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February 20, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, February 20th, 2003

by Brian Seymour

It’s almost one week until March — it’s now officially OK to use the word “bubble”. Unlike some publications, who’ve had their “Bubble Watches” up since December.

Anyway, two teams in particular had a chance Wednesday to pump up their tournament credentials with games against Top Five opponents and perhaps move themselves off the aforementioned bubble. One of them was able to come through.

Memphis (17-5, 8-3 C-USA), left home last year despite a 20-win season, should find itself dancing come March after a 80-73 upset over No. 4 Louisville. Antonio Burks scored 16 points for the Tigers, who have now won six straight.

The Cardinals lost their first home game of the season and have now lost two of their last three games, falling to 19-3, 9-2.

The other team with an opportunity to help itself with an upset — Colorado — came up short in a 94-87 loss to No. 5 Kansas. The Buffaloes are now 15-9, 5-6 Big 12, but face a favorable schedule in their final five games.

Kansas’ big men were dominating as Nick Collison scored 24 points with 14 rebounds and Wayne Simien added 21 points and 13 boards. Michael Morandais scored 28 points for Colorado, including a shot from behind midcourt before the halftime buzzer.

Side Dishes

Duke holds off Maryland: No. 9 Duke was able to hang on for a 75-70 victory over a pesky No. 14 Maryland team at Cameron Indoor in what was a must-win contest for the Blue Devils’ regular-season ACC title hopes.

Steve Blake missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left as Maryland (16-7, 8-4) battled back from a 10-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining. Dahntay Jones scored a game-high 21 points for Duke (18-4, 8-4), which is just percentage points behind first-place Wake Forest (7-3) in the ACC.

Revenge is sweet for Oklahoma: Oklahoma extended the nation’s longest home court winning streak to 35 games with a convincing 64-48 win over No. 17 Oklahoma State, in the process gaining a measure of revenge for a controversial 48-46 loss to the Cowboys on Jan. 13.

With the win, No. 6 Oklahoma remains one game behind first place Kansas, which will travel to Norman for a huge game on Sunday. Hollis Price scored 22 points for the Sooners (18-4, 9-2). Oklahoma State falls to 19-5, 8-3.

Purdue home streak snapped: That unlikely Big Ten regular season for the University of Michigan is now a big step closer to reality. The Wolverines (16-9, 9-3) posted a 78-67 upset win over the No. 23 Boilermakers (16-7, 8-4), snapping Purdue’s 14-game home winning streak and moving into the conference lead thanks to Penn State’s upset win over Wisconsin.

Freshman Daniel Horton scored a career-high 31 points, including 21 in the first half. Michigan’s four remaining games include a road game at Wisconsin and a season-ending home contest against Purdue.

Other ranked teams cruise: Purdue and Louisville were the only Top 25 squads playing unranked teams to fall. The others cruised easily, all winning by at least sixteen points — No. 2 Kentucky defeated Arkansas, 66-50; No. 11 Xavier blew out La Salle 93-71; No. 16 Creighton easily handled Indiana State 77-54; No. 18 Mississippi State defeated Auburn 63-46; and No. 25 Connecticut torched Rutgers 87-70. Kentucky remained one of only three teams unbeaten in conference play — Penn and Weber State are the others.

Tonight’s Menu

The usual light slate of Thursday games featuring Top 25 teams, though first place teams in the Horizon (Valparaiso) and Atlantic Sun (Troy State) face tough battles from their closest competitors.

• Georgia Tech (12-10) needs a win against No. 13 Wake Forest to keep its slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

• No. 10 Marquette hosts a struggling Charlotte team. With Louisville’s loss to Memphis, Marquette’s regular-season Conference USA title hopes have now gained a measure of new life.

• The Pac 10’s two Los Angeles teams host Top 25 teams — No. 19 California hits the road to face UCLA and No. 21 Stanford meets USC.

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