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Conference USA Notebook

December 15, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Showdown Saturday

Saturday pitted some of the best Conference USA has to offer against some of the best the nation has to offer. Four games pitted C-USA teams against Top 15 teams in the country. Only one of those four games resulted in a C-USA victory. That win came against the No. 1 team in the land.

The No. 25 Louisville Cardinals knocked off No. 1 Florida, 73-65, to improve to 4-1 on the season. It was the second loss for the Gators this week after vaulting to the top of the polls, becoming the first team in 15 years to do that. Francisco Garcia scored 21 points to lead the Cards, capping off a tumultuous week for him.

Earlier in the week, Garcia’s lone brother, Hector Lopez, was murdered in New York City. Garcia still played Wednesday against Seton Hall, attended Lopez’s funeral in Bronx Thursday and returned for practice Friday. He wept before practice, then led Louisville against the Gators.

Taquan Dean added fourteen points in the backcourt, while Luke Whitehead and Kendall Dartez took care of the work in the frontcourt. Whitehead finished with nine boards and eight points, while Dartez totaled nine points and seven rebounds. Earlier in the week, the Cardinals defeated Seton Hall, 80-71. After a season-opening loss to Iowa, it appears Louisville is starting to play how they were expected to this season.

A few minutes into the second half, No. 23 Marquette was winning at No. 8 Arizona, 50-35, as the more than fourteen thousand fans in attendance sat in silence. Then the Golden Eagles allowed the Wildcats back into the game and eventually lost in convincing fashion, 85-75. Travis Diener and Scott Novack each scored 21 points, but could not contain Salim Stoudamire or Hassan Adams. Stoudamire finished with 27 points, including hitting a career-high seven three-pointers. Adams scored 20 and made key baskets during the Wildcats decisive run during the second half.

Memphis also started off hot against their opponent, No. 14 Illinois, but could not keep up the pace and lost 64-54. During his first three games as a college player, freshman Richard McBride had netted a total of two points. Against the Tigers, McBride scored 22 points, going 7-of-13 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. James Augustine finished with 21 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Rodney Carney kept Memphis alive with several late treys, he led the team with eighteen points, but his play was not enough for the Tigers.

Saint Louis hung around with No. 11 Georgia Tech on the road for a half before the Yellow Jackets pulled away for a 75-62 win. B.J. Elder scored 17 points and Ismaa’il Muhammad added 16 off the bench to lead Georgia Tech. Josh Fisher lead the Billikens with fourteen points. SLU feel to 3-3 on the season.

The arrival of Iti

Martin Iti was one of the most talked about incoming freshman this season, but prior to Saturday had made very little impact on Charlotte’s season. Iti announced his arrival against Appalachian State, earning his first double-double of his career. Iti went 7-of-10 from the field, scoring fifteen points, while grabbing 10 rebounds.

Iti was one of three players to score fifteen points or more, as Charlotte cruised to a 85-64 win against ASU. The Niners won earlier in the week against Davidson, 76-64, to run their record to 6-2.

Seven-foot tall, Iti has the potential to be a dominant center in C-USA. With Robert Whaley standing 6-8, Scott Merritt 6-9 and Luke Whitehead 6-7, Iti has a decisive height advantage over some of the top centers in C-USA. If Iti continues to play the way he did Saturday, Charlotte will have another weapon to turn to down the road.

Around the rest of C-USA

Cincinnati (4-0)

The Bearcats continued to rest during their current 15-day break from game action. Cincinnati last played Dec. 2, when they defeated Valpo 68-49. Robert Whaley had successful surgery on his left meniscus, but his return date is not known yet. Transfer James White makes his Bearcat debut this week, against Middle Tennessee State Saturday. Up next – against Clemson, Dec. 17.

DePaul (5-2)

The Blue Demons split their games this week, winning on the road at Ohio, 63-60 Tuesday before losing to the Fighting Irish Sunday, 82-69. Delonte Holland continues to shine for DePaul, as he leads C-USA in scoring at a 20.6 points per game clip. Against the Irish, the Blue Demons’ defense did them in, as Notre Dame shot 59 percent from the field. Up next – against Toledo, Dec. 20.

East Carolina (4-1)

The Pirates coasted during its only game of the week, 86-53 against North Carolina State A&T Wednesday night. In one of the most impressive team performances anyone will ever see, ECU had six players finish in double figures. A&T helped out by only shooting 29.3 percent from the field. In other news, sophomore Corey Rouse was suspended indefinitely for violating team policy. Rouse had been averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Up next – against Gardner-Webb, Dec. 19.

Houston (1-3)

Their lone game of the week turned out to be their worst of the season, a 88-61 drubbing by UTEP. The Cougars again could not find any offense, as only Bryan Shelton and Andre Owens were the only two players to do any damage on the offensive end. UTEP out-rebounded Houston by six and doubled up on them dropping dimes, 22-11. Up next – against Bethune Cookman, Dec. 17.

USF (3-3)

After starting the season a promising 3-0, the Bulls lost their third-straight game to Richmond Saturday, 70-58. USF could not stop the Spiders during the second half, giving up 44 points while allowing Richmond to shoot nearly 50 from the field. Mike Skrocki scored fifteen of his game-high 21 points in the second half. Bradley Mosley led the Bulls with sixteen points, while Terrence Leather finished with a double-double in the losing cause. Up next – at No. 20 Michigan State, Dec. 16.

Southern Miss (4-2)

The Golden Eagles played their most disappointing game of the season Saturday, losing on the road 78-71 to Arkansas State. Southern Miss has traveled outside of Hattiesburg twice this season and has lost both times. The Indians controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Eagles 31-21, and connected on 8-of-13 three-pointers. Southern Miss could not overcome a fourteen-point halftime deficit. Up next – against Georgia Southern, Dec. 17.

TCU (3-5)

The only C-USA team to play three games last week, the Horned Frogs went 2-1, knocking off Stephen F. Austin and North Texas while sandwiching in a close 67-60 loss at Texas Tech. Marcus Shropshire had his best week at TCU, averaging 15.3 points per game. Against North Texas, the two teams played neck-and-neck before the Frogs pulled away during the final minutes. Up next – against Arkansas State, Dec. 22.

Tulane (5-1)

The Green Wave won their only game of the week as well, knocking off Northwestern State, 83-66. Tulane continues to get great play from their frontcourt, as all three of the team’s starting big man scored in double figures. The Green Wave collected ten more rebounds and dished out ten more assists than NSU. Up next – against Southeast Louisiana, Dec. 20.

UAB (3-1)

Like Cincinnati, the Blazers had the week off to focus on finals. UAB gets back into the swing this week with three games, including a tough road game against Virginia Commonwealth. Up next – against Western Michigan, Dec. 15.

Player of the Week

Francisco Garcia, Louisville

The grief-stricken star scored 24 points against Seton Hall and then 21 against No. 1 Florida, while mourning the death of his brother earlier in the week. It was probably the best week by any player in the country.

Games to Watch

Cincinnati vs. Clemson, Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The only reason this is a game to watch is it’s the Bearcats’ first game in fifteen days. Their game Saturday may really be the one to watch, as James White plays his first game since transferring from Florida.

UAB at Virginia Commonwealth, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Blazers also took a week off, and after playing Western Michigan only two days prior, they will have to go on the road to face a tough VCU team.

Marquette at Wisconsin, Saturday at 2 p.m.
The battle for Wisconsin is always a tough one. The No. 21 Badgers are 6-1 and looking strong early. It will be a battle in the backcourt to see who will win this interstate rival.


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