Morning Dish

by - Published January 31, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 31st

Stephen F. Austin Player Dies: Stephen F. Austin junior transfer Greg Wallace died Friday after collapsing while shooting baskets at SFA’s home court. Wallace was sitting out this season after transferring from Army and was practicing while the active players and coaches were traveling to Hammond, La. to play a game against Southeastern Louisiana that was scheduled for today. The game has been postponed indefinitely as the team returned home to Nacogdoches, Texas after finding out about Wallace’s death. The cause of death is unknown at this time. Wallace was 22-years-old.

More Conference Shuffling: The long discussed move from Conference USA to the Mountain West Conference by TCU finally is official as they accepted an invitation by the MWC on Friday. The move will be effective for the 2005-2006 season and will come at an exit price of at least $400,000 for the Horned Frogs. If you are keeping score at home, you know that Conference USA will be losing TCU, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida, St. Louis, and Charlotte in the next two years. Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, SMU, and Tulsa will move in to take their places. Barring any other conference moves (and based on the last several months, it would not surprise anyone if other moves did happen), the Mountain West will have nine teams after this move is completed.

Suspended: The Southeastern Conference suspended Vanderbilt guard Corey Smith and South Carolina forward Renaldo Balkman for the fight that occurred in the game between their two teams on Wednesday night. Smith’s suspension was automatic because he was ejected from the game for fighting. Balkman was also ejected from the game, but for a flagrant foul, not for fighting. However, the SEC has the right to suspend players for flagrant, unsportsmanlike acts that occur during games. Due to the suspensions, Vanderbilt will be without Smith for their game against Kentucky today and South Carolina will not have Balkman for today’s match-up with Mississippi.

Pitino Stays Quiet: Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has returned to work and will be on the bench for the Cardinals’ game against Marquette today, but he continues to decline to give specifics about the medical condition that forced him to take leave of the team for two days this week. Stating that, “I don’t want to get too overly personal,” Pitino did say that his ailment was nothing serious.

Light Action: Only twelve games were played last night, none involving ranked teams. Princeton played their first conference game of the season, defeating Brown 64-49. In other Ivy League action, Yale defeated Penn 54-52, Columbia destroyed Dartmouth 78-42, and Cornell moved to 3-0 in Ivy League games, beating Harvard 91-79. In the Patriot League, Army got revenge for their football team’s loss by beating Navy, 52-50.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Twenty-one of the teams in the Hoopville Top 25 are in action today on a typical busy Saturday schedule. There are two games matching up two ranked teams, with No. 2 Duke traveling to Atlanta to battle No. 13 Georgia Tech and No. 21 Oklahoma State hosting No. 13 Texas Tech.

• The only two unbeaten teams remaining, No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 St. Joseph’s, both have tough road tests today. Stanford will have to win at Oregon’s McArthur Court in order to keep their perfect season alive. Oregon is 36-2 at home over the last three seasons, so a Cardinal win is far from a sure thing. St. Joseph’s has to tangle with fellow Philly foe Temple. The Owls are a little down this season, but John Chaney is not a coach that you like to see on the opposite bench when you are trying to stay undefeated.

• After snapping their 31-game losing streak, Loyola (MD) will hit the road in an attempt to move their winning streak to two games. The Greyhounds face St. Peter’s, the MAAC’s second place team, so the task does not appear to be easy.

• Other intriguing match-ups include Troy State at UCF in a battle between the top two teams in the Atlantic Sun, along with Xavier at Dayton, Marquette at No. 4 Louisville, and BYU at Utah. Utah will be led by assistant coach Kerry Rupp, who will be the interim coach for the Utes due to the medical problems of Rick Majerus.

Morning Dish

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Friday, January 30th

Pitino is back: Louisville head coach Rick Pitino returned to the team on Thursday and resumed his coaching duties after taking a two-day medical leave. The 51-year-old Pitino underwent tests at the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine the cause of a “urological pain” that has ailed his left side for months. Assistant coach Kevin Willard stepped in for Pitino and led the fourth-ranked Cardinals to a 64-48 win over Houston on Wednesday night. They will play Marquette at Freedom Hall tomorrow.

Vandy coach is sorry: Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings apologized Thursday for comments he made about a fight that resulted in two players being ejected in a loss to South Carolina. “While at no time will we accept cheap shots from the opponent, it was unsportsmanlike and unprofessional of me to condone or promote such tactics by our players,” Stallings said in a statement. Stallings had to pull guard Corey Smith off Renaldo Balkman after the Gamecocks’ forward hit Smith in the first half of South Carolina’s 57-55 win on Wednesday. Balkman was ejected for a flagrant foul, while Smith was ejected because he threw Balkman to the ground and started hitting him.

Top-ranked Stanford still unbeaten: Stanford’s Josh Childress had 17 points as second-ranked Stanford stayed unbeaten with a 62-48 victory over Oregon State on Thursday night. Stanford (17-0, 8-0 Pacific-10) and third-ranked St. Joseph’s are the only undefeated teams left in Division I. Both are 17-0. It was Stanford’s ninth straight victory overall against the Beavers and fifth in a row at Gill Coliseum. The Beavers (8-10, 2-6) have lost four straight. They were led by Chris Stephens with 24 points, including five 3-pointers. David Lucas added 15 points and eight rebounds as well for Oregon State. The Cardinals have never won five straight in the 54-year history of Gill Coliseum.

Washington upsets Arizona: Washington’s Nate Robinson scored a career-high 31 points on an 11-of-15 shooting effort and directed a thrilling second-half rally as the Huskies stunned ninth-ranked Arizona 96-83 last night. The Wildcats (13-4, 5-3) could not run from the smaller Huskies, not with Robinson scoring 20 points in the second half. It was Washington’s first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 19 Oregon 94-92 on Jan. 24, 2002. When the final horn sounded, students flooded from the stands to join the Huskies in a mid-court celebration. The Wildcats had to step around the frenzy on their way to the locker room, heading off the floor with heads down. Arizona had won eight straight over Washington before last night.

Duke wins defensive battle: Florida State trailed by two in the final minute, but Chris Duhon drained a 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds to play, helping second-ranked Duke hold off the Seminoles 56-49. J.J. Redick scored 24 points to lead the Blue Devils (17-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 14 straight overall and an impressive 37 in a row at home. Sean Dockery went scoreless but had two big steals late, as Duke remained the only unbeaten team in the ACC conference season. Tim Pickett had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Seminoles (14-6, 3-4), who were trying to beat a top-10 team in three straight games for the first time in school history. Florida State, which had beaten North Carolina and Wake Forest in the last week, fell to 0-14 all-time at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But the Seminoles have won the last two meetings in Tallahassee.

Deacons halt slide: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons ended a four-game losing streak after starting 12-0 with a 93-85 win over Maryland. Freshman Chris Paul scored 25 points, including a pivotal three-pointer with 2:23 to play. The Demon Deacons (12-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled with their scoring during their losing streak as Paul and fellow guard Justin Gray had not been able to find an offensive rhythm. Gray scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and Paul picked up the slack in the second half.

Loyola ends near-record streak: With their first victory in more than a year. Loyola College defeated 63-57 over Marist to end a 31-game losing streak. As the game ended, the crowd began chanting as one. And like in Washington, when the final buzzer sounded, the students eagerly rushed the court and mobbed the players. It has been more than a year since Loyola won a basketball game. The 31-game slide feel two-short of the NCAA record for consecutive losses at 33 held by Grambling from Dec. 6, 1999 to Dec. 16, 200. Charlie Bell scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half for the Greyhounds (1-18, 1-9 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), who handed Marist (5-13, 3-6) its fourth straight defeat. Will McClurkin scored 15 points for the Red Foxes, but he missed nine shots. Guard Brandon Ellerbee went 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-2 at the foul line.

Tonight’s menu

• It is another smart kid’s Friday in the nation and college basketball. Princeton will be at Brown and Lafayette at American. All in all, 12 games on the schedule. A low-fat dessert tonight.

Splitting Adams

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Columns


Splitting Adams

by Adam Shandler

Random, rambling commentary on basketball and beyond

Love Means Never Having To Say ‘You Nitwit’: UConn coach Jim Calhoun and Phil Martelli had to serve up mea culpas for making what was deemed “insensitive remarks”. Martelli’s peccadillo occurred when his St. Joe’s Hawks were blowing out St. Bonaventure and a fan questioned the coach on his pressing tactics even though his team was up by 25 points. Martelli’s response to this Bonniephile?

