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Conference USA Notebook

February 4, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

No More Problems in Houston

Remember back to January 11, when the Houston Cougars just lost their
seventh straight game, 63-50 to UAB, dropping their overall record to 2-10?
Seems like a long time ago now. Since bottoming out to the Blazers, UH has
turned in a miraculous comeback, one that’s put the Cougars into a tie for
first place in the National Division.

Since the loss to the Blazers, Houston has won four of five. Their overall
record now sits at 6-11, but their C-USA mark is 4-2. The recent resurgence
is due to the team’s inside-outside duo of Louis Truscott and Andre Owens.
This pair simply took it upon themselves to carry UH on their backs and so
far, they are holding up.

While the two were producing during the team’s slow start, they have turned
it up a notch during the last three weeks. During the last five games, no
player other than Owens or Truscott has led the team in points, rebounds, or
assists. Truscott has averaged 17.8 points and 14.6 rebounds per game during
Houston’s hot streak. He also is holding his ground as the nation’s second
leading rebounder. Owens has averaged 18.6 points during the same stretch
and four assists per contest as well.

Now for the Cougars, they must face one of the top teams in the conference
and the nation. After a date Wednesday night with Tulane, the Cougars host
No. 8 Louisville Saturday night. If Houston can pull off another victory
against the Cardinals, expect the whole nation to hear about it.

Big (man) disappointment

At the beginning of the season two players expected to be first team
all-conference performers were Cincinnati’s Jason Maxiell and Memphis’ Earl
Barron. As the season heads into February, the two are shaping up instead as
the league’s two biggest disappointments of the season.

After a torrid NIT Tournament last year, Barron appeared ready to break out
this season. Instead, the 7’0″ senior has been missing in action. He
struggled earlier in the season and when Chris Massie returned to the team,
he started to become invisible. During the Tigers’ last five games, Barron
has averaged just 4.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. John Calipari is
even starting to lose confidence in Barron, as he’s played him just 16.2
minutes per game during the same stretch.

While Maxiell’s numbers are not telling the story of a player struggling
like Barron, Cincinnati does not have the luxury of another standout post
player like Memphis possesses. Maxiell hit rock bottom Saturday against
Marquette, when he scored just three points and grabbed three rebounds. He
made no field goals and was bullied underneath by the Golden Eagles’ big
men. For Barron and Maxiell, it looks like the two can only go up from here.

Humbled in Hattiesburg

Just like Houston, January 11 is the day Southern Mississippi’s season
turned 180 degrees. Unlike the Cougars, the Golden Eagles sank in the
standings instead of catapulting forward. After an 84-67 upset in
Hattiesburg that faithful day, USM’s overall record stood at 9-4. They were
also tied with UAB at 2-0 atop the National Division. Since then, Southern
Miss has gone into a tailspin. In fact, they have yet to win since.

Currently they are on a five-game losing streak, as their overall record has
slipped to 9-9 and their 2-5 C-USA mark is better than only TCU’s 1-6
record.

The Golden Eagles’ problem is simple; they cannot stop anyone from scoring.
During their losing streak, the opposition is averaging 81.6 points per
game. No team can win a league game with defense like that. Against
Louisville Wednesday, USM allowed 52.7 percent shooting and 94 points,
including 51 during the final 20 minutes. The only bright spot for Southern
Miss is their upcoming schedule, which features a home rematch with UAB, the
divisional leader, and games against two of the league’s worst, East
Carolina and TCU.

Diener strikes back

Cincinnati would sure be happy to never face any of the Diener brothers
again. The Bearcats faced DePaul’s Drake Diener Wednesday and Marquette’s Travis Diener Saturday, and lost both games. The
defeats sent Cincinnati back to third in the American Division, with a road
game at Louisville looming this week.

During the DePaul game, Drake finished with just two points, tying a
season-low. However, the sophomore guard dished out six assists, his
second-highest total of the season. Saturday his brother, Travis, finished
with thirteen points as Marquette defeated UC 82-76. He connected on three
crucial three-pointers during the first half while Dwyane Wade sat because
of foul difficulties. Luckily for Cincinnati, there are only two Dieners.

Unfortunately for UC, they must face Travis one more time, March 8 at
Milwaukee.

Brown’s record night

Culminating three weeks of shooting, shooting and more shooting, Charlotte’s
Demon Brown etched his name into the record book Saturday, replacing his
own. During the Niners’ 67-64 loss to South Florida, Brown scored 25 points
on eight-of-21 shooting from the field. All but two of his attempts came
from behind the line, as the nineteen three-point shot attempts set a new
C-USA record. The old record belonged to none other than Brown, who
attempted eighteen against Appalachian State November 25.

During the past six games, Brown has been shooting like it was his job. He
has averaged 24.5 points per game, but even more ridiculous is his fifteen
three-point attempts per game. With 214 three-point attempts so far this
season, Brown is on pace to shatter the conference’s record. DeJuan Wheat
attempted 272 three-pointers during the 1996-97 season. At this rate, Brown
will eclipse Wheat’s mark after four more games.

And the Cards keep winning

How long has it been since Louisville last lost? Their last ‘L’ came
November 30, 2002, a span of fifteen games, for those fans who were
wondering. Saturday’s 95-76 thrashing of Indiana made the Cardinals 2-0
against top 25 teams this season, and improved their record to 16-1. It
would take too long to list all of the positives for Louisville, so instead
we will focus on what’s coming up for the Cards.

Wednesday they host Cincinnati, a team who appears to be on the way down.
Next, the Cardinals take to the road for a three-game swing, which ends in
Marquette February 15.

Player of the week

Louis Truscott, Houston – Truscott ended up on the winning side against
South Florida’s Will McDonald Wednesday, scoring eleven points and grabbing
twelve rebounds during Houston’s 59-57 win. Then against Charlotte Saturday,
Truscott willed the Cougars to victory, totaling 21 points and 21 rebounds
during UH’s 67-64 win.

Games to watch

Tulane at Houston, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Three weeks ago, who would have guessed this game would matter? Suddenly the
Cougars are tied for first in the National Division, and Tulane is making a
run near the top.

Cincinnati at Louisville, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

While the Bearcats stumbled last week, the Cardinals continue to roll.
Cincinnati will have a difficult task avoiding a three-game losing streak,
while Louisville gets another national showcase for its talented squad.

Wake Forest at Marquette, Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

A rare mid-season match-up between a top C-USA team and a top non-conference
foe. The Demon Deacons are one of the surprises of this season. Josh Howard
will be a difficult match for the Golden Eagles.

     

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