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Big Sky Notebook

November 26, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Western conference power rankings

Things are so much simpler when you get west of the Rocky Mountains. The Pacific 10 is the lone powerhouse conference, and everyone else is fighting to be the best mid-major.

The Mountain West Conference, with UNLV, Utah and New Mexico, might be considered a major conference to some. But in my eyes, any conference with a military school — Air Force in this case — can never be put into that elite class. The Western Athletic Conference and West Coast Conference each have one dominant team — Fresno State and Gonzaga, respectively — putting them right below the Mountain West.

Then, on the bottom rung, there is the Big Sky and Big West, who battle each and every preseason to not be considered the West Coast doormats. There are two major criteria for judging who is the weaker conference by the end of the preseason: Performance against Pac 10 schools and head-to-head competition.

The Big Sky is 0-3 against the Pac 10 as of Tuesday night, with a Northern Arizona loss at No. 3-ranked Arizona, a Sacramento State loss at No. 18 Stanford and a Portland State loss at Washington. The Big West is 1-4, with a Cal Poly upset at California, a Cal State Fullerton loss at Arizona State, a UC Irvine loss to Stanford and a UC Riverside loss at Washington.

A slight edge to the Big West.

The teams are even in head-to-head match-ups with one win apiece — Northern Arizona defeated Cal State Fullerton and Utah State beat Weber State.

So, as of now, the Big West has a slight edge over the Big Sky, but there is plenty of basketball to be played before both teams head into their conference schedules in early January.

Western Conference Power Rankings
1. Pac 10
2. Mountain West
3. West Coast Conference
4. Western Athletic Conference
5. Big West
6. Big Sky

Welcome back to Sac

Imagine waiting for over a year to open up a present. Now imagine if when you opened it, one of the world’s greatest dunkers popped out.

Ever since Jameel Pugh, tabbed by Slam Magazine as the World’s Greatest Dunker coming out of high school, announced he was transferring to Sacramento State in the summer of 2002, I have waited in anticipation of his first night in Hornet Gym. That night came Tuesday, and he didn’t disappoint.

In the second half, Pugh reached well above the rim for an emphatic put-back jam. Minutes later, he caught a deflected alley-oop pass — originally intended for Joel Jones — and stuffed it through with two hands.

“I think that was a sub-conscious double ally-oop pass by Jones. We practice that. We work on it,” Pugh said. He can dunk and he’s funny — he’s the best present a kid could ask for.

Oh! So close

A Josh Barnard lay-up gave Eastern Washington a 58-51 lead with 8:30 remaining against No. 14 Oklahoma on Friday. From there, Oklahoma went on a 18-1 run to close the game and defeat the Eagles.

Barnard, a Washington transfer, led Eastern Washington with seventeen points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Hoopville preseason all-conference selection Alvin Snow chipped in with thirteen points, while DeAngelo Alexander led the Sooners with eighteen…

In Palo Alto, a Jameel Pugh jumper pulled Sac State within six points of No. 18 Stanford in the second half before the Cardinal closed with a 26-14 run. Pugh led the Hornets with eighteen points, while preseason all-conference selection Joel Jones struggled from the field, scoring only seven points while grabbing seven rebounds…

In Gainesville, Montana State guard Jason Erickson nailed a 3-pointer to give the Bobcats a 7-6 lead over No. 9-ranked Florida. Gator forward David Lee put an end to that threat, however, scoring 20 points in a 112-73 Florida win. Erickson, a preseason conference honorable mention, scored ten points with six assists…

In Tucson, an Adrian Hayes lay-up gave Northern Arizona a 2-0 lead over No. 3-ranked Arizona. Arizona then went on a 107-71 run to close out the game. Freshman Ruben Boykin Jr. scored fourteen points and grabbed nine rebounds in his first start for Northern Arizona…

Poole, Scott miss openers

Idaho State point guard Marquise Poole missed the team’s first three games at the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska due to an NCAA violation. Poole, a preseason all-conference selection, “participated in a summer league without prior permission,” according to Idaho State’s official Web site. He has been cleared to play in the team’s home opener on Dec. 2 against Tennessee Tech. Idaho State is already without starting shooting guard David Schroeder, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Portland State forward Seth Scott has missed the team’s first two games nursing an injured wrist.

Gazing The Sky

Eastern Washington Eagles (0-2)

The Eagles started the Sooner Invitational looking like a team worthy of a national ranking. They finished off like a team in need of a demotion to Division II.

