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December 18, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 18th

Top 25 Roundup: No. 4 Duke outlasted an always-pesky Princeton squad 69-51, in a game that saw Blue Devil freshman Luol Deng overcome a first half slump to tally 18 points on the game. J.J. Redick had 17 and Daniel Ewing had 15 in the tough win, which saw Duke shoot poorly in the first half, including a seven minute stretch without a basket. Princeton had its own troubles, going 2-of-18 from the arc and failing to overcome turnovers in the second half. Andre Logan led the Tigers with 16 points. No. 7 Georgia Tech wasted no time in getting the jump on Alabama A&M, going on a 24-2 first half run, winning 74-41. Tech was up 49-15 at the half, and was led by 22 points from Luke Schenscher, who scored 12 of the ‘Jackets’ first 14 points.

16th-ranked Cincinnati downed a struggling Clemson squad 79-56, as the Bearcats had a 27-5 run in the first half and benefitted from a crushing press that forced 25 Tiger turnovers. Freshness may have had something to do with it, as Cincinnati hadn’t played in two weeks, and Clemson was playing their 3rd game in 5 days. Jason Maxiell scored 20 points for the Bearcats, who also saw the return of center Robert Whaley, who had knee surgery right after Thanksgiving. In the second round of the Pittsburgh Invitational, the No. 21 Pitt Panthers managed to handle Chicago State a little better than it did NAIA power Georgetown (Kentucky), which almost upset the Panthers Monday night. Julius Page paced Pitt with points o’plenty as he notched 14 in the 79-51 win, the ninth in a row for new head coach Jamie Dixon. Chicago State was led by Tony Weeden’s 13 points. No. 19 Syracuse continued their winnings ways over downstate MAAC rival Manhattan, 69-63. Gerry McNamara scored 16 and Hakim Warrick had a 12/10 double-double for the Orangemen, while as always, Luis Flores led the Jaspers with 22 points. Manhattan led at the break 42-34, but Syracuse held the Jaspers scoreless for nearly the final seven minutes.

Pac-10 Results: Things didn’t look very rosy in the Pac-10 last night. In late action, No. 5 Arizona withstood the Gael force of St. Mary’s, sqeaking out a victory in the final minute, 84-78, in a game that the Gaels owned. Meanwhile, UCLA managed to lose at Pauley Pavilion to UC-Santa Barbara, 61-60, making the Westwood faithful harken back with fond memories of Steve Lavin. Gaucho Casey Cook sank two free throws with 18 seconds left to seal the win. And in Evanston, the underperforming Arizona State Sun Devils let Northwestern run the length of the floor in the final four seconds to nail a jumper, downing the Devils 63-61. Ike Diogu was the lone bright spot for ASU, as he notched 23 points and 14 rebounds.

Oddities: Last night saw some oddities in the 48 games played. Seven of the games went into overtime – almost 15 percent of fans got more than their money’s worth – including two games that went into double OT. Troy State (over Jacksonville) and Southwest Missouri State (over UMKC) used 50 minutes, while North Texas, Southern Miss, Nicholls State, Niagara, and Akron all took an extra five minutes to pull out wins. Meanwhile, West Carolina came close to tripling-up Averett University last night, winning 120-46. The Cougars, a D-III school in the Dixie Conference, were led by junior guard Jerrod Harris’ 10 points, while six different Catamounts scored in double digits, led by sophomore forward Jared Outing’s 21 points.

Longhorn Ankle: Brandon Mouton, Texas’ leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, may sit-out the Longhorns upcoming game with Duke due to an injured right ankle. Mouton hurt his ankle in Tuesday’s practice, and is questionable, at best, for Saturday’s showdown with the Blue Devils. Along with points, the 6-4 guard leads Texas (5-1) in minutes and is second in steals. Mouton collected 15 points and four rebounds in the ‘Horns last game, an 89-55 win over New Orleans.

