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December 14, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 14th

All These Fans For a Basketball Game!: A record crowd for a basketball game gathered at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday, as 78,129 showed up for the matchup between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 20 Michigan State. The game, dubbed “BasketBowl” and as much an event as a game, broke the previous record of 75,000 set in 1951 when the Harlem Globetrotters played at Olympic Stadium in Berlin; it broke the previous NCAA basketball record attendance of 68,112 that was set in 1990 at the Louisiana Superdome when Notre Dame played LSU.

As far as the game was concerned, it was a very good one, meaning all those fans certainly got their money’s worth. They didn’t quite get the result most hoped for, as the predominately Michigan State crowd watched Kentucky dominate early, then hold on at the end behind several clutch baskets by senior Gerald Fitch to beat the Spartans by a 79-74 margin.

The Wildcats (5-0), who shot a scorching 64% from the field for the game, once led by 15 in the first half, before the Spartans (3-4) got things in gear offensively and mounted a comeback. In the second half, they got within two on a couple of occasions, then within one at 62-61 before Fitch (25 points) scored five straight points. Then with the Spartans within three, Fitch hit another three-pointer to put the Wildcats up 72-66 with 4:24 left. He later sealed the game with three free throws in the final half minute of play.

Paul Davis led Michigan State with a career-high 24 points, including a perfect 14-14 showing at the free throw line, and added 8 rebounds.

Gators Lose Again: No. 1 Florida headed to Louisville on Saturday for the second annual Billy Minardi Classic, organized by Louisville head coach Rick Pitino in honor of his brother-in-law, who perished in the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center. The Gators ran into a budding star with a heavy heart — Louisville sophomore Francisco Garcia, whose brother was killed earlier this week. Garcia scored 21 points to lead the 25th-ranked Cardinals to a 73-65 win over the Gators, the 400th win of Pitino’s career. The Cardinals (4-1) won despite shooting under 39% from the field, forcing 18 Florida turnovers. David Lee led Florida (5-2) with a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Adding to the heavy hearts within the Louisville basketball family, the father of senior power forward Ellis Myles passed away on Saturday. Myles is redshirting this season and plans to fly to California on Sunday to be with his family.

They Won’t Be No. 1: With Florida losing earlier in the week, then losing again earlier in the day, No. 3 Missouri got to state their case for the top spot as they headed to Seattle to take on No. 16 Gonzaga. It was a well-played game that took overtime, and in the extra session, Gonzaga scored the last 8 points, including six on free throws, to take home an 87-80 win, their seventh straight.

Missouri had the upper hand early, but the Bulldogs (7-1) stayed close throughout and took the lead in the second half. But when Ronny Turiaf (23 points) picked up his fourth foul with 8:22 left to play, the Tigers (3-1) started a 15-5 run to eventually take the lead. But the Bulldogs regained the lead late in regulation, and the Tigers needed a big three-pointer by Rickey Paulding (23 points) with 10.1 seconds left to force overtime. On the ensuing inbound pass, the game clock did not start until a good 2-3 seconds passed, but it made no difference as the Bulldogs turned the ball over and the Tigers ran out the clock.

Foul trouble plagued the Tigers inside, as both Travon Bryant (13 points) and freshman Linas Kleiza (a fine outing with 16 points and 13 rebounds) both fouled out, and Arthur Johnson played with four fouls for much of overtime.

A Little Better This Time Around: No. 7 Kansas hosted Oregon at Kemper Arena on Saturday, the same place where Wayne Simien dislocated his shoulder to effectively end his sophomore season. Things went a little better this time, as Simien had 19 points and a career-high 18 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks to a 77-67 win over Oregon. Simien led the inside attack for Kansas (5-1), which helped open things up for wings J.R. Giddens (18 points) and Keith Langford (15 points). Luke Jackson led Oregon (3-1) with 27 points and 8 rebounds.

Meeting of the Minds: After the game, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that he will meet with suspended center Jeff Graves and his family on Monday to discuss matters. This will go a long way in determining Graves’ future with the program, which Self says is simply a matter of Graves doing what he is supposed to do.

