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Big 12 Notebook

December 8, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

Nebraska and Iowa State are unbeaten surprises, but. . .

A good three weeks into the season and five Big 12 teams remain undefeated. That in and of itself is not surprising; teams like No. 2 Missouri, No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 16 Texas expected to be without a blemish at this point. The shock is the other two unbeaten teams: No. 1 Kansas? Nope. Bob Knight’s Texas Tech team? Nah. Eddie Sutton’s powerful Oklahoma State Cowboys? Sorry.

The surprise answers are Iowa State and Nebraska, teams picked to finish 10th and 11th in preseason Big 12 polls. The Cornhuskers have enjoyed the comforts of their home in Lincoln, Neb., and are now 4-0 after beating Arizona State and South Florida there this week. The Huskers got out to a big lead against ASU and then held on for a 66-60 win, unexpected against a team led by preseason All-American Ike Diogu.

Iowa State is 4-0 also without having left its friendly confines in Ames, Iowa. ISU has wins over Mercer, Northern Iowa, IUPU-Fort Wayne and Idaho State. With power forward Jackson Vroman back from a drunk driving suspension and only a home game against Liberty on the slate this week, the Cyclones could complete their first semester without a loss. That would be quite an accomplishment for a team that struggled last year and lost its coach in an ugly fashion in the offseason.

Don’t get too excited, though, fans in Lincoln and Ames. All eight wins between the two teams have come at home and only one is against BCS conference competition. Nebraska finally plays a road game Wednesday at Creighton, but it doesn’t leave its own state until Dec. 29 to take on Minnesota. There could be a rude awakening for a team that plays Texas and Mizzou on the road in January.

The Cyclones, meanwhile, haven’t played much of anybody, and will continue to feast on weaker conferences until they play Xavier on Dec. 23.

I won’t ruin the fun just yet, though: the Nebraska at Iowa State game Jan. 10 is looking more important with every surprise win.

Conley and Pulley make Mizzou even deeper

A team without a true point guard will get one on Dec. 21, when junior-college transfer Randy Pulley will begin playing for the Missouri Tigers. Pulley had not originally been eligible because some of his credits from Barton Community College had not been approved by MU’s certifying officer. They are now certified, but coach Quin Snyder said he and Pulley had decided to wait until the end of the academic semester for Pulley to play so he could concentrate on finals.

Pulley, who averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists a game in JuCo, will be joined in his first game by Jason Conley. Conley becomes eligible at the end of the semester after transferring from Virginia Military Institute a year ago.

Mustangs gallop over Big 12

The Big 12 has had a successful season to this point, with a combined record of 47-10 and every team with a winning record (the ACC is the only other conference that can make that claim). Included in those 47 wins are two, from Kansas and Oklahoma, over highly-ranked Michigan State.

However, two Big 12 teams have both played another team, the Southern Methodist Mustangs, with vastly different results. SMU beat Texas Tech 62-59 on Monday night and then conquered Baylor 66-62 on Wednesday. In fact, if not for the Mustangs, the Big 12 would have gone from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6 without losing a game.

Inside the Big 12:

Baylor Bears (3-2)

The Bears lost their second game of the year to SMU on Wednesday, but the defeat did not come without a bright spot. Ellis Kidd, Jr. scored a career-high 26 points to lead all scorers, while Terrance Thomas scored 15 and pulled down nine rebounds. Thomas had a chance to give Baylor the lead with four seconds left, but his three-point attempt rimmed out and SMU added two free throws to win 66-62.

After Baylor hung with a team that beat Texas Tech, though, the Bears have to think they can spring a few upsets in conference play. Saturday against Midwestern State, a Division II team, five Bears scored in double figures en route to a 97-72 win.

This week: Tuesday at North Texas, Saturday vs. Texas-San Antonio

Colorado Buffaloes (4-1)

A very good week in Boulder, as the Buffs won their first two home games of the year, both against Pac-10 teams.