“Shut up, you nitwit!” And topped it all off with “You should be embarrassed by your own team, you moron.”

While it was a fan that set off Martelli, It was a reporter that got Calhoun all hot under the collar. When New Haven Register scribe David Solomon asked the coach why he didn’t land Providence star and Connecticut native Ryan Gomes as a UConn recruit – just minutes after the junior forward lit up the Huskies for 26 points, 12 boards – coach Calhoun lay into the writer with a right-left combination of adjectives not meant for this website.

In the best public relations interests for their schools, both Martelli and Calhoun apologized to their “opponents” the following Monday. But why should these gents have to apologize?

The college hoops coach as a species is constantly under a lot of pressure, and often they respond to criticism in the classiest way possible even though their casting daggers under their breath. But every once in a while, especially during the heat of the moment, they burst and say something they regret later on. However, the onus is on the potential instigator to back off. That fan that irked Martelli should know that you just don’t bark at a coach while he’s trying to move his way up the Top 25 ladder. Just sit down and take your 25-point loss like an adult.

As for our reporter friend in Connecticut – heck, I’ve been at a few press conferences, and believe me, some of us reporters can ask the most asinine questions, knowing full well we’re going to get a piping hot plate of Go To Hell in return.

Coaches are what they are and temper is sometimes part of the character. They’re entitled to a little eruption every now and again and we as fans should welcome. So let’s all stop expecting apologies when our favorite basketball coach shows his humanness.

Scandal-less: I remember the Hoopville season last year. Our reporters were tapping away frantically at their computers, blistered fingertips and all, to get their commentaries about the latest scandal posted before the next one broke. Our Morning Dishes were sour, rancid meals about academic impropriety, cash, cars, drugs, guns and other tales of men behaving badly. Made The Sopranos look like an episode of Full House. (Whatever happened to Dave Coulier, by the way?)

This season, the scandals have been at a minimum, and we at Hoopville have been recording the events of games. Yes, games. The whole reason why we’re here.

They must’ve done something right at that NABC summit.

“Urological Related”: Which is how I describe most of my relations with family members. Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s man-pains have him missing some games, even though he says he wants to be back on the sidelines by the weekend of January 31st. Seriously, Rick, give this one some time. You don’t want to mess around with any kind of pinch below the equator. I’m surprised it took him this long to speak up. While prostate cancer has been ruled out for Pitino, this burning sensation he is feeling could lead to other issues which I don’t have the heart to get into.

I guess what I’m getting at is, put it in perspective. What’s the greater issue here? Half-court trapping Southern Miss, or being able to pee without thinking of a happy place?

Snowstorm! Rated R: What’s with the weathermen and their The-End-Is-Near Forecasts these days. Okay, we’re getting snow, and yes, it can be deadly. But we’ve seen snow before. Had snowstorms before. We’ve driven in it, shoveled it and even played in it. (Some have even eaten it, though please, stay away from the yellow kind.)

We’re not being attacked by giant alien carpenter ants who shoot acid at humans. So let’s can the talk with words like “vicious” and “brutal” and save ‘em for the WWE. Not every snowstorm needs to be presented like War of the Worlds.

Guarden State: It’s nice to see New Jersey getting some attention for something other diners, tolls, toxic waste and the aforementioned HBO program about “The Family.” (Although I am all a-titter for Season 5.) Seton Hall’s Andre Barrett and Keydren “KiKi” Clark of St. Peter’s have given Jersey hoops fans something to cheer about while the Nets slosh through their inconsistency and fire their coach.

Barrett has led Seton Hall to a 13-4 record at this writing and has helped transform the Pirates from a bubble team a year ago to one that can startle foes in the tourney. He’s averaging 18.4 ppg and 6.6 assists and was one of four players in double figures in The Hall’s recent upset of Syracuse. Barrett is currently sixth in the Big East in scoring but leads the league in dishes. It’ll be interesting to see how Barrett fares against Providence on Sunday, February 1, when the Pirates meet up again with red-hot Providence at the Donut. The Friars edged The Hall 63-60 on January 12 in East Rutherford.

KiKi Clark is the kind of guy who can score in his sleep. At 27.1 ppg, he is the second leading scorer in the country, just .4 below Western Carolina’s Kevin Martin. And it’s not that Clark can just put the ball in the basket, it’s the versatility of his scoring that’s so impressive. He hits over 38% of his shots from long range but has no problem sinking one inside the arc or off the dribble drive. He’s also efficient from the free throw line at 82% and hands the ball out 4.5 times a game.

The Peacocks are on a three-game win streak and have won six out of the last 7. KiKi has averaged 30.3 ppg in the last three games and in a recent 92-76 win against Iona, he poured in 38.

Fiber Optic: It’s flu season, and I can’t say this enough. I believe there’s one remedy more medicinal than any flu shot or bowl of chicken soup. It’s fiber. Why do I own such a radical viewpoint? Because germs like to live and breath in the digestive system before they scatter to other regions of your body. The reason why some colds and flus last so long is because the inflicted aren’t, uh, “disposing” of the bacteria. So tell your loved ones to leave the house for a while and grab some beans or high-fiber cereal.

Just don’t eat too much of it, or you’ll be recovering from a whole new set of problems.

     

SEC Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



SEC Notebook

by Matt Jones

It is coming to the point that I am beginning to hear the shrieking sounds of Chris Matthews and Simon Cowell in my sleep. It has now become common for me to pick out one night out of a week to watch Democratic primary returns and another to watch the American Idol auditions. Last week both of these programs brought me examples of human meltdown, with the infamous Howard Dean speech on Monday and the rather odd stylings of Huang and his Ricky Martin impersonation on Tuesday. We have now reached the points in both shows (and I realize that the Democratic Primary does not really qualify as a “show” but you folks have to work with me here) where we have begun to ignore the no-talents (adios Dennis Kucinich!) and are now moving on to the frontrunners. In some sense that is exactly what is also happening in the SEC as well.

This conference has rightly been criticized by many (including yours truly) for its woeful non-conference scheduling that produces teams that are not sufficiently battle-tested to do well in the NCAA tournament. However an often forgotten side effect of this scheduling trend is that it makes it virtually impossible to tell during the non-conference season, what teams are truly talented. But separation is slowly beginning to occur. The proverbial cream is rising to the top and the conference hierarchy is starting to take shape. With that, I will make my mid-season predictions. Look for John Kerry, Ryan and Kentucky to win the big contests, but watch out for John Edwards, Sarah and Mississippi State to keep things interesting. Now on to the news……

South Carolina on My Mind

There is no state currently hotter in the country than South Carolina. All of the Presidential candidates and the media that wants to overexpose them are about to engulf the state in a week-long orgy of democratic politics that could leave even the most heartened American cynical. But while there, you can bet that the national media might take notice of an even bigger story than the unexplained phenomenon of Al Sharpton’s hair. Yes the South Carolina Gamecocks are currently in first place in the SEC East! With wins this week over Tennessee and LSU, the Gamecocks moved to 4-1 in conference play, their second best start in school history. Carlos Powell has emerged as the dominant star that many in South Carolina have believed he could be, and found himself hitting the team’s only three point shot of the game against LSU, a jumper with 1:38 left that placed the Gamecocks on top. This game marked an important moment for this program as it was seen by the first ever sell out in the new Colonial Center and the 17,927 fans who attended represented the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in the state of South Carolina.

The Gamecocks hope to build in the weeks ahead on these successes, but it is important to take a moment to realize what this team has accomplished. The SEC East is possibly the best sub-division in basketball with two of the top 10 programs in America (Kentucky and Florida), two teams who have been ranked in the top 10 within the last three years (Tennessee and Georgia) and the resident national media darling of surprise teams (Vanderbilt). South Carolina has often been the forgotten red-headed stepchild of the division (the Brian Dunkleman of the SEC East) and has now finally emerged as a legitimate conference title contender. South Carolina still must play Kentucky twice and Florida and Mississippi State once. However if they continue at the level of this past week, Dave Odom may join Lou Holtz and Hootie and the Blowfish as the toast of Columbia.

