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Horizon Notebook

January 14, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon Notebook

by Brian Seymour

Butler could very well end its season playing in the NCAA Tournament. If the Bulldogs don’t give head coach Todd Lickliter a heart attack first.

Lickliter must have some concerns about Butler’s inability to hang on to big leads this season, with a victory last week over Loyola a prime example of the kind of games the Bulldogs have been playing.

Butler lost a 24-point lead over the Ramblers before bouncing back to force overtime and eventually taking a 81-74 decision. The win, in addition to a victory over Detroit on Saturday, pushed the Bulldogs’ record to 13-1 overall and 3-0 in the Horizon, good for the second-best record in college basketball behind Duke’s perfect 11-0 mark.

But it hasn’t been easy all season long. In the only loss of the season, the Bulldogs squandered a 21-point lead to Hawaii, ultimately losing in overtime and also ended up trailing after posting big leads in wins against Western Kentucky (15) and Illinois-Chicago (13).

Lickliter told the Indianapolis Star he’s not fazed by the comebacks against his team.

“To think that you’re playing teams that won’t make runs is pretty ludicrous,” he said. “These are very good teams we’re playing.”

Darnell Archey extended his NCAA record for consecutive free throws to 82 with a 6-for-6 performance against the Titans.

Penguins heating up

There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, but the biggest surprise of the first two weeks of the conference season might be the play of Youngstown State.

A year after finishing among the worst 30 teams in Division I, according to the Sagarin computer rankings, the Penguins (6-8, 2-2) have already matched last season’s totals for overall and league wins after a 66-60 victory Monday over Wright State.

The next step will be trying to get a win on the road, something YSU hasn’t been able to accomplish yet, though an upset or two might not be out of the question before the year is over.

One of the biggest reasons for the resurgence has been the play of sophomore guard Doug Underwood, who has scored in double figures for 13 of YSU’s 14 games.

A key test will come Saturday when the Penguins host Butler at the Beeghly Center in Youngstown, where they’ve been very tough, winning six of seven games.

Panthers lose, but they’re not lost

Wisconsin-Milwaukee couldn’t overcome a huge rebounding deficit to Illinois-Chicago in a 102-92 loss to the Flames, but did bounce back to beat Youngstown State at home and improve to 4-1 in the conference.

The Panthers are ranked in several “Mid-Major” website polls and still have the prospect of two games against conference benchmark setter Butler to look forward to. UWM has also been selected to play in the “Bracket Buster” series in late February, pitting the best Mid-Major teams against each other to raise their profiles before the NCAA Tournament.

Against Illinois-Chicago, the Panthers were out-rebounded 47-25 and the Flames also had a huge advantage in free throws, converting 38-of-45.

UWM senior Clay Tucker became the school’s all-time leader in steals in the game and is on pace to become the all-time leader in points as well before the end of the year. He would need to average between 16 and 17 points per game.

Slow start for Titans

Having a losing record in the middle of January is a position unaccustomed to Detroit, though that’s exactly the position it faces after a pair of conference losses last week.

Now at 6-7 overall and 1-3 in the Horizon, UDM is under .500 at this point in the season for the first time since 1996-97. Things could get worse before they get better with a very talented Loyola squad making the trip to Calihan Hall for a Thursday contest with the Titans.

The bright spot in a 76-68 loss to Butler was guard Jimmy Twyman posting a career-high 12-point performance. The Titans have now lost four of their last five games.


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