David Harrison won my conference player of the week honors for his huge performances. He went for 18 points and 16 rebounds against Oregon State on Monday, but CU didn’t really take off until after he was called for a technical foul early in the second half. The Beavers held the lead at halftime.

Saturday versus Cal, freshman Marcus Hall had 22 points in a 78-60 win. Colorado is on a roll, having only lost to Pepperdine on the road, but must be careful this week in Fort Collins. Anything can happen in a rivalry game.

This week: Wednesday at Colorado State

Iowa State Cyclones (4-0)

Iowa State should be more excited about the return of Jackson Vroman than its 4-0 start against weak competition. After serving a one-game suspension for drunk driving, Vroman came off the bench to score 18 and lead the Cyclones to a three-point win over Northern Iowa. He then led State to its eighth Cyclone Challenge title in nine years with wins over IUPU-Fort Wayne 78-51 on Friday and Idaho State on Saturday.

In the championship game, Idaho State gave ISU troubles early, going on a 10-0 run to take a 14-10 lead. But the Cyclones responded for a 33-22 halftime lead and a 73-47 win. Vroman had 18 more points on 8-of-9 shooting, plus 8 rebounds and 3 steals.

This week: Saturday vs. Liberty

Kansas Jayhawks (3-1)

Kansas won its first game as No. 1 by beating Texas Christian Monday night in Dallas 85-66. Keith Langford scored 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting in his hometown to separate the Jayhawks from the Horned Frogs in the second half.

KU, could not, however, stay in the nation’s top spot for another week.

In the Wooden Classic on Saturday, No. 17 Stanford went on a late 10-1 run to knock off Kansas 64-58. Kansas led only once, at 46-45, but the Jayhawks couldn’t stop Matt Lottich, who went for 18 points, including a huge three to put the Cardinal up 59-55. Aaron Miles led Kansas with 11 points.

This week: Saturday vs. Oregon

Kansas State Wildcats (4-1)

The Wildcats finally got some real competition last week and continued to be impressive.

First, on Monday, they beat defending Mountain West champ Wyoming 80-67 as Jarrett Hart scored 19 points and freshman Cartier Martin had 10 in his first career game.

Then, on Saturday, K-State destroyed the only undefeated team and shocked the world in Kansas City. Oh wait, that’s football.

Wildcat fans were probably too happy about the gridiron to notice, but their basketball team lost its first game the same night. Playing on the road for the time all season, K-State lost 87-82 in triple overtime to Oregon State. The Wildcats fought back from 14 points down and got last-minute baskets in regulation and the first two overtimes to extend the game, but the Beavers were too much in the third OT. Jeremiah Massey scored 23 and had 12 boards for K-State.

This week: Wednesday vs. Wichita State

Missouri Tigers (3-0)

Mizzou struggled mightily with Coppin State on Tuesday at home. The Tigers trailed by four at the break and needed a big second-half run to put the Eagles away 70-61. Then at Assembly Hall on Saturday, MU overcame a 14-point deficit with seven minutes left and a raucous crowd to win 63-58. The Tigers went on a 21-2 run to end the game and scored the last 15 points, all after Arthur Johnson fouled out with over four minutes to go.

Freshman Linas Kleiza was huge. He had a three-point play to put the Tigers up for the first time with 1:20 to play and grabbed many of his 13 rebounds during the stretch run.

Also, props to Indiana’s crowd: this was my first visit to Bloomington, and I wish I had brought ear plugs. It was an extremely large and loud crowd.

This week: Saturday vs. No. 18 Gonzaga in Seattle

Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0)

The key to Nebraska’s upset of Arizona State was shutting down Ike Diogu. The big man averaged about 25 points a game coming in, but the Huskers held him to just 13.

Nebraska-Arizona State was a game of runs. NU used a 24-5 run to take a 39-25 lead, but ASU fought back to lead 46-45. The Cornhuskers put the game away with a 15-8 run started by a Wes Wilkinson three.

A 75-52 win against South Florida on Saturday added to a great week in Lincoln. Nebraska dominated the boards and outshot the Bulls 58 percent to 32 percent.

