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Horizon League Notebook

January 6, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Horizon League Notebook

by Brian Seymour

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again for Butler University.

Just like last year, the Bulldogs raced quickly out of the gate, posting 10 straight victories this season before tripping to Hawaii in overtime in the championship of the Rainbow Classic.

While the beginning of the season has been to the Bulldogs’ liking, they have to be hoping Horizon League play isn’t as treacherous as it was last season. Four conference losses doomed Butler to the NIT last year, but Butler got its conference hopes off on the right track with a 68-65 win on the road Saturday over Illinois-Chicago.

With the win, Butler improved to 11-1 on the season, which includes some fairly impressive victories (Evansville on the road, Ball State and Miami (Ohio) at home and Western Kentucky at the Rainbow Classic). And lest ye judge Butler by the lone loss, losing on the road at Hawaii to a very, very underrated Hawaii team (in overtime, no less) is hardly a black mark against the Bulldogs.

Unlike last season, Butler will have to be stellar in conference play, no easy feat in a competitive conference. Losing only two or three conference games should leave the Bulldogs plenty of breathing room for an NCAA Tournament berth. Of course, winning the Horizon tournament in March will render all speculation moot. Posting a spectacular upset on Jan. 30 against Duke in Durham, NC would more or less clinch a spot in the field as well.

The early season success has been spotlighted by Darnell Archey’s record run of free throw shooting. The senior guard has connected on 76 straight free throws breaking the NCAA record of 73 by Villanova’s Gary Buchanan from 2000-01.

Archey’s streak began almost two years ago on Feb. 15, 2001 and has lasted through 53 games. The usually super-composed Archey admitted to a bit of nervousness on the historic free throw.

“I think my friends and family were more nervous than I was,” he said. “I just tried to go through my routine. But I could feel it in my hands, they were sweating more than usual.”

Archey will get a chance to extend his streak this week while the Bulldogs host two important early season contests — against Loyola (Chicago) on Thursday and against Detroit on Saturday.

UWM rolls to school first

Not to be overshadowed by Butler, Wisconsin-Milwaukee has raced to a 3-0 conference mark for the first time in school history after a 70-58 victory over Cleveland State Saturday.

The victory was the 10th in the last 11 games for UWM (11-3, 3-0), which also won a key road contest against Detroit (73-72) last week as well.

The only losses on the season have come against Wisconsin, Georgia and SE Missouri State.

Dylan Page is leading the way in the scoring table for the Panthers with 17.9 points per game and preseason Horizon MVP candidate Clay Tucker is adding 14.5 points and starting to hit his stride after being sidelined for two games with back spasms, which also limited his effectiveness in some of the contests he did play in.

Loyola bouncing back

A six-game losing streak at the end of December was a cause for concern amongst Ramblers fans, but Loyola appears to be back on track after a pair of conference wins against Youngstown State and Wright State

The cozy confines of the Gentile Center might have been all that was necessary for the Ramblers (6-9, 2-1) to get their groove back, as all six losses in the streak came during a grueling road trip and included losses to perennial Top 25 schools like Michigan State and Charlotte.

The biggest game of the season to date comes on Thursday at Butler, as the Ramblers can’t afford to fall two games behind the Bulldogs in the loss column.

Preseason first-team Horizon pick David Bailey has been the leader once again for Loyola with 16.6 points per game and a team-high 44 assists.

Must-win game comes early for UIC

Of course, with the conference tournaments, there’s really no such thing as a “must-win” game, but if Illinois Chicago (7-4, 1-1) is going to contend for the regular season crown, an incredibly crucial game awaits Thursday at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

A loss would put the Flames 2 1/2 games behind the streaking Panthers and two games behind Butler in the loss column.

UIC has tasted some early-season success with a nice wins over Southern Illinois — a Sweet 16 team last season and Missouri Valley title contender this year — and Northwestern on the road.

Speaking of the road, UIC won’t be logging many proverbial miles on it this year as the longest road trip of the season finds the Flames traveling to Youngstown, Ohio. The longest road trip of the non-conference season was Bloomington, Ind. and all of the team’s non-conference games were in Illinois or Indiana. The Flames are 5-0 against teams from Illinois.

