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Big Sky Notebook

December 12, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Put A Positive Spin On This One

For the Big Sky Conference, preseason basketball has not been fun. In fact, it has flat out sucked. I know, as a “professional journalist,” I should probably open up a thesaurus or dictionary and come up with a better word to explain how the conference performed this week. But there isn’t — they completely sucked.

Over the past week, Big Sky teams have gone 0-9 against other mid-major teams on the West Coast. Overall, only one team is over .500, and that is the returning champion Weber State Wildcats with a 4-2 record. Every other team is either at .500 or worse, including Eastern Washington who has been conference runner-ups each of the past three seasons. My preseason pick for conference champions — Montana — is 3-4, with losses to three mid-major teams already.

And as a fan and supporter of the Big Sky, I am not having a jolly old time ripping on this conference. It hurts real bad. But I have to do it — it’s my job.

A Rare Double Dip

Personally, I wasn’t even sure if it was allowed. But apparently it is. Northern Arizona and Cal State Fullerton have squared off two times this preseason, with each team winning at their respective homes.

In their most recent battle, a 82-67 Fullerton win on December 6, Titan guard Bobby Brown — “Candy Girl/You are my world/Look so sweet/You’re a special treat” — scored a team-high 16 points. Ok, I admit it, I wrote these last two paragraphs just to slide in some New Edition lyrics. Sue me.

Poole Party

After missing the first three games due to an NCAA violation, Idaho State point guard Marquise Poole has averaged a conference-leading 18.8 points since his return. The senior also averages four rebounds, four assists and 2.8 steals for the 2-5 Bengals. Poole’s biggest game was a 25 point, five rebound, five assist and six steal effort in a loss to Boise State. The 25 points and six assists were career highs.

Alone At The Top

The rest of the Big Sky should thank Weber State for retaining the little dignity the conference has left. Never mind the fact that they have wins over Albertson, Warner Pacific and Texas State, the Wildcats have what no other team has: A winning record.

The Wildcats will get some real tests in the upcoming weeks when the travel to Nevada on December 13 and BYU on December 20.

Player of the Week

Marquise Poole: Averaged 19.6 points, 4.3 assists and three steals in three games last week.

Gazing the Sky

Eastern Washington Eagles (2-5)

It’s obvious that Eastern Washington is still looking for someone to fill the shoes of Chris Hester. The Eagles are loaded at the guard position, but they still miss Hester’s ability to slash through the lane at will.

Eastern Washington’s only wins have come at home to Northwest College and Denver — not exactly Division I powerhouses. The Eagles went 0-2 this past week on their road trip to the Midwest, where they faced off with Iowa and Illinois-Chicago.

Snow scored a season-high 21 points in the 67-52 loss at Illinois-Chicago, and has scored in double figures every game this season. However, after averaging 2.2 steals last season, Snow has recorded more than one steal only one time this season.

Washington transfer Josh Barnard has been lights out from 3-point range for the Eagles, stroking a sweet 51.6 percent from outside, en route to averaging 11.3 points. On the flip side, shooting guard Brandon Merritt has shot a meager 22 percent from 3-point range this season.

The Eagles have no cupcakes in their schedule before they hit conference play in mid-January. They will next travel to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, then host Santa Clara on Monday.

Idaho State Bengals (2-5)

The Bengals have lost four of their last five games, with the lone win coming at home to Arkansas-Little Rock. Head coach Doug Oliver is relying heavily on the scoring of point guard Marquise Poole and forward Scott Henry, but someone else is going to have to step up before conference play begins.

Shooting guard Jeff Gardner has shown the ability to hit the outside shot in replace of the injured David Schroeder. Gardner hit 9-of-15 shots from 3-point range against Texas-San Antonio and Binghamton, but has only hit 4-of-27 from long range in all other games.

The Bengals most recent losses have come at Iowa State, 73-47, and at home to Boise State, 87-78. The Bengals are last in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting just over 39 percent.

Idaho State will next face Utah State at home on Saturday, then face New Orleans at home next Friday.

Montana Grizzlies (3-4)

After winning three-straight games in late November, the Grizzlies have lost three straight in December. The most recent losses have come at home to San Francisco, 72-71, and on the road against Auburn, 73-51.