With only one true story this week, we will move on to the team notebooks quickly. However before we do that, one comment. Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale’s recent comment that JJ Redick may be the best shooter in NCAA history might go down as the most ridiculous statement in the history of mankind. I will remind folks that JJ is 23rd in the country in 3 point field goal percentage. That begs the question, if he is the best shooter in NCAA history, what are the 22 guys ahead of him? Now to the news…..

No. 5 Kentucky (13-2)(3-1)

One could have been forgiven for wondering after Kentucky’s 65-57 loss to Georgia at home on January 17th, if the wheels were about to fall off Tubby Smith’s caravan. For two seasons, Smith’s Wildcats have defied all of the experts by winning with a level of talent that many considered suspect. However the Cats loss to the Bulldogs was unlike any game during that stretch. The team looked sloppy, unmotivated and inexperienced, qualities that are inexplicable on such a Senior-laden team. However as usual, just when the pundits were ready to count out Tubby’s Troopers, the Cats scored a pair of impressive road wins against Tennessee and Notre Dame. Both games followed a familiar script for Kentucky as they raced out to large early leads, only to lose them and be involved in a tight battle at the end. Because of the relative normalcy of the games themselves, the most interesting moment of the week involved the Howard Dean-esque rant by former Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps. After accepting an award commemorating his 1974 victory that ended UCLA’s 88 game winning streak, Phelps showcased his objectivity by encouraging the Notre Dame faithful to “kick Kentucky’s a**”. While so such kicking was forthcoming, Kentucky’s Chuck Hayes did produce a clinic on hustle basketball with 19 points and 6 rebounds. The Cats play at home this week against Ole Miss and on the road at Vanderbilt, where Barry Goheen is sure to implore the crowd to “Drop Your Chemistry Sets and Wish a Negative Result on Kentucky!”

No. 24 South Carolina (17-2)(4-1)

After the great week produced by the Gamecocks, it is imperative that Dave Odom focus his team and prepare them for the tough week ahead. They must go on the road and face Vanderbilt, followed by another test at ever-improving Ole Miss. These games are of great importance to the future of the team this season and the program in general. With their recent entry into the Top 25, the program faces its greatest success of the Dave Odom era and has proven that it was able to succeed even without 23-year starter Chuck Edison. The Gamecocks are now tied for first in the SEC East, but must win games such as those forthcoming this week in order to stake claim as a legitimate title contender. While much has gone right recently for Odom’s team, its 0-22 (yes you read that correctly) three point performance against LSU was its worst in school, conference, country, world and galaxy history. Nevertheless, the Gamecocks are beginning to get the national attention that represents the fruits of Dave Odom’s labor. This week will be key in continuing that success. As Reba McEntire would say, “Here is your one chance Fancy (aka South Carolina), Don’t let me down.”

No. 20 Florida (12-4) (9-2)

If you had given up the Florida Gators for dead last Wednesday night, you would have been more than justified. They had just come off an embarrassing 79-68 loss at home to Mississippi State, which followed a complete manhandling by Vanderbilt 86-72. Rumors of team turmoil were circulating throughout Gainesville and many believed that the team was extremely close to completely unraveling. A national television game with Auburn was on the horizon and there were many within the Gator faithful simply hoping that they would not be embarrassed during that game. But like Nick Lachey’s career, they made an impressive comeback and produced a solid 68-52 win. Anthony Roberson’s up and down season moved towards a positive note as he had 21 points, hitting three pointers from all over the court, even while being guarded well by the Tigers. At this point there is very little that Billy Donovan can say to explain this team’s performance. An important week is upcoming with road games against Alabama and Tennessee. Two victories here would do a lot to set the team back on track and look for increased production from Adrian Moss who Donovan seems more comfortable with, starting him last week for only the second time this season.

Georgia (9-7)(1-4)

There are certain events that occur in our world that are beyond rational explanation. The Julia Roberts/Lyle Lovett marriage, the popularity of Clay Aiken and the entire Jackson family are all examples of situations that are so beyond the comprehension of mere mortals that we are often left explaining their occurrence with something akin to the chaos theory. At first glance, Georgia’s 1-4 start in SEC play would not seem to qualify. The Bulldogs are a young team, graduated their best player and NBA lottery pick Jarvis Hayes, and have a new coach in Dennis Felton. However what if I told you that their only conference victory was on the road….against No. 5 Kentucky. Such is the case for this bizarre Georgia conference season. After such a win, Georgia has nothing to be ashamed about in their 71-58 loss at No. 12 Mississippi State, but their abysmal performance in a 45-52 loss at home against Alabama is troubling. It is hard to understand where this team is or where it is going. Their inconsistency makes any prognostication about future games as silly as if it were made by Digger Phelps. This week they play on the road at LSU and then at home against Arkansas, which is close to a must-win. While no one is sure what performance Georgia will give, Coach Dennis Felton can take some solace in the fact that he received commitments this week from two of the nation’s most highly-touted recruits in next year’s class. He now hopes some of that good luck rubs off on the court.

Tennessee (10-5)(2-3)

In Ancient Rome, a politician named Cato gained great fame and popularity by declaring that the neighboring state of Carthage was Rome’s permanent enemy. Cato used to end all of his public speeches with the line, “Carthage must be destroyed!” After the week that he just went through, one could forgive Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson if he found himself ending every press conference with the line, “Kentucky should be destroyed!” Last week the Vols lost two heartbreakers to schools from the Bluegrass state, falling at the end of the game to both the Wildcats and Louisville. The lesson from these games for the Vols is that they can compete favorably against two of the best teams in the nation, but also that they must learn how to finish games with authority if they want to compete on the national stage. Kentucky guard Cliff Hawkins drained a three pointer to send the game into overtime, even as Tennessee was attempting to foul and place him on the line. Similarly the Vols seemed to forget about Louisville players Taquan Dean and Otis George at the end of the game, giving them easy baskets in crunch time. There is so much to be positive about in Knoxville concerning the men’s team (it is always great in Lady Vol land), as Major Wingate, CJ Watson and most impressively Scooter McFadgon have shown themselves to be top-notch competitors. This week finds them at Mississippi State and at home against Florida, finishing up a brutal stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents. Expect to see them pull out a surprise in one of these.

Vanderbilt (13-3)(2-3)

There are those that questioned this Vanderbilt team throughout the non-conference season, saying that they had not proven that they could win outside the confines of Memorial Gymnasium and that their strength, or lack thereof would be exposed come conference play. Vanderbilt may have given some ammunition to these critics this week, as they had an embarrassing 70-62 loss at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are one of the worst teams in the conference and represent the type of program that the Commodores must defeat if they are to reach their lofty goals. Matt Frieje continues to provide large amounts of points and leads the team in all forms of hustle plays, but no one else in the lineup is stepping up and hitting the big shots for the Commodores on the road. Kevin Stallings must be frustrated, as their 13-3 record is still impressive, but they do not have that one win away from home to impress the NCAA selection committee. This week sees them with an important home contest against fellow SEC East contender South Carolina and then a huge game with Kentucky on Saturday. They must win one of these to stay without shouting distance of the conference title.

No. 12 Mississippi State (16-1)(5-1)

The statement win of the SEC season occurred Wednesday night in Gainesville when Mississippi State dismantled the Florida Gators 78-67. Lawrence Roberts continued his dominating season and his quest to become an unexpected All-American candidate with 21 points. Roberts is now one of only two players in the conference to average a double-double and stands as the leader of this rising program. Like R.Kelly’s career, Mississippi State had dropped off of the national radar after their loss three weeks ago to Kentucky on a fluke buzzer beating layup by Eric Daniels. Pundits predicted that the Bulldogs were headed to mediocrity and deserved little to no attention. At least that was the thought process until the win last Wednesday. What Rick Stansbury has done with this team is truly unbelievable. Reeling from the early loss of Mario Austin and recruit Travis Outlaw’s decision to go from high school to the NBA, few thought this team would even win the SEC West. Now they are just one shot away from being 17-0 and the toast of the SEC. This week they play Tennessee and have an important test with Western Division rival Auburn.

