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Conference USA Notebook

December 8, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Buzzer blues

It was a week of unkind buzzer beaters in Conference USA last week, as three games ended in loses after made shots with very little time left. Two resulted with the first loss of the season for the respective losers, along with a near upset falling short.

The first buzzer bummer came in Saint Louis Saturday, as the Billikens hosted No. 5 Arizona. SLU came out strong and took a 38-30 halftime lead. The Wildcats struck back, going on a 21-4 run to take its first lead with eleven minutes remaining. The Billikens would fall behind by eight, but continued to claw its way back.

After Chris Sloan converted on a three-point play with fourteen seconds remaining cut the Arizona lead to one, Salim Stoudamire made two free throws with twelve ticks left. SLU trailed 68-65 and worked for a shot to tie. Reggie Bryant worked the ball at the top of the key and appeared to nail a game-tying shot with 3.1 seconds remaining.

But Bryant’s foot was on the line when he shot, keeping the ‘Cats lead at one. Billiken players did not realize it was only a two and did not attempt to foul. Bryant led SLU with 24 points, as three others scored in double figures.

Buzzer bummer number two came in Starkville as Lawrence Roberts made a short hook, again with 3.1 seconds remaining, to give Mississippi State an 86-84 win against previously unbeaten UAB. The Bulldogs ended the game on a 9-3 run and two big plays by Roberts.

First, Roberts collected an offensive rebound with 30 seconds remaining, giving MSU a chance to setup for the last shot. Then he made the game-winner around a host of Blazer defenders.

The finish ruined a career night from senior guard Morris Finley, who finished with 38 points. Finley went 5-of-7 from three-point land and 15-of-21 from the field. Roberts lead the Bulldogs with nineteen points.

Bummer number three came as Kyle Buggs nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give New Orleans a 69-66 win against Tulane. The Privateers scored the final five points of the game. After the Green Wave went ahead 66-64 with 50 seconds left, New Orleans countered with a tying jump shot only seconds later.

Tulane miss-fired twice on its next possession and New Orleans got the ball back with eight seconds left. A.J. Meredith sprinted upcourt and found Buggs in the corner, who nailed the jumper to stun the crowd at Fogelman Arena.

Whitehead heads Louisville

With Ellis Myles sitting out the season to recover from knee surgery, senior forward Luke Whitehead knew he had to step up big time this season for No. 25 Louisville. So far, Whitehead has not disappointed.

After three games, Whitehead has averaged 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. More importantly, he has made big plays and been a leader for the Cardinals, something they needed with the departure of Reece Gaines.

Following a season-opening loss to Iowa Nov. 29, 70-69, Louisville responded with two wins last week. First they smoked Western Kentucky, 93-63 Thursday before struggling with Holy Cross, 56-40.

Whitehead has been aided by a couple of sensational sophomores, Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean. Garcia is averaging fourteen points and seven assists per game, while Dean is contributing thirteen points and five assists.

A buzzer winner

Not all the buzzer beaters went against Conference USA last week. Charlotte, who is becoming the most exciting team in the league, held off Old Dominion in double overtime when Brendan Plavich hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to win 105-102. The ‘W’ improved the 49ers to 4-2.

The Niners extended the game to a second extra period when Eddie Basden hit a layup with only two seconds remaining during the first overtime. Charlotte also overcame a ridiculous night from Alex Loughton, who finished with 45 points and fifteen rebounds. Loughton went 17-of-23 from the field, including hitting all five treys he took.

Plavich and Basden were two of four 49ers scored in double digits. Demon Brown, easily playing his best game of the season, led Charlotte with 26. He tallied a double-double, handing out ten assists.

While the Niners have lost at home to George Washington and on the road to Alabama, they already won at Syracuse and always provide exciting basketball. They will be a team no one wants to face at the rate they are going.

Cream rising early

Only a few weeks into the season and just two teams in Conference USA remain undefeated. No surprise here, those two are Cincinnati and Marquette. The Eagles are 6-0, while the Bearcats are 4-0.

Marquette earned its first quality win of the season last Monday, beating No. 21 Notre Dame 71-58. Cincinnati has yet to beat a ranked opponent, but easily disposed Valpo on the road Tuesday, 76-56, a team the Golden Eagles struggled to defeat in Milwaukee.

The Eagles will have a serious test this Saturday when they must travel to face No. 5 Arizona. The Bearcats are off all week for exams. They do not return to action until a home game Dec. 17 against Clemson.

Player of the Week

Demon Brown, Charlotte – Second straight week a 49er earns the award. Brown averaged 21.5 points and seven assists during a 1-1 week for Charlotte. He led the team with 26 points and ten assists during Charlotte’s double-overtime win against Old Dominion.

Games to watch

No. 3 Florida at No. 25 Louisville, Saturday at noon

Part I of showdown Saturday in C-USA. The Gators have looked pretty strong early on, with David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson playing great. The Dean-Roberson match-up will be the key to the game.

No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 24 Marquette, Saturday at 4 p.m.

Part II of the showdown will be another dandy. Stoudamire is explosive but can disappear from time-to-time. Look for Travis Diener to try and score more to keep the pressure on the Wildcats’ guards.

No. 10 Illinois vs. Memphis, Saturday at 9 p.m.

Part III is will pit upset-minded Memphis against revenge-minded Illinois. The Tigers knocked off the Illini at the Pyramid last year. Illinois is more than just Dee Brown and will likely be too much for the Tigers to handle.

     

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