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Horizon Notebook

February 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Horizon League Notebook

by Brian Seymour

Just in case there was any question who the Horizon “big dog” is, Butler let Illinois-Chicago know.

The Bulldogs put a 61-47 whooping on UIC Saturday in the biggest game in the conference to date this season. With a win, UIC could have drawn even to Butler and forced a three-team tie at the top of the league standings.

Instead, Butler (18-3, 8-1) probably reduced the race for the regular season title to a two-team duel between itself and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

By the way, mark your calendars for Saturday, March 1. That’s when UWM and Butler have their final regular-season meeting in Indianapolis.

To be sure, both teams have some tough games remaining including a UIC visit to Milwaukee on Thursday, but if the Flames have another performance like Saturday’s against Butler, they’ll be biding their time until the conference tournament.

A tenacious Bulldog defense held the Flames (15-6, 6-3) to 34.6 percent from the field, including a miserable 9-of-32 (28.1 percent ) in the first half. The only thing keeping the Bulldogs from turning the game into a rout early was their poor first-half shooting (8-of-21). The 47-point performance was 29 points below UIC’s season average.

Butler turned it up in the second half and never looked back, while UIC never really got on track. Joel Cornelle pulled down a double-double for Butler with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Brandon Miller added 14 points.

Armond Williams was the only Flame immune to the shooting bug, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field to lead UIC in scoring.

Meanwhile, Butler faces its hardest conference road trip of the season this week with games at Loyola Thursday and Detroit Saturday.

UWM keeps the heat on

The aforementioned Panthers are showing no signs of conceding the league title to Butler after stumbling to a slow start. With a 78-54 humbling of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Monday, UWM (19-5, 10-2 Horizon) has now won six straight games.

Things should stay intense this week as UWM hosts Illinois-Chicago Thursday with lots at stake:

• It’s the Panthers’ regular-season home finale, though likely not the last home game of the season (more on that in a second).

• A win would give UWM its first 20-win season in 10 years.

• A win would also avenge one of UWM’s two conference losses this season, put it two games over UIC for second place in the conference and clinch hosting duties for quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the Horizon League postseason tournament. The top two teams in the league standings also earn a bye into the semifinal round.

Tale of two teams

Too bad the Horizon tournament isn’t being played in Youngstown, Ohio — as improbable as it seems, Youngstown State might be a favorite in that scenario.

The Penguins have won their last two home games, including a 65-63 upset over Loyola on Thursday. In fact, all eight of YSU’s (8-13, 4-6) wins have come at home with only three defeats.

The biggest test to the Penguins home prowess will come in their final two contests — Feb. 15 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Feb. 22 vs. Butler. Winning one of those games and having a say in determining the regular-season league champion would be an excellent building block for what looks like a team on the rise.

Sophomore Doug Underwood remains hot for YSU, leading the team in scoring in four of its last five games.

Bailey stays atop leaders in assists

UIC’s junior guard Martell Bailey remains the nation’s leader in assists per game with 8.7 and it’s looking like he’s going to stay atop for the rest of the season.

The only player in the country close to Bailey is St. Bonaventure’s Marques Green with 8.2 assists per game. The top 10 of the leader board is a who’s who of the top guards in the country and includes Duke’s Chris Duhon, Kansas’ Aaron Miles, Texas’ T.J. Ford, Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas and Maryland’s Steve Blake.

Bracket Buster update

The Horizon has three teams in the inaugural Bracket Buster series on Feb. 22, including two contests on ESPN2.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee will visit Southern Illinois (16-4) for a 3 p.m. (EST) game on ESPN2 in one of the headlining games of the day. Southern Illinois, a Sweet 16 team last season, will be on the bubble for an at-large bid this season if they can’t upset Creighton in the Missouri Valley tournament.

Illinois-Chicago will host Bowling Green (10-10) in a 5 p.m. (EST) game on ESPN2. Bowling Green started the season strong, but has stumbled lately.

The other game has Detroit travelling to UC-Santa Barbara (11-10) for an 11 p.m. (EST) game. UCSB, highly regarded at the beginning of the season, has also struggled this year but is co-leader of the Big West Conference.

     

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