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Conference USA Notebook

January 27, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Joining the party

Entering last week, three C-USA teams remained winless in conference play. Well, the party has now officially begun, as these last three squads all cracked the win column during the course of the week. While all three wins could be considered mild surprises, all three took place on the winning teams’ home court, a usual recipe for victory in conference play.

The first win took place in Saint Louis Saturday, as the Billikens successfully kept their streak of never losing their first five conference games in tact. SLU withstood every single comeback Memphis could muster, eventually winning 69-66 against the now struggling Tigers. Saint Louis improved to 7-9 overall and 1-4 in C-USA. Memphis slid to 11-5 and 2-3 in C-USA, which is just one fewer loss then they suffered last year. The win marked the return of Billiken head coach Brad Soderberg, who missed the last two games with a virus that landed him in the hospital. SLU shut down the league’s hottest player, Chris Massie, en route to the win. Massie finished with just four points and five rebounds. He came into the game averaging twenty points and twelve rebounds per game. For Saint Louis, the win helped to repair their shaken confidence. After losing to Houston earlier in the week, this was a game they needed. Perhaps with the return of Soderberg and the leadership of Marque Perry, the Billikens came scratch its way back into contention.

Team number two to crack the win column was the Tulane Green Wave, who defeated National Division leaders UAB, 75-72, Saturday in New Orleans. Tulane never trailed and like SLU, fought off several rallies by the Blazers. The win improved the Green Wave’s record to 8-10 overall and 1-4 in C-USA. UAB dropped to 11-5 overall and 3-2 in C-USA. Somehow, the Blazers retained their lead in the National Division. For Tulane, they are finally receiving a contribution from junior forward Wayne Tinsley. After struggling for most of the season, Tinsley dropped in a season-high fifteen points against the Blazers. This came after he scored a season-high fourteen points during Tulane’s previous game. With Tinsley finally stepping up and a favorable schedule this week, the Green Wave also has the chance to makes some waves toward the front of the division.

And finally, team number three, who happened to be the squad Tulane lost to earlier in the week. They, of course, are the Horned Frogs of TCU. One of the league’s top offenses finally ended up with more points than their opponent at the end of the game Wednesday. TCU exploded for 54 points during the second half and knocked off Tinsley and Tulane, 93-84. The win brought the Horned Frogs to the magic conference record of 1-4. Corey Santee played his first of two sensational games during the week, scoring 25 points and dishing out six assists while turning the ball over just once. While the win was an important one, it led to more heartbreak for the Horned Frogs later in the week.

One that got away

What was the heartbreak? Blowing a fifteen-point led against No. 10 Creighton, at the Bluejays’ homecourt no less. TCU built a twelve-point halftime lead, and extended it to fifteen early on during the second stanza. But then, Kyle Korver dialed up from long distance and the Horned Frogs could not find the response. In the end, TCU had their most disappointing loss of this season by the score of 89-79. The loss dropped the Horned Frogs’ record to 7-10. “It was the story of our season,” Horned Frogs coach Neil Dougherty said. “If we played 30 or 35-minute games, we’d probably have only one loss. We’ve got to play a complete game.”

TCU’s Santee scored 27 points, but once again the defense failed his team. The Horned Frogs trailed by just one, 78-77, with just a few minutes remaining before Creighton’s experience took over. The Bluejays went on a 9-0 run, putting the game, and perhaps the Horned Frogs’ season, on ice.

Double trouble

Every fan leaving Minges Coliseum Saturday probably thought they were seeing double as they traveled home Saturday. Between Erroyl Bing’s double digits in rebounds, 24 to be exact, or the double overtime game they just witnessed, their vision must have appeared blurry. Luckily for all of the ECU fans, they left happy because their team won. East Carolina overcame a fourteen-point second half deficit and two extra periods to defeat South Florida, 68-62. During a wild game that featured an enormous amount of lead changes and the ejection of Bulls’ head coach Seth Greenberg, the Pirates pulled away during the second extra period. The win increased ECU’s record to 11-6 overall and 2-4 in C-USA. South Florida fell to 9-7 overall and 2-3 in C-USA. Bing’s 24 rebounds were easily the highest total by a C-USA player this season. The prior high of eighteen occurred four times this season, three of the occurrences belonging to Houston’s Louis Truscott. For the Pirates, they must now leave the friendly confines of Minges, playing their next three games on the road.

Lucky number 13

Lucky number 13, isn’t that an oxymoron? Not for Louisville and Rick Pitino. While C-USA becomes wilder and wilder, the Cardinals simply keep winning. Louisville cruised to a 5-0 record in C-USA by dismantling DePaul Wednesday evening, 71-43. The Cards then traveled out of conference and on the road to face a tough Tennessee team Saturday afternoon. Playing in front of a hostile crowd and a nation-wide audience, Louisville scored the final four points of the game, defeating the Vols 72-69. After Kendall Dartez hit a short jumper with less than a minute remaining, Louisville forced a bad Tennessee shot and Erik Brown calmly hit two free throws to seal it. The Cardinals are currently clicking on all cylinders, receiving contributions across the board and great play from their two stars, Reece Gaines and Marvin Stone. Gaines finished with 22 points and six assists Saturday, while Stone finished with thirteen rebounds. After a C-USA game with Southern Mississippi this Wednesday, the Cards again venture outside of the conference this Saturday, playing Indiana.

Player of the week

Corey Santee, TCU

Santee averaged 26 points and five assists during the Horned Frogs two games last week. TCU won their first conference game of the season before blowing a big lead to Creighton.

Games to watch

Indiana at Louisville, Saturday at 1 p.m.

Two very good and geographically close teams face off. Great match-ups all around, Gaines vs. Tom Coverdale, Stone vs. Jeffrey Newton. Should be a great game.

Southern Mississippi at Memphis, Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Golden Eagles knocked off the Tigers two weeks ago, sending Memphis into a slight tailspin. Both teams need this win to stay in the race for the National Division crown.

Marquette at Cincinnati, Saturday at 4 p.m.

Finally, the first of six match-ups between the top three teams in the National Division. Dwayne Wade tore up the Bearcat defense last season. Leonard Stokes has finally asserted himself as the leader of this UC team.

     

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