Cummings Now Eligible: UCLA senior T.J. Cummings has met his academic obligations and is now available to participate in games. The 6-9 forward, who averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 boards as a junior, returns to a team that went 3-1 in his absence. Cummings is expected to be used sparingly in his initial return to the post position, but will see more minutes as his conditioning improves.

Trojan Back: USC senior center Jonathan Oliver will be returning to the hardwood today, as his eligibility has been restored. Oliver, a 7-0 center, was ruled academically ineligible because he was not considered a full-time student fall semester, which ended yesterday. Oliver may see action immediately, as the Trojans face Fresno State tomorrow night, and forward Nick Curtis’ knee tendonitis has flared up again.

Never Too Late: Former NC State star David “The Skywalker” Thompson, one of the all-time greats of the ACC, yesterday earned his Bachelor’s degree in sociology. Thompson, who returned to Raleigh to complete a promise to his mother, completed his remaining seven credit hours of coursework left over from his departure into the NBA Draft in 1975. Thompson was also driven to complete his degree before his daughter did – she’ll graduate this spring from NC State. Thompson was the star of the NC State national championship squad of 1974 under Norm Sloan, who passed away last week. That squad over two seasons compiled a record of 57-1, and was not allowed to compete in the 1973 NCAA’s because of NCAA violations.

Wildcat Departing: Arizona quarterback Ryan O’Hara, who joined Lute Olson’s squad last week to help replace the injured Isaiah Fox, will be leaving the team in the next week to focus on football again. The gridiron Wildcats, with new head coach Mike Stoops, intend on keeping O’Hara a one-sport student-athlete, and potentially having O’Hara return under center as a starting in spring practice. O’Hara so far has only played one minute against Marquette, but has played well on the scout team.

Layers of Hell: Colorado State head coach has been publicly reprimanded by the Mountain West Conference for his ejection last week in a Ram loss against Colorado. Layer, who had issues with the referees all night during the 84-78 loss, was ejected after receiving his second technical foul with three minutes remaining in the contest. In a statement, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said that Layer was reprimanded for “provocative actions toward a game official”. The ejection was Layer’s first in four seasons as the head coach at Colorado State.

Conference Shuffle?: In other Mountain West news, conference athletic directors met yesterday for the final time in 2003, and expansion was not on the agenda. Last month, Commissioner Craig Thompson had indicated that the Mountain West would expand by two or four teams. TCU, Fresno State, New Mexico State, and Boise State had all been rumored to be in the MWC expansion mix. Now those talks are on hold. According to Thompson, the earliest that a new member institution could begin play in an expanded conference would be fall of 2005. He also indicated that the expansion number would be at most one or two schools.

Duke Backs Out: Duquesne guard Jack Higgins season for the Dukes will be delayed a bit. Higgins, who transferred from Cleveland State last season after differences with Viking head coach Rollie Massimino, was to hit the hardwood tonight in the Dukes matchup with Akron, the first game he was eligible. However, Higgins injured his back Monday in practice, and has been day-to-day since. Higgins may also be held from Saturday’s game against George Mason and Tuesday’s game against Minnesota.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Another Thursday night without Top 25 competition is on the menu for tonight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t compelling matchups. For instance, 8-0 Florida State hosts 0-5 Wagner, so something’s got to give, right? Fans that stay up late should see some good West Coast matchups, as Northern Arizona faces UNLV, UC-Irvine faces Pepperdine, and San Diego State hosts the upset-minded Cal Poly.

• Meanwhile, some lower division schools get their shot at an upset tonight. The D-III Washington College Shoremen face the Navy Midshipmen, in a battle of maritime occupations. The NAIA Tougaloo Bulldogs test their mettle against Louisiana-Monroe, while the Tennessee Temple Crusaders face Samford. Lastly, the University of the South (why is it called Sewanee? Two names? Why? Anyone?) Tigers travel to Lipscomb, and the Orediggers of Montana Tech (coached in the 1980’s by Oklahoma’s Kelvin Sampson) travel to Southern Utah.

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