LSU (12-4)(2-3)

After getting many commentators excited (including this one) with their early conference play, LSU has come back to earth with three consecutive losses, including two on the road this week to Ole Miss and South Carolina. Both of these games were well played by the Tigers and can be chalked up to the usual difficulty that occurs when one travels on the road in the SEC. One thing that these games have shown however is that LSU must play a faster paced game if they are to have a shot at pulling out a victory. The Tigers have been held under 60 points only four times this season, and have left each of these contests with a loss. Coach John Brady likely has the best collection of athletes in the conference, yet he seems to be pulling back in every contest and preferring a slower-paced game. Important games await this week against Georgia and Alabama, two teams who seem to prefer to run up and down the court. It will be interesting to see if John Brady encourages his team to participate in a track meet, or if he still holds true to the slower-paced style seen in recent games. One bright spot of the last couple of games is still Jamie Lloreda. He remains the best player in the country that no one knows.

Auburn (11-6)(2-4)

It was a mixed bag for Auburn this week as they won an important home game against Arkansas to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive and then followed that up with a decent performance at Florida before falling 68-52 after a late Gators run. Cliff Ellis has changed up the lineup in recent weeks to various results, but seems to have found a keeper in Lewis Monroe. The Tigers seem to just play better when he is on the floor and it is likely that he has found a permanent place in the Auburn starting lineup. Like LSU, Cliff Ellis’s team needs to force the action much more than they have recently in order to be successful. They are 9-1 when scoring over 70 points, yet at some points in the Florida game they looked tentative and more like a Wisconsin-style slowdown team than is necessary. Many in Auburn are still reeling from being called a campus full of “farm people” by football recruit in his running journal on the recruiting process that is currently being posted on the Miami Herald website (an absolute must-read if you are a fan of high-comedy). On the basketball front, Auburn has an important home game this week against Mississippi State, a game in which this columnist sees a possible upset.

Ole Miss (10-6)(2-3)

The Ole Miss Rebels quietly had a strong week with victories at home against LSU and Alabama. Justin Reed tied his career high with 28 points in the 71-60 win over Alabama and was named the SEC Player of the Week for his efforts. We have talked a great deal in this column about SEC stars who do not get enough national attention such as Matt Freije and Jamie Lloreda, but Reed is a player that gets very little publicity even in the SEC. He has the opportunity to be elected to the All-Conference team each of his four years and will finish his career at Ole Miss as one of the top players in school history. Rod Barnes also has to be pleased with the recent emergence of Aaron Harper, who had 22 big points in the game against LSU. Ole Miss still has a great deal to improve upon, such as their top 10 national ranking in turnovers, but the wins of this past week stand as proof that this team has the ability to hold its ground in the conference. This week they go on the road to Kentucky and have South Carolina in Oxford.

Arkansas (10-7)(2-4)

While Arkansas lost early in the week to Auburn, it was sweet redemption on Saturday when the Razorbacks pulled off an important upset of Vanderbilt 70-62. The Jones Brothers, Michael and Matt (not the handsome version that writes this column) both played huge roles, with Michael getting a career high 18 points and Matt pulling down a career high 8 rebounds. This team reminds one of a quote from the great Shakespeare play “Antony and Cleopatra.” In that play, one of Antony’s friends insinuates that real cause of Cleopatra’s appeal is not her beauty but her unpredictability. He states, “Age cannot wither her, not custom stale / her infinite variety.” In many ways therein lies the appeal of this Arkansas team. Every week you are not sure what team will show up, or who will provide the leadership and scoring. Yet they do manage to entertain nevertheless. This week sees them on the road against Georgia.

Alabama (11-5)(3-2)

Two road games this week by the Crimson Tide produced one victory and one defeat, but two miserable performances as they defeated Georgia and lost to Ole Miss. The Georgia win was a particularly horrific game to watch and in some ways is the more disappointing of the two performances. In the shot clock era that we now are a part of, there is absolutely no excuse for a college basketball game between two major college teams to end in a 45-42 score. I considered boycotting writing columns about these two teams as a protest, but I felt I owed it to you, the readers. Mark Gottfried’s team has been inconsistent all year, but he must find a way to get this team on one page in the next few games or the season has the potential to slip away. The schedule gets much tougher now beginning with home games this week against Florida and LSU.

Game of the Week

Watch for this weekend’s contest between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. It is close to a must-win game for the Commodores and the Vandy faithful will be motivated to extract revenge on the early loss. One has to think that Kentucky’s habit of playing continued close games will catch up on them, and this may be the week.

Until we meet again……

     

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Big Ten Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Turning Back the Clock

Indiana and Michigan State will go retro when the Hoosiers travel to East Lansing on Saturday. Both teams will be fitted in 1980 era jerseys. The announcers for the game will also be fitted in disco era threads. Graphics from the period will also be used. The Turn back the Clock night is in deference to ESPN’s 25th season of broadcasting college basketball.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Bob Knight continues to haunt Indiana. Knight is appealing an Indiana judge’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit against IU for his firing. The appeal challenges Monroe County Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd’s ruling that the Hoosiers didn’t violate Knight’s contract when former President Myles Brand discharged the General in September of 2000.

Playing the Nation’s best

Iowa’s 84-76 loss at Iowa State concluded the Non-Conference schedule for the Big Ten until the postseason. The Big Ten has struggled this season against the other elite conferences. Against BCS conferences the Big Ten has posted a 13-31 record. Against the SEC and Big XXII combined, the Big Ten has only been able to win three out of 19 games. Last season they were 10-19 against the nation’s two most powerful football conferences. Overall the Big Ten has an 82-44 non-conference record. That is its second lowest winning percentage in the past four years. Wisconsin at number 11 has the highest RPI in the Big Ten.

The results against the power conferences are surprising given that the Big Ten is more mature than a year ago. In 2003, the Big Ten had 448 games started by freshman while this season has seen only 96 games started by first year players. Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries continues to put up monster numbers for the Gophers. He remains the Big Ten leader in points, rebounds and double-doubles and has started all 17 games.

Players of the Week

Bracey Wright and Mike Wilkinson helped lead Indiana and Wisconsin to a share of the lead in the Big Ten by contributing mightily as the Badgers and Hoosiers each finished the week 2-0.

Wilkinson averaged 21 points, 9.5 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the floor as Wisconsin rolled to wins over Michigan and Illinois. Wright put up 25 points per game, played all 85 minutes, shot 57 percent from three point range and 92 percent from the free throw line in road wins at Minnesota and Ohio State.

Spotlight game of the Week

When the college basketball season commenced in November, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State were the prohibitive favorites to pace the Big Ten. Wisconsin and Illinois both had long home winning streaks entering the season and high expectations. The Badgers had trumped through the first half of their season 12-3 while Illinois has had more than a few bumps in the road. Purdue ended the Illini’s 23-game home court winning streak earlier in the season as the Illini strode into Madison 12-4.

The Badgers only Big Ten blemish entering the Illinois game was a two-point loss at Purdue. They buzz sawed through Michigan State and Michigan at home and were in a four-way tie with Indiana, Purdue and Michigan State before they took on the Illini. Badger mentor Bo Ryan has done a commendable job to keep his young team together. Alando Tucker has participated in only four games this season because of a stress fracture in his foot. Senior guard Freddie Owens is also out indefinitely with the same injury.

Devin Harris and Wilkinson took over the game nearly outscoring the Illini by themselves. Harris finished with a career high 30 points and Wilkinson established his career watermark with 24 in the Badgers 76-56 victory. The win was Wisconsin’s 24th consecutive at home and 20th straight Big Ten win at the Kohl.

Wisconsin’s defense continued to handcuff its opponents. The Illini shot only 36 percent from the floor, including only 2-15 from three-point country. Illinois has lived and died by its backcourt all season. Dee Brown didn’t hit the scorebook until 8:25 remained and finished with only four points. Deron Williams scored eight on 3-13 from the floor. Roger Powell kept Illinois from total destruction by totaling his own career high with 26.

The Badgers spurtability played an important role in the outcome of the game. After Illinois cut the Wisconsin’s lead to four with an 8-0 run, the Badgers answered with their own 15-2 outburst to extend their lead to 17. Wisconsin also began the game with a 17-6 advantage.

Surprise of the Week

Penn State looked impressive in home victories over Minnesota and Ohio State to begin the Big Ten part of the schedule. The wins gave the Nittany Lions an early season share of the Big Ten lead and had the Bryce rocking. After being completely taken apart by Illinois earlier in the week, the Nittany Lions figured to bounce back when they returned home to host Michigan on Saturday. After lackluster losses at Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Wolverines road prowess was far from intimidating.

