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February 7, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Friday, February 7th, 2003

by Jon Gonzalez

Not since the days of Tim Duncan has Wake Forest been considered a legitimate national contender. But with a 16-2 record and the emergence of Josh Howard, the college basketball world might want to again take notice of the Demon Deacons.

Fueled by Howard’s 24 points, No.15 Wake Forest charged past NC State 73-58 on Thursday night. The win gives the Demon Deacons (16-2, 6-2) their best start in the ACC since 1997, when Wake started 7-1 in league play. More importantly, the victory further solidifies Wake’s standing as one of the premier teams not only in the ACC, but in the entire country.

Right now, Wake Forest has all the ingredients necessary to make a serious run in the NCAA tournament:

&#8226 The team can score and play defense. Wake is third in the ACC in both scoring defense and offense.

&#8226 Wake has an experienced winner manning the bench in Skip Prosser. Prosser has nine seasons of coaching experience under his belt and has compiled a gaudy winning percentage during that span.

&#8226 The Deacons have a steady backcourt. Sophomore Taron Downey and freshman Justin Gray can both score and distribute the rock, while senior Steve Lepore provides veteran leadership.

&#8226 Wake has great size in the frontcourt. Vytas Danelius (6-8), Eric Williams (6-9) and Jaamal Levy (6-9) are big men that can score and provide a formidable defensive presence for any team in the country. The Deacons also have a seven-footer they can throw out there in underused center Dshamal Schoetz. Size has always been a staple for Wake and this year is no different.

&#8226 Probably the most crucial element in Wake’s championship formula is the fact that the Deacs have a star player with a hot hand.

Howard has been the main reason why the Deacons are off to a great start and why they are legit. The homegrown hero from Winston-Salem is averaging 23 points per game in eight ACC contests and 19.2 points per game overall. In fact, Howard has led Wake in scoring in 10 out of the Deac’s 18 games. But it isn’t Howard’s scoring that will take Wake where it wants to go, rather Howard’s savvy and leadership ability, two qualities the senior has provided this year. Howard has given Wake veteran stability and has come through in games late, scoring points for the Deacons in crunch time. History has shown that a hot hand can take you far in March, that hand may belong to Josh Howard.

Wake Forest has also shown it can beat quality opponents, despite what their 59th toughest schedule in the country (which is not too bad in its own right) might say. Wake has beaten the likes of Wisconsin, St. Johns and conference toughies Maryland, Clemson, UNC (Clemson and UNC on the road) and now NC State. Keep in mind, Wake defeats a State (12-6, 5-3) team that has been hot of late, beating the likes of Duke and North Carolina. But hot would not be a good word to describe the Pack on Thursday night. State shot an abysmal 38 percent from the field and went ice cold in the second half after leading at the break. Also, Julius Hodge, the ACC’s leading scorer, was held to only 13 points.

Up next for Wake Forest, No.14 Marquette on Sunday. Wake faced Marquette last season, beating the Golden Eagles 64-59. But that game was in Winston-Salem, this game is in Wisconsin. The Deacon’s only two defeats have come on the road, to Duke and Virgina.

Side Dishes

Orange Crush: With the way UVA’s season has gone so far, being down 12 points with 12:50 left in a game on the road was a sure sign the Cavs were headed to another road L. But something happened to Virginia Thursday night, something that was downright magical. Down 12, the Cavs proceeded to go on a 16-0 run on the way to a shocking 86-78 victory over No.8 Maryland. The win was Virginia’s (13-7, 4-4) first ACC road win of the year, and its second road win overall. The victory was also UVA’s first in Maryland since 1993. Devin Smith was large for the Cavs, notching a team-high 17 points. It was fitting that on a night when ESPN Classic aired Maryland’s 2001 loss to Duke in which the Terps blew a ten-point lead with less than a minute left that Maryland (14-5, 6-2) would again blow a game that was in hand. Drew Nicholas scored a game-high 20 points for the Terrapins.

Close Call: The Washington Huskies had No.2 Arizona right where they wanted them, but could not seal the deal. Outplayed most of the night, Arizona (17-2, 9-1) slipped out of a Bank of America Arena that was filled to capacity with an 88-85 OT victory. Washington (8-11, 3-7) led 84-82 with about a minute left in overtime until Salim Stoudamire struck. The sophomore guard, who scored a game-high 25 points, nailed a three-pointer that gave the ‘Cats an 85-84 lead. Arizona’s Channing Frye would later hit a lay-up that extended the lead the three and basically sealed the deal. The win keeps Arizona atop the Pac-10, a game ahead of Cal. Freshman Nate Robinson led Washington with 19 points.

Sweet Revenge: On January 11th, No. 24 Stanford blasted Oregon 81-57. On Thursday night, the Ducks got their revenge. Led by Luke Ridnour’s 23 points, the Ducks rolled over Stanford (16-6, 7-3) 79-64. Oregon’s suffocating defense limited Stanford to a field goal percentage of 32 percent and forced 13 Cardinal turnovers. Oregon (16-5, 6-4) controlled the game throughout and was never really challenged. The game also featured a record-breaking performance by Oregon’s Ridnour, who broke the school record for consecutive free-throws as he extended his streak to 43. The previous mark was 41 straight free throws. Julius Barnes led Stanford with 17 points.

Other Notable Scores: Arizona State improved its Pac-10 record to 6-4 as the Sun Devils trampled Washington State 87-54.

California got 27 points from Amit Tamir as the Golden Bears kept pace with Arizona with an 84-71 win over Oregon State. The Bears, at 8-3 in conference, are a game behind Arizona.

Mid-major sleeper Manhattan improved to 18-3 as the Jaspers beat Marist 73-54.

Good News: Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun’s cancerous prostate was removed Thursday and the coach is expected to have a full-recovery. There is a 98 percent chance the cancer will not return.

I am Sorry: Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles criticized referee Tom Eades’ performance after the Razorbacks defeated No.21 Alabama on Wednesday. Broyles yelled at Eades, screaming, “You’re the worst I have ever seen,” at the ref. Broyles apologized for his comments on Thursday. Wonder what he would have said if the Razorbacks lost that game.

Hello and Goodbye: Tulsa dismissed senior guard Antonio Reed for violating an undisclosed team policy. Reed was averaging 6.9 points a game this season.

Cincinnati reserve Tony Bobbitt, who quit the Bearcats earlier this week, rejoined the team on Thursday. Bobbitt is averaging 7.2 points a game.

Sticking Around: South Florida has given coach Seth Greenberg a one-year extension through the 2005-06 season. Greenberg has a 103-94 record in 7 years at USF.

Tonight’s Menu

&#8226 Penn looks to take a step closer to closing in on the Ivy League title as the Quakers take on Cornell at 8 p.m.

&#8226 Surprising Brown hopes to stay unbeaten in the Ivy as the Bears tangle with Harvard at 7 p.m.

&#8226 Campbell treks to Florida to take on Florida Atlantic at 8 p.m. The game is of no relevant importance, but the whole country will find out if an owl can go toe-to-toe with a camel.

Later boys and girls, I am out of here.

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