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February 24, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Monday, February 24, 2003

by Adam Shandler

Are the Oklahoma Sooners the new Texas?

On a Sunday reserved more for the stars of music, the 6th-ranked Sooners rocked the house in their own right and put up a noteworthy performance against No. 6 Kansas, 77-70. More importantly, OU may have won itself into a Norah Jonesesque scenario gaining momentum to earn both the Big 12 title and a Number 1 Regional ranking in the NCAAs. Hey, it could happen.

But even though the Sooners preserved a national best 36-game home win streak and earned a tie with the Jayhawks for first place in the Big 12, the victory against KU didnt come without its troubles. Kelvin Sampsons club started it off with a 17-6 run and went up by as many as 32, but the Jayhawks forged back into the contest in the second half, spurred by a big 7-0 run in the late minutes. Kansas cut it to five in the final 60 seconds, but OU held on despite a couple of missed down-the-stretch foul shots.

The Sooner backcourt was the fuel of this offense as Qannas White and Hollis Price scored 19 apiece to help their club improve to 19-4 overall. Prices shot over Kirk Hinrich popped Kansass balloon in that late second half run.

In truth, OU got some help from some flat Kansas shooting in the first half. Get this, a team pretending to be the Jayhawks missed 17 of its first 20 shots, led in futility by Nick Collison and his 1-for-9 off-the-marksmanship in the first half. The usually reliable Kirk Hinrich was no better, hitting only one field goal in the first 15 minutes of play. As we head into tournament time, these kinds of outputs are enough to make the pundits say, As Hinrich and Collison go, so go the Jayhawks. But will that be enough to keep Roy Williams away from that elusive tourney crown or do the role players have what it takes in case of a Hinrich/Collison fallout?

KU finished the game hitting a measly 34 percent from the floor.

Another streak in college hoopdom is still intact No. 2 Kentuckys. The Wildcats made it 16 straight, the longest total winning streak in the nation, but not before wrestling with a scrappy Mississippi State team, Hoopvilles 18th best.

Once UK went up by 16, they took a five-minute break, not hitting for a single point in that stretch. The Bulldogs took advantage with a 10-0 run, led by Mario Austin, who hit two big interior buckets and finished with 20 points and 8 boards.

Then the Wildcats woke up, with a big push from Cliff Hawkins, who netted 14 points on the day, including 5 big ones down the stretch. Keith Bogans scored 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including four 3-pointers) and hauled in seven rebounds.

Kentucky won 70-62, which is a bit of a big deal, considering theyve won their last ten games by double-digit margins.

Realizing that there is no such thing as a sure thing in college hoops, especially so close to March, Kentuckys Hawkins said, We needed a game like that, while Bogans commented, This is clutch time, to see what type of team we have.

The Cats improve to 22-3 and remain perfect in the SEC at 12-0. MSU falls to 17-6 and 7-5 in the SEC.

Side Dishes

The Orangeby a Stem: It got a little too close for Jim Boeheims liking, but his No. 15 Syracuse Orangemen staved off a well-prepared Michigan State club, 76-75. The Spartans had three chances to win it in the final ticks, but Kelvin Torbet, Adam Ballinger and Alan Anderson could not get their shots to fall. Freshman Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points for the 19-4 Orangemen, who have won six of their last 7 games. Michigan State got 34 points out of Chris Hill. The Spartans, who began the first few weeks of the season as a Top 25 no-brainer, are now 14-11 and scribbled into the margins of NCAA tournament consideration.

Winning Ways at Wake: Wake Forest, Hoopvilles 13th favorite team, thwarted a Virginia team that shot well (52 percent) but coughed up the ball too much (18 turnovers). Josh Howard paced the Demon Deacons with 28 points and Vytas Danelius scored 21 in the 75-71 victory.

Big MAAC Attack: Call it a pre-conference tournament tune-up. At the Sovereign Bank Center in Trenton, which the MAAC will call its tournament home, Manhattan continued to show its supremacy over conference opposition with an 83-49 smacking of Loyola. In the back half of the double-header, Siena upended Rider, 72-61.

Crusaders Clinch: Not only did the Holy Cross Crusaders clinch the Patriot League regular season championship, but they also reached the 20 win mark something not many Division I teams can celebrate just yet. The Crusaders bested Navy, 63-42 as Brian Wilson hit for 16 and penned such great singles as Surfin USA and California Gisorry, different Brian Wilson. Just trying to keep up that whole Grammy theme.

Texas Tech Not Valdezs Cup o Joe: Call Nick Valdez another Bobby Knight casualty. Valdez, one of the better contributors on the Red Raider roster, quit the team after going AWOL for team meetings and practices. Both Valez and teammate Andrew Emmett were suspended for one game, against Texas, last Monday. Coach Knight claimed that there was a whole long list of beefs between he and Valdez.

Dog Ate His Homework: You wont find freshman Jason Parker on the South Carolina roster anymore. According to USC officials, Parker, a Kentucky transfer, did not complete his fall semester workload, so he did not register for spring classes. Parker, a 6-8, 255-pound forward who averaged 9 points and 5 boards in 2000-01, made the SECs all-rookie team. It is not known whether he will return to the Columbia, SC campus or not.

Tonight’s Menu:

• 21-5 Notre Dame, ranked 12th in our latest poll, gets a challenge from an inspired UConn team that has reunited with coach Jim Calhoun. Calhoun, who underwent prostate cancer surgery on February 6, was not supposed to return to the Husky helm until the first week of March, but he recovered quickly enough to return to the sidelines and coach his squad to a victory over St. Johns this past Saturday. The Irish are tough at home and look to protect a 14-0 home court mark.

• Texas Tech had enough problems with the departure of Nick Valdez and other behind-the-scenes troubles. It doesnt get any easier for the Red Raiders tonight when they visit No. 17 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys own a 20-4 record.

• Another team with a perfect home record is Utah. The No. 22 Utes face Brigham Young as they go for win number 21 and 14 straight at home.

• Butler keeps on-a Marchin toward a Horizon conference regular season title. The 21-4 Bulldogs visit Rollie Massiminos Cleveland State Vikings.

• Wagner, tops in the NEC at 13-2, finish up a four-game homestand tonight against Sacred Heart. The Seahawks are on a five-game tear and still need to make up a game against Central Connecticut State that was postponed due to last Mondays snowstorm.

• You can always count on a Philly Big 5 game to make things interesting. Tonight, St. Josephs brings their lofty 19-4 record to LaSalle, where the Explorers hope to improve on their 10-13 mark.

Hope your Monday is a happy one. Enjoy!

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