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Conference USA Notebook

February 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

From the ashes

For most programs around the country, losing three of four games and
dropping below .500 in conference play is a bad omen. But these programs are
not Memphis, and they do not play in the National Division of Conference
USA. Thanks to a division that cannot even fathom the notion of consistency,
the Tigers are once again in first place.

After losing at Saint Louis, who is in last place in the American Division,
on January 25, the Tigers have won three straight. Their overall record is
14-5 and 5-3 in C-USA play. While 5-3 would be good enough for fourth on the
American side, it lands them numero uno in the National Division. Call it
what you want, if the C-USA Tourney started today, Memphis would receive the
No. 2 seed.

While the Tigers are loaded with talented scores, their defense has been the
barometer during conference play. When they allow 67 or more points, they
are 2-3. Yet when they have held opponents to 66 points or less, they are
3-0. During the team’s three-game winning streak, they have allowed 60
points per game. With their offensive prowess, 60 points is an easy target
to hit.

Speaking of the Tigers’ offense, their 84-69 victory over TCU Saturday
featured the most balanced attack of the season. Six players scored in
double digits, led by John Grice’s twenty points. For Memphis, five players
are now averaging more than ten points per game for the season.
Memphis has had consistent scoring and consistent defense as of late, but
now they just need consistent overall performances. One of their toughest
remaining challenges for the regular season is this Thursday, when they
travel to Tulane to face the Green Wave.

Hanging around

Not only did a three-game winning streak transcend Memphis into first place,
but one also catapulted South Florida into second place in the National
Division. Although playing inconsistently this entire season, the Bulls
continue to win their fair share of games. And in the National Division, it
is good enough to be near the top.

Their three-game winning streak comes after losing five of seven. The key
for South Florida during their stretch has been the expanded game of point
guard Reggie Kohn. While Kohn continues to lead C-USA in assists, he is
averaging a modest 9.4 points per game. Yet, during the Bulls last two wins,
Kohn exploded for 21 points against TCU, then netted twelve against Saint
Louis.

The more Kohn scores, the more pressure is eased off of Will McDonald. And
if Kohn continues to score around fifteen per game, defenses will have to
focus on stopping his scoring, enabling passing lanes to open up.
While the Bulls are almost backing their way into a run at the division
title, they must travel to UAB this week. USF is just 1-3 on the road in
conference play.

The Cisco Kid

For fans that had never heard the name Francisco Garcia about ten days ago,
do not feel bad, you are not alone. Now though, the entire nation knows
about the Cisco Kid. Garcia used a national stage to display another one of
Louisville’s many weapons this season. He scored a career-high 23 points
against than No. 18 Indiana February 1. The career-high lasted all of four
days; when he came away with 24 points during the Cards 77-71 win against
Cincinnati Wednesday night. Garcia’s 24 came on eight-of-eleven shooting
from beyond the arc, tying a school record for most three-pointers made in a
game.

Finishing off his campaign was his fourteen point performance against
Houston Saturday, most of which came early on in the game. A small forward
who stands 6’7″, Garcia can easily shoot over smaller defenders. Garcia also
owns a lighting quick release, enabling him to get his shot off almost at
will. With his sudden emergence, the Cardinals have added yet another
dimension to their talented squad.

Company and Wade

Buried underneath Louisville’s seventeen-game winning streak is the fact
that Marquette has won nine straight themselves. Perhaps this is because
Dwyane Wade has not dropped in 30 some-odd points in a game as of late. The
scary part about the Golden Eagles is they have not needed his usual high
point totals to win. Wade has not been the team’s high scorer for three
straight games now, the longest such streak of the season.

One player stepping up of late is likely C-USA newcomer of the year, Robert
Jackson. Jackson has averaged 17.8 points during the last four games,
leading the team in scoring twice. His 21-point performance against
Cincinnati a week ago proved to be the difference in the Marquette win. Also
throwing his hat into the mix this week was sophomore Travis Diener. He
scored a season-high 21 points against Saint Louis earlier this week, as
Marquette won 68-64. This recent disparity of scoring makes Marquette much
stronger for when March comes rolling around.

More double trouble

Another week, another double overtime thriller in C-USA. This week’s
excitement took place in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, as Southern Mississippi
defeated UAB, 82-80, Wednesday night. The Golden Eagles’ victory was due to
Jasper Johnson’s heroics. Johnson nailed a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds
remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Then with time running down during the second extra period, Johnson nailed a
fifteen-footer from the baseline, sending the crowd into hysteria. The win
leaves Southern Miss’ record at 10-10 overall and 3-6 in C-USA, which is
good enough to be out of last place.

Player of the week

Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati

After struggling for two weeks, Maxiell announced his return in big fashion.
He scored 21 points and grabbed ten boards during a loss to Louisville
Wednesday, then scored a career-high 24, as UC defeated No. 12 Oklahoma
State Sunday, 61-50.

Games to watch

South Florida at UAB, Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Quietly, the Bulls have moved into second place in the National Division.
UAB’s two losses last week left them in a three-way tie for third in the
division. The Blazers won the earlier meeting this year.

Memphis at Tulane, Thursday at 8 p.m.

The Tigers reward for climbing into first place is getting to face the
hottest team in the National Division. After starting off 0-4 in conference
play, the Green Wave has now won four straight.

Louisville at Marquette, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Game of the year in Conference USA? Louisville has won seventeen straight.
Marquette has won nine straight. Both are ranked in the top 15. Player of
the year candidates Reece Gaines and Dwyane Wade go head-to-head. This will
be a game no C-USA fan will want to miss.

     

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