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Conference USA Notebook

December 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Take that, national champs

Syracuse is the defending national champs. They went 17-0 at the Carrier Dome last year. They were ranked No. 6 in the preseason Top 25 poll. And Charlotte promptly marched in and knocked off the Orangeman Wednesday night, 96-92.

The win was a coming-out party for junior guard Brendan Plavich. The transfer from Vanderbilt scored 31 points for the Niners, hitting 10 three-pointers. He also had company, as Eddie Basden and Curtis Withers each scored sixteen points.

The 49ers shocked Syracuse by getting out to a huge first half lead, going into the locker room ahead 50-29. Plavich did the majority of his damage early, scoring 22 points during the first half.

The Orangeman made a furious comeback throughout the second half, getting the lead down to 93-90 when Gerry McNamara hit a three-pointer with 17.8 seconds left. Basden nailed two free throws to push the lead to five and seal the upset.

After losing its first game to George Washington at home, the win at Syracuse was part of a 3-0 week for Charlotte. The Niners had two easier contests, beating North Carolina A&T 102-39 on Monday and NC Asheville 92-65 on Sunday.

Cards go down; former coach whips up on old conference

No. 20 Louisville finally started its season Saturday on national TV. The rust is still not off, as the Cardinals lost in overtime to Iowa, 70-69. Luke Whitehead led the Cards, scoring eighteen and grabbing fourteen rebounds. Francisco Garcia finished with seventeen and Taquan Dean had fifteen, but it wasn’t enough.

Pierre Pierce hit one-of-two free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining in overtime to win it for the Hawkeyes. Tied at 63 after regulation, Iowa scored the first six points of overtime before Larry O’Bannon hit two three-pointers to tie it. After an Iowa miss and a Louisville turnover, Pierce’s free throw put the finishing touches on the win.

While Rich Pitino fell to 15-3 in season-opening games, his former assistant Mick Cronin paid a visit to a former opponent and wiped the floor with them, as Murray State smashed Southern Miss Saturday 94-54. The Racers shot 62 percent from the field and were never challenged.

Charles Gaines led the Eagles with eighteen points and eleven rebounds. Dante Stiggers and Jason Forte struggled in the backcourt, combining for six points on three-of-fourteen shooting, along with five turnovers to go with seven assists.

Memphis gets payback

Last year, Austin Peay walked out of the Pyramid with an 81-80 overtime win. Memphis was not going to let the Governors do it to them twice, as the Tigers turned a 32-all game at halftime into a 74-60 win Saturday.

After the Govs made a 19-3 to get the game tied at the half, Memphis came roaring back to take control, as the lead never got below double digits during the last ten minutes of the game. The Tigers once again used a balanced attack to take care of an opponent, as four players scored in double digits.

The difference proved to be at the free throw line, as the Tigers shot 20-of-29 from the stripe while Austin Peay only went six-of-eleven. It appears Memphis made fourteen more free throws and won by, yep, fourteen.

Stepping up early on

A couple of seniors have stepped up their play so far this season, those players being DePaul’s Delonte Holland and Cincinnati’s Tony Bobbitt. Both had big games over the weekend and have been steady during the first couple of weeks.

Holland has been down right explosive, averaging 21.3 points during his first four games, more than double what he averaged a year ago. Holland has been steady from the field every game, shooting right at or above 50 percent. He is also averaging just under eight boards per game and has more assists than turnovers.

Bobbitt scored 21 points against Coppin State Saturday, the second time in three games he has gone for 21. He also recorded a school-record eight steals against the Eagles, four of which lead to uncontested dunks.

Big win for Bulls, McCullum

Yes it is still very early, but USF’s 64-62 win at Valparaiso Tuesday evening was a big win for both the team and new head coach Robert McCullum. Coupled with the Bulls’ 74-59 win against Wright State Saturday and they are sitting at 3-0 to start the season.

Valpo is no slouch, as it showed taking No. 24 Marquette to the wire two weeks ago in Milwaukee before losing 75-69. At home, it appeared the Crusaders had the upper hand but USF made the big plays down the stretch.

Bradley Mosley led the Bulls with sixteen and scored the game-winner, a lay-up with a little more than a minute remaining. From there on USF simply held on, and when Valpo’s Ali Berdiel missed a shot at the buzzer it had the win.

Player of the week

Brendan Plavich, Charlotte – The Vanderbilt transfer announced his name to nation against No. 6 Syracuse, scoring 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting from downtown as the Niners won 96-92. In three games, Plavich averaged 21 points per game and went 20-of-35 from beyond the three-point line. Out of Plavich’s 49 attempts from the field through four games, 47 have been three’s.

Games to watch

Notre Dame at Marquette, Monday at 9 p.m.

Travis Diener and Chris Thomas are two of the best point guards in the nation and will be a great showdown. This will be the Golden Eagles’ first test of the year.

Louisville vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville, Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

The Cards continue to play on neutral courts. The Hilltoppers are always tough and Louisville will have to play better than it did against Iowa to win its first of the season.

Arizona at Saint Louis, Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Billikens will be looking for some redemption after getting blown out by the Wildcats last year, 91-58. SLU always plays good teams tough at home.

     

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