After Penn State scored the game’s first four points, Michigan went on a 21-4 run to seize control of the game on their way to a 69-59 victory. The key to the first half surge was the Wolverine defense. Penn State connected on just 36 percent of their field goals and missed all seven three point attempts in the first half as the Wolverines established a ten-point lead at the break. Penn State leading scorer Jan Jagla mirrored his teammates’ first half performance by scoring only two of his 13 in the opening stanza. The win extended Michigan’s dominance over the Nittany Lions to 15-8 all time.

Lester Abram paced Michigan with 19 points on 6-8 from the floor and 5-5 from the line. Dion Harris had 15 and Daniel Horton finished with 13 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Penn State placed four players in double figures for the first time in five games.

Michigan (11-5, 2-3)

The Wolverines began the week with game two of a three game road trip at Wisconsin. Michigan became the latest Wisconsin victim at the Kohl Center. The Badgers began the second half with a 20-5 run and maintained control the entire second half. If not for Bernard Robinson, Jr. the Wolverines might have left Madison with an even bigger loss. The senior forward finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Tommy Amaker’s trio of talented guards, freshman Dion Harris and sophomores Lester Abram and Daniel Horton struggled to the tune of 8-26 from the floor and only 19 total points. The Wolverines bounced back nicely with the win at Penn State.

Penn State (8-8, 2-3)

If losing a game at home wasn’t bad enough, the Nittany Lions were completed embarrassed in an 80-37 loss at Illinois. Penn State’s offense was the pure definition of anemic in Champaign. They shot 21 percent from the floor, made only one of 13 from three-point range and the Illini held a 39-29 rebounding edge. The Lions were only able to hit five of 37 shots in the second half. Aaron Johnson’s 15 points kept the Illini from naming the final score.

Jan Jagla continued to struggle. The 7’0 junior from Germany sat during most of the second half in foul trouble and his five points were his second lowest output of the season. Jagla, who had been averaging 17.4 points per game through the season’s first 13 games, has scored only 18 in the last three games. Against Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan, Jagla has shot only 24 percent and had ten turnovers.

Penn State passed out bobble head dolls of head coach Ed DeChellis to attendees of the Michigan game.

Illinois (12-5, 3-3)

The Illini have been a tough team to figure out all season. The 63-point swing in their two games last week will attest to that. The ambush of Penn State brought a few standards that haven’t been seen in Champaign in a long time. It was the Illini’s largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 1956, the fewest points they have allowed in a Big Ten game since 1948 and Penn State’s 21 percent shooting set an Assembly Hall record for futility. The Illini have called the Assembly Hall home since 1963.

Illinois’ top players against Penn State were Powell with 16, Williams with 12 points and eight assists and James Augustine with nine points and 12 rebounds.

Wisconsin (13-3, 4-1)

The Badgers continue to roll at the Kohl Center. Wins over Illinois and Michigan allowed the Badgers to extend their home court winning streak and keep pace with Indiana and Purdue in the race for the conference title. The win over Michigan was classic Bo Ryan basketball. The Badgers used a 20-5 run in the second half to take control of the game. Wisconsin was able to overcome a season low five points from Devin Harris. Wilkinson finished with 18 points and ten rebounds and former walk-on Clayton Hanson scored a career high 17 points to fuel the Badger offense. Hanson was a blistering 5-6 from three-point range.

Purdue (14-4, 4-1)

The Boilermakers earned a pair of victories to maintain a share of first place in the Big Ten. After sprinting to a 15-point lead at the intermission, Purdue had to hold on to capture a 72-65 victory over Minnesota. An 11-0 run by the Golden Gophers brought them even at 58. Purdue slowed down Minnesota’s high-octane offense and turned the game into a half court, physical contest. Kris Humphries left the game in the second half after being hit by an errant Brett Buscher elbow. Humphries was made to work for every point he earned finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds on just 5-15 shooting. He also made all eight of his free throws.

The Boilermakers exploited Minnesota’s poor defense. Purdue entered the game with a 33.7 three-point percentage, but hit 7-11 against the Golden Gophers. They also shot a season high 53.5 percent from the field.

Purdue got a key win with a 76-70 overtime win over Michigan State on national television on Sunday. Kenneth Lowe led four Boilermakers in double figures as Purdue rallied late to force the overtime. Michigan State seemed to be in good shape when Alan Anderson stepped to the free throw line with eight seconds remaining. Anderson, an 84 percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one and one giving Purdue one last chance. Brandon McKnight drove the length of the floor to tie it at 62. Mc Knight finished with ten points, seven assists and three steals. Buscher continues to provide valuable minutes in Chris Booker’s absence with 17 points and eight rebounds.

After taking a two-point lead in the extra session, the Spartans missed their next eight shots and Purdue went on a 7-0 run to seal the game’s outcome. The Boilermakers survived a nine-minute stretch of the second half without a field goal.

Melvin Buckley missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle and Booker sat for the eighth straight contest for unspecified academic issues.

Michigan State (8-8, 3-2)

If Michigan State could shoot the ball every game the way they did at Northwestern the Spartans would be hard to stop. Maurice Ager scored a career high 24 points, 22 before the break as MSU prevailed 73-61 in Evanston. Ager connected on six three pointers in the opening stanza and Michigan State hit nine of 13 from long distance in the first 20 minutes. Only a late 15-3 run by Northwestern made the game respectable. Chris Hill finished with 17 and helped the bombardment by connecting on 3-5 from three-point land.

Against the Boilermakers, the Spartans scoring droughts cost them a chance to earn an important road victory. A 6:39 drought in the first half allowed Purdue to obtain an 11 point cushion and their 3:21 drought in the overtime essentially gave Purdue the victory. Hill turned in another solid performance with 18 points, four rebounds and six assists.

Northwestern (7-8, 2-3)

The dream of sharing the Big Ten lead came crashing back to a hard cold reality for Northwestern. They must have thought they were witnessing a laser light show the way Michigan State shot the ball in the first half against them. Michigan State hit two-thirds of its shots in the first half and finished at 61.4 percent for the night. Northwestern dug themselves an insurmountable 17 point hole by only making nine of 24 shots in the first half. Jitim Young led NU with 16 as five Wildcats finished in double figures for only the second time in the Carmody era. Vedran Vukusic returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous game against Indiana with a knee injury. Vukusic played 38 minutes, scored 13 points and hauled in four rebounds.

Minnesota (8-9, 0-5)

The Gophers continue as the Big Ten’s only winless team after three weeks of conference action. It appeared that they might steal one on the road with an impressive second half comeback at Purdue. The Gophers rallied after trailing by 15 at the half. Humphries injury seemed to effect his concentration in the second half. The freshman noted after the game he was having difficulty focusing on the rim after the elbow by Buscher.

The Gophers fell short after rallying from a big deficit for the second game in a row. An eighteen-point deficit in the first half didn’t phase the Gophers. Playing without third leading scorer Maurice Hargrow, the Gophers valiant comeback fell short in an 86-81 overtime loss to Indiana. Humphries used the free throw line to overcome another poor shooting night. He finished 7-26 from the floor, but hit 10-12 from the line, scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Before the game, Hargrow announced his intentions to seek a release and transfer to another school. Hargrow had been averaging 11.4 PPG, in 31 minutes. He said his decision to leave the land of 10,000 Lakes was nothing against the coaching staff, but was something he felt he needed to do for his best interests. His minutes and production had dipped recently. In his final four games as a Gopher, Hargrow was only putting up 5.5 PPG and shooting only 29 percent. Hargrow was taken out of the starting lineup in his final appearance and did not play the last 15 minutes in the game before that at Ohio State. Hargrow had apparently grown tired of the Golden Gophers losing ways. Arkansas appears to be the front-runner for his services. Current Razorback assistant Ronnie Thompson recruited Hargrow and Arkansas has a scholarship available.

Stan Gaines stepped in admirably and played his best game of the season. Gaines set season highs with 16 points, eight rebounds and 37 minutes played. Gaines will give the Gophers more size than Hargrow provided.

