and shooting guards Pat Carroll and Delonte West account for more than half of the team’s scoring. Nelson continues to gain notoriety nationwide, as one of the top point guards despite playing at the small Jesuit university. However, the Hawks defensive pressure has been the real key in aiding them to their hot start. The Hawks are yielding just 57 points a game and are also holding opponents to 35 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc.

     

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