Yellow Jackets Keep Rolling: No. 11 Georgia Tech continued its early season success, improving to 8-0 with a 75-62 win over St. Louis in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta. They shot 48% from the field and forced 18 turnovers, getting 17 points and 4 steals from B.J. Elder to lead the way. Will Bynum, an Arizona transfer, scored 6 points and handed out 3 assists in his first game for Georgia Tech.

Coming From Behind: No. 23 Marquette looked like it could pull off a big upset, as they led No. 8 Arizona by 15 with over 17 minutes left to play in Tucson, and foul trouble was plaguing hot-shooting guard Salim Stoudamire (27 points, including seven three-pointers). But the Wildcats rode a big second half from Hassan Adams (14 of his 20 points) and a solid inside performance from Channing Frye (11 points, 13 rebounds) to come back for an 85-75 win. The Wildcats (4-1) shot 57% from the field to win despite 17 turnovers. Marquette (6-1) was led by Travis Diener (21 points, 10 assists) and Steve Novak (21 points).

Not Even Close: No. 17 Purdue avenged its first loss of the season, crushing Central Michigan 80-39 in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers (7-1) shot nearly 52% from the field and held the Chippewas to an ice cold 22% shooting, getting 13 each from Kenneth Lowe and Brandon McKnight.

Meanwhile, the team that beat Purdue, No. 10 Oklahoma (7-0), continued its winning ways with an 83-56 rout of Prairie View.

We Don’t Need Him Anyway: No. 4 Connecticut took on Quinnipiac with Emeka Okafor sitting out due to chronic back pain, but it didn’t matter. Ben Gordon had 28 points and the Huskies dominated the boards (52-30) and held Quinnipiac under 30% from the field in an 88-55 blowout. Charlie Villanueva continued to show what he can do, scoring 15 points and hauling down 6 boards in 21 minutes for the Huskies (7-1).

Illinois Bounces Back: No. 14 Illinois came back after suffering its first loss of the season and pulled out a 74-64 win over Memphis. The Illini (6-2) got 22 points from freshman Richard McBride and 21 from James Augustine. Rodney Carney had 18 points to lead Memphis (4-2).

National Champs Coast After Layoff: No. 19 Syracuse, playing its first game in ten days, got off to a slow start, but eventually coasted to a 75-54 win over Binghamton. The only player in double figures was Terrence Roberts, who scored 12 points, but the only player not to score for Syracuse (3-1) was walk-on Andrew Kouwe, who was scoreless in the final minute of play.

State School Matchup: No. 21 Wisconsin (6-1) coasted to an 89-71 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as Mike Wilkinson led five players who scored in double figures with 18 points. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but Wisconsin held a 38-25 edge on the boards.

Two More Pick Up Wins: No. 12 Stanford (5-0) got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Justin Davis, along with 17 points and 6 assists from Matt Lottich, in an 86-71 win over UNLV (5-2). Meanwhile, No. 22 Pittsburgh (7-0) remained undefeated with a 57-42 win over visiting Duquesne, shooting nearly 46% from the floor.

Mr. Clutch, and Liking It: Ramod Marshall did it again for No. 24 Dayton on Saturday. This time, the senior guard hit another clutch shot to win a game, this time a floater with 40 seconds left in the Flyers’ 61-59 win over IUPUI. Sean Finn led Dayton (8-0) with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Keith Waleskowski added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Tonight’s Menu

• Several Top 25 teams are in action today, starting with No. 2 North Carolina stating its case for the top spot as they host Akron.

• Just a few miles away, No. 6 Duke hosts Portland.

• No. 9 Texas looks to avenge its loss to Arizona this past week, hosting New Orleans in Austin.

• No. 13 St. Joseph’s takes on Drexel in a Philadelphia Big 5 game.

• Florida State will make its case for the Top 25, traveling south to take on Miami.

• Other matchups to keep an eye on include Rhode Island at Kent State, Notre Dame at DePaul, and Pepperdine at Maryland.

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