Kris Humphries was one of only two freshmen to be named to the Wooden Watch list. Chris Paul of Wake Forest was the other. The Watch list is a preliminary list used to help determine the Wooden All-America team announced at the end of March and then the Wooden Award in April. Humphries leads the Big Ten in scoring, rebounding and double-doubles.

Indiana (10-6, 4-1)

The Hoosiers won their third straight Big Ten road game, breaking a five year losing streak in Minneapolis in the process and kept pace with Purdue and Wisconsin for the conference lead. The Hoosiers once again rode the shoulders of Bracey Wright who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. IU’s balance is ultimately what won the game for them. George Leach seems to be recovered from his knee injury, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half along with seven rebounds. Sean Kline provided inside scoring in the second half with 13. A.J. Moye had a season high 20.

Bracey Wright put on another show with 20 of his 28 points in the second half as Indiana picked up a key road victory at Ohio State. Indiana’s speed overcame the Buckeyes size in a sloppy game. Marshall Strickland pitched in with 19 as IU’s perimeter game proved to be the difference. The Hoosiers made seven of 14 three-point shots and converted 22 of 25 from the line to earn the victory. Indiana’s lack of size continued to plague them. Terrance Dials’ 19 and Velimir Radnovic’s 16 gave the Hoosiers trouble all game. Ohio State had a 33-27 edge off the glass and a 37-18 advantage in frontcourt scoring.

Ohio State (9-9, 1-4)

Ohio State is known as a football school and the basketball team seems to be trying to emulate their gridiron brethren. After a sloppy home loss to Indiana the Buckeyes traveled to Iowa City. Fifty-Seven fouls, 74 free throws and 24 turnovers later and Ohio State took home its fourth loss in five conference games. The second half was a parade to the free throw line after the whistle was heard frequently. Ohio State was in the bonus with 15:19 left and the double bonus at the 13-minute mark. Iowa hit the double bonus with 9:51 remaining.

The biggest story entering the Iowa game was Jim O’Brien decision to leave leading scorer Tony Stockman in Columbus. O’Brien was upset with Stockman’s practice habits and said the junior could rejoin his teammates when he makes a greater commitment to them and shows he wants to be a part of the team.

Brandon Fuss-Cheatham started at the point in Stockman’s place and scored a misleading 17 points. Ten of Fuss-Cheatham’s points came in the last 2:53. J.J. Sullinger finished with 15 in the perimeter oriented game.

After dominating Indiana on the Interior, Radinovic and Terrance Dials failed to establish a rhythm against Iowa. Radinovic finished with five points and seven rebounds and Dials didn’t do much better with seven and eight.

As it has all season, three point shooting had a big role in a Ohio State game. Ohio State’s inability to shoot and defend from long distance had been a problem since they were scorched by San Diego State in Maui. Iowa shot 8-16 from beyond the arc, while the Buckeyes managed only 3-15.

Iowa pulled away after holding Ohio State without a field goal during a seven and half minute stretch of the second half. Indicative of the game, Ohio State went 9-15 from the line during the interval. The Hawkeyes were still able to extend their lead from nine to 17. The Buckeyes finished the game at 36 percent from the floor.

Iowa (10-6, 3-2)

Iowa’s defeat of the Buckeyes broke a four game home losing streak to Ohio State. The Hawkeyes used their advantage on the perimeter to earn the victory. Jeff Horner finished with 20, Pierre Pierce finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists and Brody Boyd had 19 points and four steals.

Earlier in the week, Iowa concluded the Non-Conference season for the Big Ten with a loss at in-state rival Iowa State. Too much Jackson Vroman and Jake Sullivan for the Hawkeyes to handle. Vroman’s line was 18 points, 16 rebounds and five assists and Sullivan had 23 points and five three pointers.

Iowa shot 55 percent in the second half, but was unable to overcome 23 turnovers. The Cyclones took much better care of the ball with only nine turnovers. Iowa State shot only 41 percent.

Jeff Horner had a career high 26 points with six threes. With Jared Reiner sidelined, Glenn Worley stepped up his game and finished with 13 points and nine boards.

Iowa and Iowa State are working on moving the game to early December for the next four seasons. They are likely to play the game on a Friday night. The scheduling for the game has been tricky because of an Iowa school policy that prohibits games the weekend before and after finals.

     

Northeast Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



Northeast Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

Rewind back two months to the supposed big match-up of the early NEC conference season, Quinnipiac at Central Connecticut State. Recall the big snowstorm that postponed the game which was then rescheduled for this Wednesday. Well, what has changed since then? Just about everything. The weather has eschewed snow for extreme cold. According to scientists, we are currently in the coldest two week stretch in the past twenty-five years. A climatologist at Cornell discovered it was warmer on Mars than it was in many Northeast cities a couple weeks back.

In the NEC, these two preseason favorites are mired in struggles. CCSU started off all right at 2-1 but then lost three straight, including a setback to Sacred Heart on Monday. Quinnipiac dropped their first three conference games but picked up a couple victories over Sacred Heart and Monmouth before a loss on Monday to Fairleigh Dickinson. So now these two teams were 2-4 and the rematch was a struggle to stay in the hunt for a trip to the NEC tournament as opposed to a match-up of conference powers. The game played a match-up of powers with both teams battling back and forth, the lead changed hands twelve times and the Bobcats led by two at the break. But the Blue Devils fought back to take the lead early in the second half and pretty much controlled the rest of the game, building the lead to as much as ten. The Bobcats cut it to within three a couple times, but CCSU always answered. In the final minute, CCSU led by seven when Quinnipiac pulled off a miracle run. The Bobcats scored eleven points in the final 51 seconds, capped off by a Rob Monroe three at the buzzer to get the win 88-87. The comeback win catapults the Bobcats into the thick of the race and makes them a team to be reckoned with the rest of the season. The loss was the fourth straight for the Blue Devils and puts them into a last place tie with Mount Saint Mary’s and Long Island. It’s a long ways back to the top of the conference where I predicted them to finish.

With a high RPI and five straight wins to open conference play, Monmouth looked like they were cruising towards the number one seed in the tournament. However, a weekend sweep at the hands of Long Island and Quinnipiac set them back. These two teams had exactly one conference win between them before the start of last week. They are a half-game behind first place St. Francis NY, tied with Robert Morris. Monmouth still holds the advantage over these squads having already beaten them once but that will all change if they don’t end this slide soon.

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (5-9, 2-5 NEC)

The Blue Devils have dropped five of their last six and strangely the only win came without senior captain Ron Robinson in a 79-60 win over Long Island. With the exception of the game against Quinnipiac, CCSU trailed the majority of the second half in each of their losses. Against St. Francis NY, Sacred Heart and Wagner they were able to tie the score but never get over the hump to take the lead. Against Quinnipiac, they led by seven in the last minute and actually hit seven of eight free throws but committed two huge turnovers including one with five seconds to go which gave the Bobcats the chance to set up the game-winning three. Ron Robinson has been performing to his usual high level, averaging 17.4 points and 9.6 boards per game in this last stretch. He scored his 1000th career point in the loss to Quinnipiac. Before this week, Obie Nwadike was asserting himself as an impact player by leading all NEC freshmen in rebounding and field goal percentage. He was named NEC rookie of the week for averaging 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds against Wagner, Long Island and Fairleigh Dickinson. But this week he scored five points in the loss to Sacred Heart and was held scoreless without attempting a field goal against Quinnipiac. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the troubles lie. In each of the past six games they’ve out-rebounded their opponent. They won the game where they turned the ball over 25 times. They shot nearly sixty percent in the loss to Quinnipiac. Free throws were a problem against Wagner and Sacred Heart and they are shooting only 57.5 percent on the season, but they’ve had a couple games with stellar free throwing shooting including a 15-20 outing against FDU. It seems like they are just struggling to put a full game together. This weekend they have a trip to Monmouth and Mount Saint Mary’s to try and get things straight.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (10-7, 5-3 NEC)

Last weekend, the Knights picked up a huge road sweep at CCSU and Quinnipiac to bring their record back over .500. Before that they dropped two games at home to conference front runners St. Francis NY and Robert Morris but defeated St. Francis PA between those outings. Chad Timberlake was named NEC player of the week for a career-high 22 points in the win over St. Francis PA on January 19th which he then topped by going for 25 in the win over Central Connecticut State on Saturday. Last Monday against the Bobcats he nearly had a double-double with thirteen points and nine rebounds but it was Gordon Klaiber who stole the show by scoring 31 points and 11 rebounds in the 84-81 overtime win. The Knights have been taking care of the basketball this year and lead the NEC with the fewest turnovers per game and the best turnover margin. This week’s only game is a trip to Maryland to face Mount Saint Mary’s.

