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February 2, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, February 2nd, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

Who wants the number one ranking?

This question is not asked facetiously. No. 1 Arizona lost on Thursday, and on Saturday, two teams were gunning for the top spot now that it was open.

No. 2 Pittsburgh took on No. 25 Syracuse in an important Big East game on Saturday night. The Panthers have never been the top-ranked team, and that would have to wait a little longer as the Orangemen capped off a big second half comeback when Jeremy McNeil made his only field goal attempt of the game with three seconds left in their 67-65 win. Syracuse (14-3, 5-2 Big East) had trailed by 12 at halftime and as many as 13 early in the second half, used a run of nine unanswered points to start the comeback. The Orangemen also switched from their traditional 2-3 zone to a man-to-man defense, which made a difference as well.

Pittsburgh (15-2, 5-1 Big East) had one last chance, and Brandin Knight’s 40-footer went through the net. But the shot was ruled too late, ending the second failed bid for the top spot in just over a month for the Panthers, who shot just 3-22 on three-pointers and got just five points from Julius Page. Page had 25 against the Orangemen in the previous meeting. Knight played all 40 minutes despite spraining his left ankle in practice Wednesday, scoring seven points and handing out seven assists.

Earlier in the day, No. 3 Texas had a chance to state their case for the top spot as they took on No. 10 Oklahoma State and its 15-game winning streak. The Longhorns entered the game without a home loss, and it would remain that way after the game as they pulled away for a 78-65 win. They shot 51% from the field and outrebounded the Cowboys 41-28. The Longhorns are now 14-3 and 5-1 in Big 12 play, while the Cowboys fall to 17-2 and 6-1 in Big 12 contests.

No. 1 Arizona (16-2, 8-1 Pac Ten) assured that they would not fall far in the polls, as they rebounded from Thursday’s loss with a 95-80 win over No. 24 California (14-4, 7-2). The win gives the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the Pac Ten.

Side Dishes

Denied: Bob Knight’s first attempt at winning number 800 was not meant to be. Texas A&M started fast, leading 25-9 at one point, then held off a furious rally by Knight’s Texas Tech team in a 64-59 victory in College Station. Knight’s next chance is Wednesday night, when Nebraska visits Lubbock.

Eagles Fly Over The Huskies: Boston College (10-8, 3-4 Big East) knocked off No. 12 Connecticut (13-4, 4-2 Big East), 95-71, for the biggest upset of the day. It’s just the second time Boston College has won in the last 28 meetings between the two teams, and one that might get the Eagles headed in the right direction for the remainder of the regular season. See the article for more.

Working Overtime Again: No. 11 Notre Dame (18-3, 6-1 Big East) had a familiar situation on Saturday. For the second Saturday in a row, they needed overtime, but in this case it took two overtimes to knock off Georgetown (10-7, 2-5 Big East), 93-92. It came almost one year after the two teams hooked up in a four-overtime game at the MCI Center, which the Irish also won. Matt Carroll played 48 of the 50 minutes and scored a career-high 36 points, and also became Notre Dame’s all-time leader in career three-pointers.

Streaking Forward: With Oklahoma State losing, the longest winning streak in the nation now belongs to No. 8 Louisville (16-1). The Cardinals won their 15th straight game behind another big second half, knocking off No. 18 Indiana (14-6) by a 95-76 margin. Right behind them is No. 4 Florida (18-2, 7-0 SEC), which won its 14th straight game, 77-66 over visiting Arkansas.

Close Call: No. 5 Oklahoma (15-3, Big 12) needed overtime to take out Kansas State, 91-89. The Wildcats sent it to overtime on a three-pointer by Tim Ellis with one-tenth of a second left in regulation. The Sooners had an 89-87 lead in the extra session, then Ebi Ere sealed it by rebounding a missed free throw and making two free throws to cap a 25-point effort

Back On Track: Two slumping teams matched up in Tuscaloosa, as No. 23 Alabama had lost three straight games and looked nothing like the team that once occupied the top spot in the polls. Meanwhile, LSU had lost four straight SEC games. The Crimson Tide broke the streak with a 75-66 win over LSU, keeping the Tigers in free-fall mode as well. Alabama (13-5, 3-4 SEC) should at least remain in the Top 25 for now, while LSU (12-7, 1-6 SEC) certainly won’t be seeing the rankings anytime soon.

No Surprises: It was far from a day of upsets in the Top 25, as most ranked teams won. No. 6 Kentucky (16-3, 6-0 SEC) remained hot as they beat South Carolina, 87-69, for their 10th straight win and setting up Tuesday night’s SEC showdown against Florida. No. 13 Kansas (15-5, 5-1 Big 12) had no trouble with Nebraska in an 81-51 thumping of the Cornhuskers. No. 14 Creighton (19-2, 9-1 Missouri Valley) handled Drake easily, 88-68, despite an off night from Kyle Korver. No. 16 Georgia (13-5, 5-2 SEC) held off No. 19 Mississippi State (13-5, 3-4 SEC), 67-63. No. 17 Marquette (15-3, 7-1 C-USA) came up with a big road win at Cincinnati (13-5, 6-2 C-USA), 82-76. No. 21 Xavier (15-4, 6-1 Atlantic Ten) beat Richmond by a score of 66-52.

Tonight’s Menu:

• It’s a busy day for the ACC, as No. 7 Duke heads south to take on Florida State, No. 20 Wake Forest heads to Chapel Hill for a matchup with North Carolina, North Carolina State hosts Clemson and No. 9 Maryland has a non-conference matchup with Loyola (Md.)

• The lone Big Ten contest has No. 15 Illinois traveling to take on Michigan State.

• No. 21 Oregon has an important road game at USC.

• The Big East has two games on tap, with St. John’s hosting Miami and an in-state battle as Seton Hall hosts Rutgers.

That’s it for this Sunday. Enjoy!

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