The Grizzlies trailed by five on the last possession of the game against USF, but point guard Roy Booker was fouled on a 3-point shot. Booker made the first two free throws, then intentionally missed the third. The rebound was tapped out to Derrick Mansell who, instead of attempting a 3-point shot to tie the game, made a long 2-point jumper to pull the Grizzlies within one as the final buzzer sounded.

Shooting guard Kevin Criswell led Montana with 16 points, while Booker had 13. Kamarr Davis had eleven points and eight rebounds. Criswell led Montana in scoring once again at Auburn with thirteen.

Davis, a junior college transfer, currently leads the Grizzlies in scoring with thirteen points, with Criswell right behind him with 12.6. Center John Seyfert leads the team with 7.7 rebounds.

Montana will next host Washington State on Saturday and Jackson State on Tuesday.

Montana State Bobcats (3-3)

The Bobcats have been a surprise with their 3-3 record. Especially to me, who predicted them to be an embarrassment to the sport. Jason Erickson has led the Bobcat charge averaging 16.5 points and four assists.

Montana State is coming off losses at Denver, 55-53, and at home to Santa Clara, 74-56. Erickson and point guard Frank Brown combined to score 32 of the team’s 53 point against Denver. Erickson has averaged 38.7 minutes this season. The Bobcats are by far the conference’s top 3-point shooting team, hitting an astounding 47 percent from outside. Center Matt Towsley is second on the team in scoring with 11.5 points, while also averaging 5.2 rebounds.

The Bobcats will next travel to Wyoming on Saturday.

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (2-4)

Northern Arizona has lost three-straight road games entering a stretch where they play four games in the next week. The most recent losses have been to Oral Roberts, 83-70, and Cal State Fullerton, 82-67.

Forward Kelly Golob continues to prove himself as the top 3-point shooter in the conference, connecting on 52.5 percent from outside. Golob connected on 10-of-12 shots from 3-point range against Fullerton and Oral Roberts. He also made 7-of-8 long range shots in a game against San Jose Christian.

True freshman Ruben Boykin Jr. has averaged 6.7 points and 5.8 rebounds, but has seen his minutes drop in the past three games.

The Lumberjacks will next host Western New Mexico on Saturday, travel to UC Riverside on Monday and UNLV on Thursday, then return home to host San Diego next Saturday.

Portland State Vikings (2-4)

Senior forward Seth Scott (7.7 points) has been placed under team suspension and will not play against Jackson State. He didn’t play in Portland State’s most recent game as well, a 71-43 win over Pacific Oregon

Both of the Vikings wins have come against non-Division I schools in their own state — Southern Oregon and Pacific Oregon. Despite the poor record, Portland State is the conference’s top defensive team, allowing only 63.2 points.

A group of junior college transfers have led the offensive attack. Junior college transfer guards Blake Walker (15.2 points, 5.2 rebounds), Sheu Oduniyi (11.2 points) and Will Funn (8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists) are leading a team which is still trying to figure each other out.

The Vikings will next host Jackson State on Saturday, travel to Boise State on Tuesday and then return home to face Portland on Friday.

Sacramento State Hornets (3-4)

After getting off to a 3-1 start — albeit with two wins over NAIA teams — the Hornets have lost three straight. The most recent loss was at home to Saint Mary’s College, 88-74.

The team has a plethora of players who can score from the shooting guard/small forward position, but nobody has stepped up to be the go-to guy. The top four scorers — Joseth Dawson, Joel Jones, Brandon Guyton and Jameel Pugh — all play the swing position, and none of them averages over 30 minutes.

Head coach Jerome Jenkins must keep his hottest player on the court, and make sure the other three players recognize who that hot player is and get him the ball.

The Hornets will next travel to San Jose State on Saturday.

Weber State Wildcats (4-2)

After winning three-straight games, the Wildcats lost to Southern Methodist, 79-74, last Saturday. Forward Nic Sparrow led Weber State in scoring with 18 points, while all-conference forward Slobodan Ocokoljic, who played only 21 minutes with foul trouble, had an off-night with twelve points and only three rebounds.

The Wildcats will travel to Nevada on Saturday, then host Portland on Tuesday.


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