Long Island Blackbirds (6-10, 2-5 NEC)

The Blackbirds had a light schedule the past couple weeks, only playing Central Connecticut State on the 19th and Monmouth on the 22nd. Against the Blue Devils, they got victimized by 64.6 percent shooting and lost 79-60. James Williams, who had been named NEC rookie of the week for his efforts against St. Francis PA and Quinnipiac the week prior, continued to play well by leading the team with 17 points. Against Monmouth, it was another freshman, Evan Meekins who led the charge. He scored 18 of his 23 points in a 35-14 run in the second half that put LIU in control. Monmouth came back to tie the score but the Blackbirds shut down the Hawk offense and used free throws to put the game away. In the 85-79 win, LIU shot a season-high 51.8 percent and had all five starters score in double figures. This weekend, they finish a six game home-stand with Wagner on Thursday, St. Francis on Saturday and Robert Morris on Monday.

Monmouth Hawks (11-7, 5-2 NEC)

We left the Hawks undefeated in the league at 3-0 coming off a big win at St. Francis NY. Blake Hamilton led them to 4-0 by scoring 26 points in a 74-64 win over St. Francis PA. Coupled with the 29 points against the Terriers, Hamilton earned NEC player of the week honors. Monmouth then made it 5-0 with a 75-67 over Robert Morris. But then Long Island beat them 85-79 on the road in a game where they failed to take advantage of a 17-9 turnover margin and 16 more shots. They followed that with 20 turnovers and 30 percent shooting in a 75-63 loss to Quinnipiac. Next they face perhaps the only team in the league struggling more than they are, Central Connecticut State. The game is on Saturday and is their only game of the week.

Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (4-13, 2-5 NEC)

The Mount evened their conference record at 2-2 with an 85-76 win over Sacred Heart on the 17th behind 26 points from Charles Cook. It appeared as if they would move over .500 in their next game against Wagner after fighting back from a ten point deficit to take a one point lead in the last minute. But Courtney Pritchard hit a bucket with 2.2 seconds to go for the win. The Mount then lost consecutive games to St. Francis PA and Robert Morris last weekend to drop them into the cellar of the NEC. In both games, the Mount closed the lead to within three in second half but could get no closer. Landy Thompson led the way with seventeen points against SFPA and fourteen points against RMU. On the year he’s averaging 18.6 points per game which is good enough for second in the league. The Mount will try and end their three game slide this weekend with games at home against Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut State.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (7-11, 3-4 NEC)

Since opening NEC play with three straight losses, the Bobcats have win three out of four. They started the stretch with a huge 90-62 win over Sacred Heart. Van Crafton hit eight three pointers to set the Bobcat Division I record for most threes in a game. Rashaun Banjo and Kason Mims each had double-doubles and all five starters scored in double figures. Next they handled Monmouth 75-63 where five players scored in double figures, led by nineteen points from Rob Monroe. Last Monday, the Bobcats rallied from fifteen down in the second half and Rob Monroe scored his 1000th career point, but the Bobcats lost in overtime 84-81 to FDU. Monroe reached the milestone in 71 games which was faster than any previous Bobcat. Quinnipiac responded with the big win over CCSU that almost didn’t have the chance to materialize. Trailing by two with four seconds to go, Adam Tancredi intercepted a Blue Devil pass and moved the ball up court. His outlet pass was deflected out of bounds as time expired. But the game was televised which allowed the officials to review the play and determine that the CCSU player who deflected the pass was out of bounds as he touched the ball. Eight-tenths of a second were put back on the clock which was enough time for Rob Monroe to take a deflected pass in the corner and hit the game winning three. The three capped an 11-3 run in the last 51 seconds to get the win. Again, Kason Mims and Rashaun Banjo had double-doubles. Banjo scored 30 points and grabbed twelve rebounds while Mims scored 25 points and dished out ten assists. This weekend it’s off to Sacred Heart and Wagner in hopes to continue the hot streak.

Robert Morris Colonials (8-8, 5-2 NEC)

The Colonials have won three out of their last four games. They picked up their first road win of the year by defeating Fairleigh Dickinson 62-58 to start the stretch. Chaz McCrommon scored 20 points including four big free throws in the last minute and a half to seal the win. Maurice Carter and Aaron Thomas each scored 21 points in the next game out at Monmouth but it wasn’t enough to erase a seven point Hawk halftime lead as Monmouth won 75-67. RMU bounced back against Sacred Heart behind 25 points from Chaz McCrommon in a 69-66 win. The Colonials then made it two straight with a 77-65 win over Mount Saint Mary’s. Aaron Thomas led the way with 22 points and McCrommon had 20 as RMU used a late 10-0 run to put the Mountaineers away. The Colonials moved their overall record up to .500 for the first time this year and currently sit in a tie with Monmouth for second place in the NEC. This weekend will witness a battle for first place when the Colonials travel to St. Francis NY on Saturday; the Terriers currently hold a half-game lead. RMU will finish the road trip with a game at Long Island on Monday.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-9, 4-4 NEC)

The Pioneers ended a three game losing streak Monday by beat Central Connecticut State 72-69. SHU led for much the second half, but CCSU tied the score at 65 with just under four minutes to play. Omar Wellington hit a three on the next possession to get the lead back and the Pioneers would never relinquish it. The game marked the first win over the Blue Devils since the move to Division I and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. In the previous three games, the Pioneers had some tough games. They started the streak with a 85-76 loss to Mount Saint Mary’s, a game which they led by as many as eleven in the second half. Then they lost to Quinnipiac 90-62 and had a comeback fall short in a 69-66 loss to Robert Morris. Maurice Bailey averaged over 21 points a game in that stretch but couldn’t lead his team to victory. Against CCSU he scored 22 points and now leads the NEC in scoring at 19.4 points a game. The Pioneers will take on conference leader St. Francis on Thursday and then hope to avenge the blowout to Quinnipiac on Saturday.

St. Francis (NY) Terriers (9-8, 6-2 NEC)

The Terriers have used a three game win streak to surge into first place in the NEC. Mike Wilson started the charge by scoring 21 points in a 69-57 win over Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils came back from a ten point deficit at the break to take the lead eight minutes into the second half but SFNY answered with an 11-1 run to take control. Mike Wilson again led the charge with seventeen points the next time out when SFNY beat Fairleigh Dickinson 81-72. Tied at 62 with seven and a half minutes to go, the Terriers used a 9-2 to get the lead and made 11 of 12 free throws in the last two minutes to ice the game. John Quintana led five Terriers in double figures with fifteen points to beat Wagner last Saturday 82-70. Tied with three minutes to go, SFNY used a 14-2 run to end the game, including six straight free throws in the final minute. The most impressive part of the win streak is that all three games came on the road. The Terriers have a chance to increase their half-game lead in the NEC with three games at home this weekend as Sacred Heart, Robert Morris and St. Francis PA all come to town.

St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (6-9. 3-3 NEC)

The Red Flash came off a tough trip to Jersey and got a key win over Mount Saint Mary’s last Saturday 71-58. Darshan Luckey scored 21 points in the win which moved SFPA back to .500 in NEC. Before that, the Red Flash had lost two straight. In the first game against Monmouth, they fell behind early only to pull within one late in the first half. But the Hawks opened the second half with a run and SFPA couldn’t recover. Rashaan Benton led the team with fifteen points off the bench. SFPA came back two nights later and lost to Fairleigh Dickinson in a heartbreaker. In the final minute, the score was tied at 74 when Jason Osborne missed a jumper and FDU got the rebound and a chance to wait for the final shot. Chad Timberlake drove the lane and kicked out to Tamien Trent for the game-winning three with seven-tenths of a second remaining. This weekend, the Red Flash head back to the road to face Long Island and St. Francis NY.

