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January 14, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 14th, 2003

by Andrew Flynn

The new Hoopville Top 25 poll is out (see the link at the right), and there were two newcomers to the group – No. 23 Syracuse, and No. 25 Oklahoma. Nice. Welcome to the club. Congratulations. And nice knowing you, as both squads got to face highly-ranked opponents the first time they had little numbers next to their name in the score.

First up was the Orangemen hosting the No. 12 Missouri Tigers, who were coming into the contest with a four-game win streak, having lost only to Illinois before Christmas. Jim Boeheim’s crew was no squad of pushovers, as they had quietly won ten in a row, having only lost the opener to Memphis two months ago. Bottom line: Syracuse controlled the game from start to finish, notching an impressive 76-69 victory over the Tigers.

It was pretty much back-and-forth through the first half, with Syracuse leading 36-31 at intermission. The Orange 2-3 zone took over after that, as Syracuse pulled away with a 13-point lead with ten minutes left. The Tigers had a 9-0 spurt to get within 4 points at the eight-minute mark, but the Orangemen answered with a 10-point spurt of their own, triggered by Gerry McNamara trey. McNamara played all 40 minutes and ended up with 14 points and 7 assists. Actually, all five Syracuse starters scored in double-digits, with Hakim Warrick notching a 20/10 double-double, and Carmelo Anthony scored 16 with 11 boards. Ricky Clemons led the Tigers with 26 points, and Arthur Johnson had a 17/11 split – his fourth consecutive double-double. Both teams face challenges next time out on the court, as the Orangemen travel to No. 3 Pittsburgh, while (how’s this for a segue?) Missouri faces . . .

The 24th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys hosted the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners in a defensive showcase. Unfortunately, it also had the makings of recent NFL playoff games, with a contested call as time expired. Replays showed that the Cowboys’ Victor Williams did not get the game-winning shot off in time as the shot clock sounded with three seconds left in regulation, but the on-court officials let it stand, lending controversy to what would have been a clean 48-46 victory for OSU. For what it’s worth, OU coach Kelvin Sampson might end up getting fined for running out onto the court to protest.

The Cowboys started out slow, but eventually crept back into the match, heading into the locker room down 22-21. Snail’s pace back-and-forth “action” had the Cowboys up 46-43 with under two minutes left, and then Hollis Price nailed a free throw and a jumper to tie it at 46 in what seemed like a half-hour later. Both Price and Ebi Ere – both averaging over 18 points per game for the Sooners, tallied 6 apiece. Williams led all scorers with 16, while Kevin Bookout led the Sooners with a quiet 14/11 split. Ivan McFarlin did the same for OSU. The victory was the Cowboys’ 11th straight, who now face Missouri next (in case you missed the segue above). Oklahoma travels to Iowa State next to see if they can win an on-campus road game, as this made them 0-1 on the season in that category.

Side Dishes

Hot Water for LeBron: Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A star amateur athlete is caught driving a very expensive SUV, the funds for which are likely out of reach of his parents or family. Red flags are raised. An improper conduct charge, followed by an investigation, and then the player leaves the institution, while the school is left with the distaste of forfeited games and scandals. The University of Michigan experienced that very thing in 1997, after the infamous Maurice Taylor Ford Explorer (Eddie Bauer edition) rollover incident that led to the Wolverines taking down banners and forfeiting games. Center Robert Traylor was discovered to be driving a phat hoopty – a new customized Suburban with two TV’s and a custom stereo. The rest is history.

So I wasn’t surprised to learn that high-school phenom LeBron James was found to be tooling around Arkron in a decked-out Hummer H2, this time with 3 TV’s and a Playstation hookup. This $50,000 gift, an 18th-birthday present from his parents, now has the Ohio High School Athletic Association questioning whether LeBron has jeopardized his amateur status, and the fortunes of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School’s season. That’s right, the ol’ “capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value” rule. The school already has stated that they will cooperate with the investigation. Since Hoopville is a college-only institution, what’s the point? The point is that it’s getting worse. Michigan’s scandal could just be the tip of the iceberg. Point-shaving at ASU? That’s nothing. No wonder hockey’s ratings are going downhill. It’s because everyone has their money tied up in eighth-grade basketball players. Enough already.

Injury Update: When Nebraska sophomore point guard Jake Muhleisen fell to the floor Saturday against No. 11 Kansas, something hurt. Well, we (and Jake) now know that the pop he heard and the pain he felt was that of a broken hip. While the injury won’t require surgery, Muhleisen is out for the season, as the injury is expected to take up to four months to heal. Muhleisen had been averaging almost 12 points a game.

In other injury news, those of you that saw Sunday’s Duke-Wake Forest game saw freshmen guard Justin Gray walk off the court with blood coming out of his mouth, never to return in the game. Well the prognosis isn’t good. Turns out Justin has a broken jaw. Gray is averaging over 10 points and 4 assists per game. After surgery last night he is sidelined indefinitely and considered “extremely doubtful” for Wednesday’s game against No. 16 Maryland.

Tonight’s Menu

• There’s a rumble in the Big East tonight, as No. 3 Pittsburgh travels to West Virginia (always a tough place to play). No. 6 UConn hosts the Hokies of Virginia Tech, and No. 8 Notre Dame hosts New Jersey’s team, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

• No. 15 Kentucky travels down to face Vanderbilt, who is still riding high after knocking off Alabama ten days ago. No. 22 Marquette travels to Naw’lins to face Tulane, and No. 24 Xavier faces LaSalle.

That’s it for this Tuesday. Enjoy!

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