This week: Monday vs. Delaware State, Wednesday at Creighton, Saturday vs. Tennessee

Oklahoma Sooners (5-0)

Two wins this week were impressive in different ways for the Sooners.

Tuesday, in a 94-24 destruction of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it was purely statistical. OU led 48-9 at the half and in the end, 11 different Sooners contributed at least 4 points each. To contrast, Pine Bluff had only one player with more than 4 points, and that was Billy Hall with 6.

The second win of the week, an 80-77 victory over Michigan State, was impressive because Oklahoma toughed it out to beat a top-ten team. Johnnie Gilbert and De’Angelo Alexander both drew charges in the last 15 seconds of overtime to help the Sooners hang on after blowing a big lead. Jason Detrick, in his first season with OU, poured in 26.

This week: Thursday vs. Purdue, Saturday vs. Prairie View

Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-1)

Oklahoma State started slowly against Texas-San Antonio on Wednesday, but Tony Allen scored 11 straight Cowboy points and OSU pulled away to win 83-53.

When the Cowboys played Brigham Young on the road Saturday, it was a different story as BYU won 76-71. Eddie Sutton’s team, which blew a halftime lead, couldn’t figure out a way to stop Rafael Araujo, BYU’s Brazilian center (32 points, 17 rebounds). On a lighter note for OSU, transfer Daniel Bobik shot 5-of-9 for 18 points. Now the Cowboys have two full weeks off before traveling to Fayetteville to battle Arkansas.

This week: No games

Texas Longhorns (4-0)

Texas had an easy week in preparation for its showdown with Arizona on Tuesday. The Longhorns blasted Wofford at home 103-72. They proved (as they did in beating Sam Houston State 122-71) that they want to play at a lightning pace. Texas had six, count ’em six, players in double figures, and that doesn’t even include center James Thomas who had an off game.

Tuesday the Longhorns will get their first real test as they try to shut down Salim Stoudamire, Mustafa Shakur and the backcourt of the Wildcats.

This week: Tuesday vs. Arizona, Sunday vs. New Orleans

Texas A&M Aggies (3-2)

The first bad loss of the Big 12 season goes to Texas A&M, which coughed up a 90-58 defeat at the hands of Oakland of the Mid-Continent Conference. Granted, Oakland took Missouri to the final minutes, but there’s no excuse for A&M to lose by 32. Oakland scored the first eight points out of halftime and Antoine Wright and Jesse King combined to hit on just 2-of-14 from the field.

Earlier in the week, the Aggies gave up 63 points to Tennessee in the second half to lose 108-84. I know it’s early, but Texas A&M needs to right this ship fast.

This week: Saturday vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-2)

Bob Knight’s team continues to play more games than anybody else in the Big 12, which should help prepare his team for conference play.

Monday, the Red Raiders lost 62-59 to SMU, despite 28 and 12 from Andre Emmett. Texas Tech dug itself a hole out of which it couldn’t escape. The Raiders shot 2-of-17 from three-point range, but had a chance because they held the Mustangs without a field goal for nearly the last five minutes. SMU, however, had three steals in the last 60 seconds.

Tech responded with a 70-57 win against Texas-El Paso and a hard-fought 67-58 victory over New Mexico in the Pit. Jarrius Jackson scored seven points in the last 2:20 to hold off the Lobos.

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas Christian, Saturday vs. San Diego State

Big 12 Player of the Week:

David Harrison, junior center, Colorado: Harrison led the Buffaloes to wins over two Pac-10 teams. He exploded for 18 points against both Oregon State and California and pulled down 16 rebounds against OSU.

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week:

Linas Kleiza, freshman forward, Missouri: Kleiza had two double-doubles this week, including 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Tigers’ come-from-behind win at Indiana.

Five games to watch this week:

Arizona at Texas, Tuesday
Colorado at Colorado State, Wednesday
Tennessee at Nebraska, Saturday
Missouri vs. Gonzaga (in Seattle), Saturday
Oregon at Kansas, Saturday

     

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