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December 2, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, December 2

A New Numero Uno: With Connecticut losing to G-Tech in the Preseason NIT, Duke falling to Purdue in the Great Alaska Shootout and Arizona getting tripped up by Florida in the Mass Mutual Classic, a new No. 1 in the Hoopville poll has been crowned. The Kansas Jayhawks shot up four spots to overtake the Huskies for the top spot while UConn drops to No. 4. Other considerable jumps include Mizzou, which went from 4 to 2 and Florida, which shot from 9 to 3. A few new squads grace the ‘Ville’s Top 25 as well. Georgia Tech debuts at No. 15 while Purdue is honored at 23.

De-deviled: Duke reserve center Michael Thompson, a former McDonald’s All-American, has decided to transfer to another school at the end of the fall semester. According to ESPN.com, Thomas was irked by his lack of playing time. In only 11 minutes of court time in three of the Blue Devils’ four games, Thompson put up 2.3 ppg and 0.3 rpg and hit for a career high seven points in the Great Alaska Shootout semifinal against Liberty. The 6-10, 245-pound center has not indicated what schools he’s interested in, but coach Mike Krzyzewski claims that the backup big man is leaving Durham in good academic standing.

Hoosier Hurt: Indiana has their share of problems at center as well, but this one comes by way of injury. George Leach, the Big Ten’s leader in blocked shots last year, injured his knee in the overtime upset of Xavier on Saturday. Ironically, the productive 6-11 starter sustained the injury while attempting to block a shot midway through the second half. Leach, who swatted 79 balls last year and moved into fifth on the all-time Hoosier blocks list with 155, underwent an MRI on Saturday night and will be sidelined indefinitely. In three games, he averaged 8.0 ppg.

Fox Won’t Be Trotting: Add yet another casualty to the growing list of gimpy hoopsters. Arizona forward Isaiah Fox will go under the knife today to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Adding injury to insult, Fox knew he injured the knee in Zona’s 78-77 loss to Florida last Friday but an MRI late yesterday confirmed the tear. He will miss three to six weeks depending on how well he rehabs. The 6-9 forward’s contributions will be missed. Fox is averaging 8.5 ppg and 6.5 rebounds in two games and recorded a double-double of 15 and 11 against Northern Arizona.

KU Gets First Win as a No. 1: For one half of basketball, it almost looked like Bill Self’s team didn’t want the No. 1 attachment. Up 39-38 going into the locker room, the Jayhawks had to come out in the second half and prove that their new status was no fluke. And they did. Tied at 43 apiece with 17-and-a-half left, Keith Langford rock-chalked for two of his 24 points and put KU on top of TCU for good. Kansas wins in what became a blowout, 85-66.

Breaking Of Dawn Not So Easy: Marshall rained threes – 10 of them – and closed to within six points in the final minutes, but ninth-ranked Kentucky came away with an 89-76 victory over the Thundering Herd in Cincinnati. Ronny Dawn, who shoots 42 percent from long range, had seven of those three-pointers and led the Herd with 23 points. But Marshall’s guns cooled and the Cats closed out the match-up with a 7-0 run. Gerald Fitch, who scored a pivotal jumper to start the run, paced UK with 24 points. With the win, the Wildcats made it 11 straight over the team from Huntington, West Virginia.

For UConn, A Tale Of Two Halves. Again: In the early going, the Huskies contest against Lehigh had flashes of last week’s Yale game. UConn opened up the game on a 7-0 run but let the Mountain Hawks catch up – and tie it up – towards the end of the first half. At the 2:49 mark of the first half, the game was knotted at 24 thanks to five threes by the Hawks. At halftime the Huskies nursed a 37-26 lead built on a 13-2 run. After the half, the Supermen of UConn shed their Clark Kent images, shooting 55 percent from the floor to notch a 75-55 win. Hot shooting certainly helped Jim Calhoun’s club but his team’s defense was even better. The Huskies had 12 steals and 9 blocks, five of which belonged to freshman center Josh Boone. Ben Gordon led all scorers with 19.

Marquette Makes Case For Higher Ranking: The No. 24 Golden Eagles dominated Notre Dame last night, turning a 41-26 halftime lead into a 71-58 victory. Three Marquette players turned in double-figure efforts, led by Steve Novak’s 21. Meanwhile the favored Irish, No. 21 in our poll, shot a paltry 19-of-61 from the field for 31 percent, including 5-of-30 from three-point range. Chris Thomas was not himself, hitting on 4-of-19 attempts. Folks in Milwaukee are no doubt enjoying their cold dish of revenge. The Irish demolished Marquette last season, 92-71, as Thomas went off for 32 points and 10 assists.

Top Cat, Big Dog And The Trojan Man: After a good two weeks of NCAA ball and three games, Western Carolina’s Kevin Martin leads all Division I scorers with a 30 ppg average. The Catamount guard hit for 44 in a 78-67 loss to Georgia on November 21. In the rebounding column, Northern Illinois’ Marcus Smallwood is tops with a 14.7 average. The senior forward also leads all Husky players in scoring at an 18-point clip. Greg Davis of Troy State serves up the most dishes. In three games, he has earned the highest assist average in NCAA D-I hoops with 10.3 per game. He had seven in the Trojans’ loss to LSU and 12 in a win over San Diego State.

Tonight’s Menu

• North Carolina, at No. 6, and tenth-ranked Illinois provide the most intriguing match-up of the night. Both clubs are 3-0 but neither have faced any comparable competition.

• No. 3 Florida, the highest-ranked team in action, tries to avoid a let-down against winless Florida A&M. The Gators are coming off a 78-77 upset over Arizona at the Mass Mutual Classic in Springfield, MA, on Saturday. Sophomore forward Matt Walsh leads the team with 22.5 ppg while freshman Chris Richard and junior David Lee each haul down seven rebounds a game.

• Undefeated Wake Forest, Hoopville’s No. 19, can move up in the polls even further with a win against Indiana tonight. The Hoosiers upended Xavier this weekend in OT to improve to 2-1.

• The Oklahoma Sooners get a tune-up against Arkansas-Pine Bluff tonight. After their tussle with the Golden Lions, it’s off to meetings with Michigan State, No. 8, and a surprising 23rd-ranked Purdue team.

• No. 2 Missouri, which won its first and only game against Oakland on the 29th, is itching for some more competition. Coppin State obliges the Tigers tonight, followed by showdowns with Indiana and 18th-ranked Gonzaga.

• In another battle of 3-and-0’s the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers test their mettle against upstart Maryland. Wisconsin comes off a 55-43 struggle with Rutgers; Maryland disposed of Hofstra, 87-72. This is the first of three serious contests for the Terps against Top 25 competition. After the Badgers, Gary Williams’ team will face Gonzaga at home then travel to Florida.

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