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Big 12 Notebook

November 28, 2003 Columns No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

Kansas gets 2003-04’s first big win

While the nation’s top ten teams boosted their records with wins over such schools as Sacred Heart, Northern Arizona and Brown, the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks and No. 3 Michigan State Spartans squared off in Lawrence, Kan., in the nation’s first big match-up.

One of the Big 12’s best scored a win over one of the Big Ten’s best as KU won 81-74. The Jayhawks maintained a lead throughout the first half and then turned it on in the second to lead by a 63-46 count. The young Spartans, however, fought back and cut the lead to four at 72-68 with just over nine minutes left, but Kansas held on and made it’s free throws down the stretch for the victory.

Kansas’ junior forward Wayne Simien led all scorers with 28 points, point guard Aaron Miles had seven steals and Keith Langford scored all of his 13 points in the second half, carrying the Jayhawks when Michigan St. was getting back in the game.

Kansas, after losing Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, was a shaky preseason top-ten team. The Jayhawks backed that ranking up with the nation’s first big win and proved they need only a healthy Simien and Langford to be in the hunt for another Big 12 championship and Final Four.

Everything looked good for KU except one thing: What was Bill Self thinking when he scrapped Allen Fieldhouse’s old-school look for a 26-foot Jayhawk on center court? I’m sorry, but when an entire team could stand on that beak, you’re overdoing it.

Big 12 passes mid-major test, mostly

Although it hasn’t been against the toughest of competition, the Big 12 has to be excited about its 20-2 start to the season. The key to padding a schedule with early games against mid-majors is coming through and winning those games, and this conference has been able to do just that.

Kansas State, which has such a weak schedule it should be undefeated come January, has so far come through with big wins over Birmingham Southern and Lipscomb. Oklahoma won the Sooner Invitational by going 2-0 against Eastern Washington and Oral Roberts, and Texas beat Sam Houston State by 51.

The only hiccups so far were Colorado’s ugly defensive game in losing 94-77 at Pepperdine and undermanned Baylor losing to Stephen F. Austin.

It must feel good to do something right

Forget the 79-57 whipping at the hands of Stephen F. Austin. Give the Baylor Bears a pat on the back for winning their first game 72-59 over Texas Southern. Five Baylor players scored in double figures, led by Terrance Thomas and his 16 points and 11 boards.

After all the negative press the Bears got this summer (and deservedly so) for the Patrick Dennehy murder and ensuing Dave Bliss scandal, it had to have felt good to get back on the court. Plus, Scott Drew has been extremely positive since accepting a very difficult position, and he deserved to be above .500. Too bad it didn’t last long.

Tigers, Cyclones ready to get going

As much as Baylor needed to get back on the court, Missouri and Iowa State are looking to put off-season scandals behind them as well. The only problem is, they haven’t played yet.

Iowa State starts its season Friday versus Mercer. Last spring, former coach Larry Eustachy resigned after an embarrassing situation in a downtown Columbia, Mo., apartment and then in October, Jackson Vroman was suspended indefinitely for driving under the influence.

Missouri, which is facing an NCAA investigation for allegations of academic and amateurism violations regarding former Tiger Ricky Clemons, doesn’t open up until Saturday at Oakland University in Detroit.

Conference Player of the week

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech – Emmett averaged 20.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in leading the Red Raiders to the Preseason NIT finals Friday night.

Baylor Bears (1-1)

Sure, the win against Texas Southern was nice, but Baylor showed its true colors Tuesday night, losing 79-57 to Stephen F. Austin. The Bears are short on scholarship players, and this game showed that there isn’t much difference between Baylor and schools like Stephen F. Austin that aren’t near the level of play in the Big 12. For a bright spot, Terrance Thomas scored 24 and is averaging 20 points through the first two games.

Next week: Saturday vs. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi

Colorado Buffaloes (1-1)

Up until Kansas’ victory against Michigan State, Colorado had the Big 12’s best victory, a 67-56 road triumph over Northwestern. Unfortunately for the Buffs, they didn’t back it up against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., on Monday. CU led 41-33 with 1:46 left in the first half, but then proceeded to give up 61 points in just more than a half. If Colorado is the top-25 team and conference contender that they were expected to be, the defense needs to show up. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, center David Harrison was a force, finishing with 30 points, 8 boards and 6 blocks before fouling out.

Next week: Monday vs. Oregon State

Iowa State Cyclones (0-0)

Losing Jackson Vroman and his near double-double every game last year to suspension is not what first-year head coach Wayne Morgan needed. He can only hope a couple of key newcomers and a weak pre-conference schedule puts the Cyclones’ confidence over the top.

