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February 16, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, February 16th, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

The day after Valentine’s Day was not one filled with love for Top 25 teams on the road. Six teams were upset victims on the road, including three in the Big East. (One could debate the use of ‘upset’ for many of these games, but that’s another story for another time.)

We start in Knoxville, where No. 5 Florida visited a Tennessee team that has been making a surge towards the NCAA Tournament. The Volunteers stepped up in the final minutes at the defensive end, taking the lead for good on a three-pointer by Jon Higgins with 5:22 to play and shutting down the Gators in a 66-59 win. Ron Slay, the SEC’s leading scorer, had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Tennessee (15-6, 7-3 SEC) to their sixth straight win. Florida’s big three of Brett Nelson, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh combined to shoot just 3-22 as the Gators drop to 20-4 overall and 9-2 in SEC play.

Our next stop is East Rutherford, where No. 7 Pittsburgh ran into a hot home team in Seton Hall. The Pirates stunned Notre Dame less than two weeks ago, and came through for their fifth straight win, 73-61 over the Panthers. The Pirates shut down the perimeter attack of the Panthers, as Brandin Knight and Julius Page combined to shoot 4-21 from the field and the Panthers were 4-26 on three-pointers. Andre Sweet scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, while Andre Barrett had 17 points as well for Seton Hall (12-9, 6-4 Big East). Jaron Brown had 14 points to lead four players in double figures for Pittsburgh (17-4, 7-3 Big East).

That was not the only game that impacted the top of the West Division of the Big East, as No. 16 Syracuse got a late three-pointer from freshman Gerry McNamara with 18 seconds left to upset No. 10 Notre Dame, 82-80 at the Carrier Dome in front of 32,116 fans. McNamara had struggled for much of the night, but came through when it counted most. Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse (17-4, 8-3 Big East) with a game-high 26 points and 9 rebounds, with 10 points coming in a key 14-2 run that brought the Orangemen back from a 12-point deficit in the second half. Notre Dame (19-5, 7-3 Big East) was led by Matt Carroll’s 22 points. The Orangemen now lead the West Division by one half game over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, and Seton Hall is just one more game behind.

The City of Brotherly Love have no love for No. 21 Connecticut, as the East Division of the Big East is no longer tied at the top while remaining tight. Villanova outplayed the Huskies in the first half as Connecticut often settled for jump shots, then the Huskies took over early in the second half and eventually took the lead. The Huskies held Villanova to 31.3% shooting and out-rebounded the Wildcats 50-39, but 24 turnovers killed the Huskies, as Villanova got clutch baskets from Gary Buchanan (game-high 28 points) and plays from fellow senior Ricky Wright en route to a 79-70 victory at the First Union Center. Villanova now takes a one-game lead in the East Division, improving to 14-9 overall and 7-3 in Big East play. Ben Gordon, who was arrested on Friday before traveling to Philadelphia with the Huskies, showed no ill effects from the off-court issue with 25 points and 8 assists for Connecticut (15-6, 6-4 Big East). Combined with Boston College beating Miami, 76-65 at Chestnut Hill behind 34 points from Troy Bell, just a game and a half separate first from third place in the East Division.

Purdue kept pace in the Big Ten by remaining perfect at home on the season, as they upset No. 15 Illinois, 70-61 in West Lafayette. Kenny Lowe had 23 points to lead Purdue (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten), while Brian Cook was the only player in double digits for Illinois (16-5, 6-4 Big Ten) with 20. The Boilermakers remain tied with Wisconsin and Michigan atop the Big Ten, as both were also winners on Saturday.

The last team to be mentioned among the upset victims on the road is No. 12 Creighton (22-3, 12-2 Missouri Valley), which lost 80-74 to an up-and-coming Wichita State team that has just one senior. Wichita State is now 14-8 and 9-4 in conference play. Despite the loss, Creighton remains tied atop the conference, as Southern Illinois (17-5, 12-2 Missouri Valley) also lost on the road, 77-73 to Bradley in overtime.

Side Dishes

See, It’s Not That Hard: In the biggest matchup of the day, No. 2 Louisville was the biggest road winner as they scored a 73-70 victory over No. 11 Marquette in Milwaukee. The game was played in front of 18,850 fans, the largest crowd ever to see a college basketball game in Wisconsin, and the teams gave the fans their money’s worth. Reece Gaines capped off a 20-point effort with a three-pointer with six seconds left to give Louisville (19-2, 9-1 C-USA) the victory. Marquette (18-4, 9-2) had won ten straight games, and had a 28-game home winning streak snapped with the loss, a streak that began after a home loss to the same Louisville Cardinals.

Road Warriors In The Big 12: Two Big 12 teams in the top ten showed how to win on the road, and another pulled off a road upset. No. 4 Oklahoma (17-4, 8-2 Big 12) hit 10 of 18 three-pointers and got a career-high 23 points from Quannas White in a 63-58 win at slumping Texas Tech. No. 6 Texas (17-4, 8-2 Big 12) struggled for a while in the first half, but Brandon Mouton (game-high 24 points) came alive late in the half and helped the Longhorns post a 75-63 victory at Nebraska. Meanwhile, Baylor snapped a 22-game road losing streak by stunning No. 13 Oklahoma State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12) 74-72. With those three games, the Big 12 has a three-way tie for second behind Kansas, which is 8-1 in Big 12 games.

Another Day At The Office: No. 3 Kentucky (20-3, 10-0 SEC) kept the nation’s longest winning streak going by winning its 14th straight game, 68-57 over LSU. Both teams shot below 40% for the game, but the Wildcats had a 46-30 edge on the glass and held LSU star Ronald Dupree to just 10 points before he fouled out.

Foul Play: No. 22 Georgia beat Vanderbilt by a score of 83-70 in a game that featured 61 fouls and a combined 82 free throws. Georgia (14-7, 6-4 SEC) held Vanderbilt to 33% shooting and out-rebounded the Commodores 48-38.

Back On Track: No. 9 Duke (17-4, 7-4 ACC) ended a four-game road losing streak in the ACC with a 78-59 win over Virginia in Charlottesville. Freshman Shelden Williams led the way with a career-high 20 points.

Homecourt Advantage Out West: All three ranked teams in the Pac Ten won on their home courts on Saturday. No. 1 Arizona (20-2, 12-1 Pac Ten) got 25 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks from Channing Frye and used a 32-4 run in the second half to blow out USC, 86-59. No. 23 California (18-4, 11-2 Pac Ten) won a tight game against Washington, 58-53, to stay right behind Arizona. No. 24 Stanford (19-6, 10-3 Pac Ten) isn’t dropping out of the picture, as they beat Washington State, 72-54, behind 21 points from Justin Davis in his first start since tearing a knee ligament last month.

Working Overtime: No. 19 Mississippi State (16-5, 6-4 SEC) narrowly averted the upset bid of in-state rival Mississippi with a 68-64 overtime win in Starkville. Mario Austin (19 points) made a three-point play with 52 seconds left in the extra session to spark a 7-0 run that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The headline matchup on a light day is an ACC showdown, as No. 17 Wake Forest takes on No. 18 Maryland at the Comcast Center in College Park. Wake Forest is percentage points ahead in the standings with a 6-2 record in ACC play, while Maryland is 7-3 against ACC foes.

• No. 8 Kansas is the only other ranked team in action, as they host Iowa State.

• One of the nation’s hottest teams, Manhattan, makes a little trip to New Rochelle to take on Iona in pursuit of its 20th win of the season.

That’s all for this Sunday. Enjoy!

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