Last season, the team had trips to Las Vegas and Tampa. Now there’s a way to shorten a Chicago winter!

Junior Cedrick Banks has been a key addition to the team after missing the first four games of the season due to problems with the NCAA’s Clearinghouse Guidelines. He’s played in eight games and averages more than 15 points per game. Armond Williams is second in the league in field goal percentage at 66.3 percent.

Titans could go either way

It’s difficult to get a read on this year’s Detroit Titans squad since the Titans don’t really have any impressive wins or any bad losses. You could make an argument that the Titans (6-5, 1-1) have won the games they should have won and not lost any games they should have won.

With the exception of Thursday’s heartbreaking conference opening loss at home to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, all of Detroit’s losses have come on the road and to decent teams (including Western Michigan, Wyoming and Toledo).

A pair of road contests this week should help take the measure of this year’s Titan squad, which is in a bit of a rebuilding mode — Thursday at Wright State and Saturday at Butler.

Willie Green’s 19.3 points per game put him among the leaders in the conference and Elijah Warren has come on in conference play with 23 points a game in the two Horizon contests for Detroit.

CSU ready for action?

A considerably tougher non-conference schedule than last season has darkened Cleveland State’s record a bit, but the competition could help down the stretch as the Vikings will be a sleeper team in the Horizon.

Non-conference losses to Colorado State, California (in OT), Michigan State and Kent State have made it a rocky beginning for CSU (6-8. 1-1), but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel after a conference season-opening win against Wisconsin-Green Bay and a tough loss to conference leader Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

If the Vikings can keep themselves in the conference race, three of their final four games are at home and they will have a say in who wins the conference.

Jermaine Robinson’s 12.9 points per game is highest on the team and Tahric Gosley leads the conference in blocks with 1.85 per game.

Back and forth go the Raiders

It’s pretty hard to get a read on the Wright State Raiders (6-5, 0-1) thus far this season as well. WSU is 2-2 in games against Mid-American Conference foes, usually a reliable benchmark for a Horizon club (beat Akron and Miami, lost to Ball State and Toledo).

The Raiders did win a big game against South Florida of Conference USA at home, 69-68 with a buzzer-beater by Tyson Freeman, his second of the season (he also hit a last-second three-pointer in the win over Akron).

A loss in the opening round of the Billy Minardi Classic to Manhattan cost the Raiders a shot to upset Louisville though, having to settle for a win over Eastern Kentucky in the third place game.

Seth Doliboa is leading the conference in scoring with 23.3 points per game, while Vernard Hollins is adding 20.3 points and 4.2 assists per game.

Penguins continue to build

It’s year two in the Horizon for Youngstown State and the Penguins (4-6, 0-1) will be looking to turn the corner and finish near the middle of the pack in the league this season.

Like they did last season, the Penguins got a couple of key upsets over MAC foes, upending Buffalo and Toledo at home. Last year, YSU upset Kent State, which ended the season in the Elite Eight.

But the excitement from those wins has to be tempered somewhat by a loss to Missouri-Kansas City, the only game UMKC has won all season.

A 17-point loss to Loyola kicked off the conference slate, but YSU will be looking to turn things around at home against Cleveland State Thursday, a winnable game for the Penguins.

Sophomore Doug Underwood is leading the Penguins in scoring with 12.6 points per game, while Adam Baumann is averaging 11.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.

Phoenix attempting to rise from ashes

Standing in stark contrast to the Horizon’s other Wisconsin club, Wisconsin-Green Bay has struggled at times this season, though the Phoenix (5-9. 0-3) are in full rebuilding mode and some bumps are to be expected.

The biggest win of the season so far by far is a 68-64 road win on Dec. 7 over Kansas State of the Big 12. While KSU is hardly among the elite of that conference, any victory over a school in a power conference is cause for celebration in Green Bay.

The championship of the Oneida Bingo & Casino Classic — hosted by the Phoenix — is also a feather in their cap. UWGB defeated Austin Peay and Delaware for that title.

Matt Rhode is averaging 13.1 points per game to pace the Phoenix.

     

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