On Friday, the Eagles held a 13-point lead in the first half and a seven-point lead midway through the second against host Oklahoma. However, a late collapse wiped away all chances of a major upset.

Eastern Washington lost the consolation game, 71-51, to South Carolina State the following day. Snow had seventeen points and eight rebounds from the guard position, while Barnard had eight points and six assists. Thurman Zimmerman led the Bulldogs with 26 points and eight boards.

The Eagles will host Denver on Wednesday night and visit intra-state rival Washington on Saturday.

Idaho State Bengals (2-1)

The Bengals played pretty well this past weekend at the Top of the World Classic, considering they played three games in three days with eight players.

With shooting guard David Schroeder out for the season with injury, guard Jeff Gardner scored 22 and 18 points in wins over Binghamton (78-62) and Texas-San Antonio (65-59). Idaho State lost their opening game in the tournament to Rice, 76-46.

After struggling in the first two games, Bengal forward Scott Henry had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists against San Antonio. Che’ Jordan got his first start against San Antonio after scoring ten points in each of the first two games.

The Bengals will next host Tennessee Tech on Dec. 2.

Montana Grizzlies (0-1)

Coach Pat Kennedy and the Grizzlies got off to a rough start at Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday, losing 95-83 in a game where the Panthers shot 55 percent from the field and 7-of-15 from 3-point range.

Shooting guard Kevin Criswell led the Grizzlies with 21 points and nine rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Junior College all-American Kamarr Davis scored 18 points in his first game with Montana. Coming off a medical red shirt season, Brent Cummings scored 13 points in his return.

The Grizzlies will host Montana Tech on Wednesday and Santa Barbara on Saturday.

Montana State Bobcats (2-1)

Maybe Jason Erickson earned conference MVP honors two years ago for being so damn consistent. The senior guard had six assists and scored between ten and 15 points in each of the Bobcats’ first three games this past week.

Montana State beat Quinnipiac at home on Friday (87-75), knocked off Howard University on the road on Sunday (57-54), then got crushed by Florida on Tuesday (112-73). Florida shot an incredible 66 percent from the field, including an even more incredible 31-of-41 from their five starters.

Eight different players — Calvin Ento, Erickson, Danny Faaborg, Frank Brown, Nick Dissly, P.J. Owlsy, Matt Towlsey and Dennis Woodall — have all scored in double figures for the Bobcats so far this year.

Montana State will next host Idaho on Saturday.

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (1-1)

The Lumberjacks knocked off Cal State Fullerton on Friday, 77-60, then got pummeled by Arizona on Monday, 107-73. Kodiak Yazzie led Northern Arizona is scoring in both games with 18 and 16 points, respectively.

Northern Arizona hosts San Jose Christian on Wednesday, then heads on the road to face Wichita State on Saturday and Oral Roberts on Monday.

Portland State Vikings (1-1)

The Vikings have received stellar play from three of their junior college transfer guards. Sheu Oduniyi, Blake Walker and Will Funn combined for 42 points in the Vikings’ 73-65 loss to Washington on Friday. The trio combined for 56 points in Tuesday’s 83-71 win over Southern Oregon. Forward Seamus Boxley averaged 10.5 rebounds in the two games.

The Vikings will head to Texas, El Paso on Saturday in a contest which will pit Viking forward Antone Jerrell against his former school. Portland State will then head to Oregon on Tuesday.

Sacramento State Hornets (1-1)

The Hornets received 18 points from forward Jameel Pugh in a 77-59 loss to Stanford on Saturday. Swingman Joel Jones scored 13 in Tuesday’s 76-65 win over Dominican, an NAIA school. Power forward Cedric Thompkins recorded a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds against Dominican.

The Hornets will next travel to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, then host San Jose Christian on Tuesday.

Weber State Wildcats (1-1)

The defending conference champions started off their season with an easy 79-49 win over Albertson College, receiving 24 points and 13 boards from Slobodan Ocokoljic. The Wildcats lost at home to Utah State, 66-60, on Tuesday, receiving 22 points and 10 rebounds from Ocokoljic.

The Wildcats, who lost conference MVP Jermaine Boyette to graduation, have not had a guard score over seven points so far this year.

Weber State will host Warner Pacific on Friday, then head to Southern Utah on Tuesday.

Player of the Week

Slobodan Ocoklijic: Averaged 23 points and 11.5 rebounds in two games.


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