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January 24, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Friday, January 24th, 2003

by Jon Gonzalez

How far will the No.10 Creighton Blue Jays climb up the polls? After Creighton’s 74-66 loss to Evansville on Thursday night, that ascent will be put on hold.

Steve Merfeld and his plan to shut down Creighton’s Kyle Korver worked to perfection as the Aces limited Korver to a season low five points. Merfeld’s plan consisted of Evansville’s Clint Cuffle blanketing Korver for the entire game. Aside from stopping Korver, Cuffle also led Evansville (6-9, 2-4) with 25 points. The win was Evansville’s first over a top ten team since 1983.

While the loss was not totally unexpected due to the fact that it was a conference game on the road, it was unexpected in the sense that a top ten team should not lose to Evansville. Taking nothing away from the Aces, who played a great game, if Creighton (16-2, 7-1) is a true top ten team, the Blue Jays will not lose another conference game. While this may seem like an unfair proposition, it has everything to do with the conference that Creighton plays in.

Regardless of which conference you play in, top ten is top ten, and a low level of competition is just that. If Duke loses to NC State, which they did, it is because NC State is a quality team in a quality conference, even if State is unranked. But if Duke lost to Evansville, well, that is just totally unacceptable. Even though losing to a conference foe on the road is commonplace, it is not when you are in the top ten and that team is not even in the top 150.

A mid-major high in the polls is almost unheard of. Back in the late eighties, UNLV was a great team out of a small conference. But the Rebels are almost a different story due to their big-time athletic ability. Creighton is the flag bearer for the new wave mid-major, proving that it can hang with the big boys and get national recognition. But a spot in the top ten does not come by accident and Creighton has a golden opportunity to solidify a good spot in the NCAA’s. But losses to MVC foes will hurt Creighton’s status and expose them as a top ten imposter. The Evansville loss can be forgiven, but only if the ‘Jays turn it up a notch and take out the entire MVC.

Side Dishes

No.17 Wake Falls to Cavs: Virginia (11-6, 2-3) got back into the ACC race with an 85-75 home win over Wake Forest, with home being the operative word. The Cavs are 3-6 on the road, but 8-0 at home. One of their road losses came at the hands of Virginia Tech earlier in the week. Majestic Mapp sparked several key runs for the Cavs and Todd Billet led the team with 23 points in the win. Wake (12-2, 2-2) was led by Josh Howard and Vytas Danelius, who each had 20 points. For now, everything is well in Charlottesville.

No.22 Oregon Quacks Out Win Against Washington; Jackson Goes Down With Injury:Despite Luke Jackson’s bloody injury that looked scarier than what it was, Oregon (13-4,3-3) rolled to a 91-66 win over Washington. The Ducks were led by James Davis’ 18 points and Luke Ridnour’s 15 points. But the game was marred by Jackson’s hand injury. Jackson suffered the injury when he collided with UW’s Doug Wrenn and cut his finger. The cut required 10-12 stitches and Jackson may miss Saturday’s game against Washington State. Jackson may return next week. Washington (7-9,2-5) was paced by Nate Robinson’s 18 points.

Other Scores: Cal freshman Richard Midgley scored 23 points as host Cal beat USC 73-68…Stanford held off UCLA 52-51 and Fresno State beat Hawaii 56-55.

A Gonzaga Player Apologizes, Hawaii’s Coach Gets An Extension and A Player Quits:Gonzaga’s Tyler Amaya apologized Thursday for making an alleged racial insult to a Chinese American man last weekend in San Francisco.

Gonzaga will play Missouri at Seattle’s Key Arena next season.

Colorado State backup center Quantone Smith has left the team. Smith was averaging 4.4 points a game

Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace received a new contract Thursday. Wallace’s new deal will run through 2005.

Tonight’s Menu

• Hmm…Let’s see. Well, Yale is at Brown at 7 p.m., that ought to be good.

• The Patriot League has a full slate, of which Colgate vs. American should be the most evenly matched.

• The marquee event is Gonzaga against Portland for you night owls on the East Coast. Game Time: 10:30 PM Eastern.

I am out. Have a great Friday and stay warm. Later.

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