This week: Friday vs. Mercer, Sunday vs. Northern Iowa

Kansas Jayhawks (2-0)

This is picky, but when you’re a top-five team, you can afford to be picky. If Wayne Simien were to get hurt again, the Jayhawks have nobody they can depend on inside. David Padgett and Danny Graves were both in foul trouble all night long versus Michigan State. Padgett only took one shot in the entire game, so his offensive game remains in question. Also, when the Spartans made their second-half run, KU forced some shots in transition with no one ready to rebound.

This week: Monday at Texas Christian

Kansas State Wildcats (2-0)

Four Wildcats scored in double figures in a 70-50 win over Birmingham Southern, led by Marques Hayden with 15. Hayden had a double-double in a 92-57 win against Lipscomb on Tuesday as the Wildcats shot 55 percent. However, with this schedule, folks in Manhattan won’t even look up until football season’s finished.

This week: Saturday vs. Gardner Webb

Missouri Tigers (0-0)

Junior college transfer Randy Pulley was supposed to replace Ricky Clemons at the point for the Tigers, but his JuCo credits are in question, so he’s not eligible yet. When Mizzou lifted freshman Spencer Laurie’s redshirt, it seems likely Pulley will be out for a while. Sophomore Jimmy McKinney, overlooked as a freshman last year, is more than capable of running the offense, but if he gets in foul trouble or injured, No. 4 MU could be in big trouble.

This week: Saturday at Oakland, Tuesday vs. Coppin State

Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0)

Kansas’ Wayne Simien and the Huskers’ Jake Muhleisen should battle for the Big 12’s comeback player of the year. Muhleisen lost his season to injury early in the conference season last year and Nebraska took last in the Big 12. Don’t lose sight of what he’s doing up in Lincoln – 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in NU’s season-opening win against Farleigh Dickinson. John Turek scored 24 in the 80-64 rout.

This week: Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan, Wednesday vs. Arizona State

Oklahoma Sooners (3-0)

Eastern Washington got off to a 13-2 lead on the Sooners and led by three at halftime, but OU fought back to win and then got 40 points from freshmen and 17 more from sophomore D’Angelo Alexander to beat Oral Roberts 84-68 in the Sooner Invitational championship. Tuesday night, Oklahoma played the other team from Tulsa and again fell behind early. Tulsa led by as many as eleven in the first half and stayed close throughout but, OU won 81-73. Jaison Williams scored 16 points off the bench to lead five Sooners in double figures.

This week: Tuesday vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-0)

The Cowboys got off to a good start in their season opener, beating Northwestern State 90-62. Then they got a quality win Wednesday night over Colorado State from the Mountain West Conference 82-50. Tony Allen, who played a big role on OSU’s tournament squad from last year, scored in double figures in both games and highly-touted junior college transfer Daniel Bobik, after taking only two shots versus Northwestern State, scored 11 against the Rams. Now the ‘Pokes get ready to face Pepperdine, a team that already blitzed Colorado.

This week: Saturday vs. Pepperdine

Texas Longhorns (2-0)

It was men vs. boys Tuesday night in Austin. The Longhorns had 67 points by halftime against Sam Houston State, and cruised to a 122-71 win. Dutch newcomer Sydmill Harris exploded for 23 points after scoring only 2 in the ‘Horn’s first game. Texas scored a total of 211 points in its first two games, as last week, the ‘Horns took out Brown 89-51 behind P.J. Tucker’s 18 points and 13 rebounds. Who needs T.J. Ford?

This week: Saturday vs. Centenary

Texas A&M Aggies (2-0)

Texas A&M is using the Southwestern Athletic Conference as its early-season feeding ground. First, Kevin Turner made five three-pointers and scored 17 points in the Aggies’ 82-53 blowout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. By contrast, Pine Bluff had only 17 points in the entire first half. Then, Wednesday against Alabama A&M, the Aggies hit the century mark in a 100-65 blowout. The SWAC parade continues Saturday before A&M gets a real test versus Tennessee on Tuesday.

This week: Saturday vs. Prairie View, Tuesday at Tennessee

Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-0)

Is there a team in the country playing better than Texas Tech right now? After the Red Raiders routed Davidson 89-58, they looked absolutely unstoppable in destroying Massachusetts 90-50. Then, in Madison Square Garden for the Preseason NIT semifinals, the Raiders took out Utah 65-54 in a game that was never really close. In between those games, Tech took out Eastern Tennessee State as Andre Emmett scored 25 and pulled down 13 rebounds. Emmett has been spectacular, averaging 20.8 points a game in the Raiders’ first four.

Next week: Friday, PNIT championship vs. UCONN/Georgia Tech in New York, Monday at Southern Methodist

     

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