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Sun Belt Notebook

January 12, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Sun Belt Notebook

by Andria Wenzel

It’s all a numbers game

Four years ago Chris Davis decided that the University of North Texas would be the best place for him to pursue a collegiate basketball career. So far one could say things have gone well for the Dallas native. In his four-year residence with the Mean Green he has brought legitimacy to the Mean Green basketball community. Last year he was named North Texas’s Male Athlete of the Year. A superstar amongst the rest of the conference, he was last season’s leading scorer and the Sun Belt does not have many others that can match the senior guard. In his final Sun Belt opener he propelled the Mean Green to a 94-91 double overtime victory over Florida International.

What did Davis do? He only scored 27 points and picked up nine rebounds. He is averaging 17.6 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding with 7.5 per game. Davis could easily be the most valuable player in the conference when the season comes to an end. . If Davis was not in a UNT uniform the Mean Green could easily fall off the radar screen. Although UNT is only 6-7 this year, Davis may break the all-time scoring record by season’s end. Kenneth Lyons currently holds the all-time scoring record for UNT with 2,291 points. Davis who is No. 3 on the list needs another 319 points by season’s end to change the name on the record books.

The streak has ended

Middle Tennessee State had not beaten Western Kentucky since the majority of their squad was still in diapers. It was 20 years ago, December 8, 1982, to be exact when the Blue Raiders last beat the Hilltoppers. And wasn’t it fitting that streak was broken on the 30th anniversary of the Murphy Center Opening. A record 3,804 supporters piled in the center and helped rally the Blue Raiders past WKU 69-65. Forward William Pippen and guard Tommy Gunn were unstoppable, as the Hilltoppers had no answers for Pippen’s incredible performance.

Western Kentucky had a 41-33 lead early in the second half and seemed to be closing in on their first Sun Belt victory in 2003, but MTS went on a 14-3 run, capped by a Pippen jumper to give the Blue Raiders a nine point lead with just over 12 minutes left.

Western Kentucky was nowhere close to throwing in the towel. The 3,000 plus watched in disbelief as the nine point lead quickly vanished and the Hilltoppers brought the score to a tie at 56-56. MTS had one last run left in them, scoring six unanswered points and netting key free throws in the final 25 seconds to hold onto the four point win. Pippen finished the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Gunn had 17.

The Blue Raiders shot 58.7 percent and won their conference opener for the first time ever.

For Western Kentucky the loss was difficult to swallow despite 16 point efforts from Mike Wells and Filip Videnov.

And another streak has just begun

With the return of James Moore few weeks ago, New Mexico State had to be a Sun Belt favorite in the opening weekend, but even Moore could not douse the fire the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette sparked on January 2. The Cajundome proved to be too hot for the Aggies as they fell 81-74. All of the Cajuns starters were in double figures- Laurie Bridges 21 points, Michael Southall 14, Brad Boyd 12, Cedric Williams, 12, and Kenneth Lawrence 11.

Moore and Jason Fontenet did their parts with 22 and 20 points respectively. The Aggies had taken an extended Holiday break, not playing since December 23, and rust could easily be the fault of the unexpected defeat.

Louisiana-Lafayette did not just do the job offensively, as they had seven blocks and 10 steals on the defensive side.

With a 72-56 win over Houston on January 4, the Cajuns are 9-4 and on a four-game winning streak.

Sweet Revenge

The University of Denver was one of the few teams who did not open up conference play last week, as they instead lost a close one to Nebraska and avenged an earlier 75-47 loss against Montana. With the Grizzlies in Denver on January 2, the Pioneers had little trouble in their 62-54 victory. B.J Pratt, Denver’s leading scorer at 16 points a game, had 29 against Montana, including seven 3-pointers.

The Pioneers then took a quick trip to Lincoln for a January 5 matchup with Nebraska. The overtime contest saw Nebraska pull out the 79-75 win. Pratt led again with 17 points while breakout junior center Brett Starkey had 10 points and 10 rebounds. With the scored tied at 68-68, Denver’s Rodney Billups missed a jumper to avoid the overtime. Nebraska opened the extra period with five points that the Pioneers had no answer for. Denver did come within 76-75, but would come no closer.

Trojans fend off Div. II scare

Nick Zachery is at times unstoppable. Coaches cringe when he knocks down his first jumper, knowing most likely that many more will follow before his forty minutes are up. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.1 points per game, but he topped that statistic by 10 when he scored 25 in an 82-80 win over Harding on January 4 at Alltel Arena. The Trojans almost let an 80-71 lead slip against the Division II Bisons with just over two minutes remaining. The Trojans had better improve their play because the rest of the Sun Belt will not waste the 26 opportunities that UALR gave the Bisons off turnovers.

Smith, Meredith, and Romero lethal in opener

With Arkansas State out of commission until their opening game on Thursday, the University of New Orleans and the University of South Alabama were the final two Sun Belt teams to meet up in the opening weekend. The Privateers, who got smart weeks ago and inserted Johnell Smith into the starting lineup, were able to snap a two-game losing streak and extend an 11-game home winning streak with a 70 -61 win over the Jaguars. Smith had 19 points with junior guard A.J Meredith scoring 18. Senior forward Hector Romero dominated in the post to earn his seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds. The Privateers (8-4) never trailed USA (6-6) and the 36-32 halftime difference was the closest the Jaguars ever got. The UNO defense held Chris Young to a season-low six points, but did give up 21 to forward Henry Williams and 15 to guard Demetrice Williams.


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