Wagner Seahawks (5-11, 2-4 NEC)

The 19th saw the Seahawks finally pick up their first conference win. They led by as many as ten in the second half only to watch Mount Saint Mary’s take the lead in the final minute. But Courtney Pritchard answered with a two in the lane to get the lead back with 2.2 seconds to go and ultimately the 74-73 win. They game marked the return of Nigel Wyatte who had missed the previous game against Fairleigh Dickinson with a sprained ankle and led the team with fifteen points off the bench. The next game marked the return of Doug Viegas who was supposed to miss the rest of the season with a lacerated kidney. He only hit six threes on his way to 20 points, leading the team to a 73-67 win over Central Connecticut State. Unfortunately the magic couldn’t last and the Seahawks dropped their last game 82-70 to St. Francis NY. Teoine Carroll hit a three to tie the score at 68 with three minutes to play but couldn’t find the bucket in the last minutes and SFNY pulled away. Wyatte led the team with 14 points and Sean Munson had a double-double with thirteen points and sixteen rebounds. Wagner hopes to get back on track with games at Long Island and at home against Quinnipiac this weekend.

     

Steve Alford Killing the Game

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Columns


Alford is Killing the Spirit of College Hoops

by Michael Ermitage

It has been two weeks since I have written a column. A shame, I know. I’m sure I’ve been missed about as much as Saddam in Iraq. Like everyone else north of the Mason-Dixon line, I’ve been spending the majority of the past two weeks enveloped in snow. And cold. Bitter, bitter cold. But hey, Chicago is a great place; we have some sweet museums. As for college basketball, there has been just too much going on to fully digest. In order to catch myself back up, I’ve arranged my thoughts in a neat list. Some old-fashioned types call these sorts of “bits” columns as amateur. Luckily, I’ve never pretended to be anything other than amateur.

Shut Up Steve Alford: For those of you unaware, Steve Alford is attempting to murder the very spirit of college basketball – clever student fan sections. Like a scorned lover, Alford is attempting to exact revenge on the student sections across the Midwest that have been verbally taunting Iowa guard Pierre Pierce. Pierce, of course, is the player that sat out last season as punishment for pleading guilty to a reduced sexual assault charge. Naturally, opposing student sections are targeting Pierce for abuse, the most clever of which was Iowa State’s “No means No” chant. You might as well bathe Pierce in blood and toss him in a shark pit rather than take him to Ames to play a game. Alford saw this coming and suggested a rule to the Big Ten office last spring that was accepted. The rule states that a student section cannot single out an individual player for verbal harassment. I’m not sure exactly how this is rule is supposed to be interpreted – is the popular chant “Airball” covered in this broad rule?

The penalty for the malicious and disdainful act of taunting during a Big Ten basketball game is dispersion of the student section upon three guilty charges. That’s right – Alford is willing to put an end to the Izzone if they verbally attack his player (who pleaded guilty to sexual assault by the way) three times. Perhaps Alford should realize that college is a place where children turn into adults. And perhaps Alford should realize that part of becoming an adult is learning the consequences of your actions – something Pierce is learning all too quickly this season.

Three-pointers too easy: Is it me, or should Illinois’ 7-foot-2 center Nick Smith not be shooting (and making) three pointers with regularity? I think that the current group of college basketball players have more than proven they’ve mastered the three-point shot. Its time to move it back to the international length, which was suggested by the rules committee but NOT approved by the NCAA’s board of directors. The proposed rule change was put on indefinite hold, citing that there is not complete consent from all the men’s and women’s teams of the NCAA’s three divisions. For the smaller schools, the financial cost of putting the extra lines on the court has been a major obstacle. The NCAA should cover the cost of moving the line out at all divisions. The game has become too dependant on the shot, with some teams planning their entire offense around shooting three-pointers. I believe it was said best by a fresh-faced 1980 Bobby Cremins, who was coaching Appalachian State at the time. “The first time out, I took a shot and made it. It must be too close,” said Cremins during a season in which the entire Southern conference tested the shot.

Undefeated season?: It was 1991, and I weighed about a hundred pounds. My hair was a bit long, flirting with “mullet” status. And I had discovered college basketball. My older sisters had attended Northwestern University, and college sports were never even a thought. Although, in all honesty, they could have attended UCLA during the Wooden years and they’d still be oblivious. But during my freshman year in high school, I had caught the fever, and was participating in my first ever “March Madness” pool. I entered one at school and as an extra entry through my dad’s work. Needless to say, like the first time Lance Armstrong was placed on his Huffy tricycle seat, I was where I was supposed to be. My first two rounds were fantastic. And I entered the final weekend with my entire Final Four intact. All that I needed to win both pools was for UNLV to win the tournament. That’s right – undefeated, unbeatable, defending-champion UNLV. UNLV lost, ending its bid to complete the first undefeated season since Bob Knight’s 1976 champion squad. And that’s the day I learned that it will never happen again. Sorry St. Joe’s and Stanford – you are both going to lose.

     

Pac-10 Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



Pac-10 Conference Notebook

by Scott Allen

Stanford got a scare, but the Cardinal remained perfect. Arizona appears to be back on track after a midseason hiccup and Cal did something it hasn’t done all season. Both SoCal schools ride losing streaks into tonight’s L.A. showdown at Pauley Pavilion, while Oregon, coming off a split against the Arizona schools, readies for Stanford. Meanwhile, Arizona State, Oregon State and the Washington schools continue to toil in mediocrity. All that and more is in this, the final January installment of the Pac-10 Notebook.

In Memory of Alisa Lewis

The Cal men’s basketball team wore small black patches on the front of their uniforms with “AL 31″ in memory of Cal women’s basketball player Alisa Lewis, who died last Monday from bacterial meningitis. Lewis was honored last Thursday in a memorial service at Haas Pavilion. “Alisa’s mother told me that there’s a basketball court in heaven and Alisa is on it,” said Cal women’s basketball head coach Caren Horstmeyer. “This is where Alisa lived and where she wanted to be.” Lewis, remembered for her great smile and work ethic, was 20.

Wooden Watch

Four Pac-10 players are on the Wooden Award Midseason Top-30 list. Arizona State’s Ike Diogu, Arizona’s Andre Iguodala, Oregon’s Luke Jackson and Stanford’s Matt Lottich.

Player of the Week

Leon Powe, F, California

The freshman helped the Bears to back-to-back wins for the first time this season, averaging 16.5 points and 11 rebounds in wins over USC and UCLA. The Oakland native tallied his league-leading eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds against UCLA.

Inside the Pac-10

No. 9 Arizona Wildcats (13-3, 5-2)

The Wildcats extended their home dominance over Oregon State to 21 years and the Wildcat offense exhibited what it’s capable of on a good night in a 109-75 victory. Salim Stoudamire and Hassan Adams scored 20 points apiece and Andre Iguodala scored 19 points. Adams and Iguodala were both 9-for-12 from the field and Stoudamire 7-for-9, as Arizona shot a season-high 63 percent from the field. It was their largest point output since Feb. 5, 1998. Adams pulled down 10 rebounds for the double-double and Chris Rodgers added 12 points off the bench. Arizona led 48-34 at the half thanks to a 20-4 spurt late in the first half and hit six of its first seven shots after the break. From there, the rout was on.

Arizona offensive outburst Thursday carried over into Saturday’s match-up with Oregon. The ‘Cats jumped out to a 52-27 halftime lead behind 15 first-half points from Ivan Radenovic. Oregon made things more interesting with a 13-4 run midway through the second half, but Arizona’s shooters more than kept pace, shooting 50 percent after the break. Adams had another 20-point game and Channing Frye tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Arizona’s defense forced 19 turnovers and held the Ducks’ Pac-10 leading three-point attack to 5-for-19 shooting from beyond the arc.

Up Next: Thursday at Washington, Saturday at Washington State

Arizona State Sun Devils (8-8, 2-5)

An inspired comeback fell short against Oregon but Arizona State rebounded to post its second conference win with a hard-fought victory over Oregon State. The Sun Devils fell behind early against the Ducks, as Ike Diogu was held scoreless for the game’s first 13 minutes. Arizona State completely erased a 13-point first half deficit to take a 60-56 lead midway through the second half following Stevie Moore’s four-point play. The Ducks responded with clutch three-point shooting and sank their free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Diogu finished with 24 points and nine rebounds while Moore finished with 17 points. Jason Braxton had one of his best all-around games of the season, adding 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

For a brief stage of the second half, it appeared the Sun Devils were on their way to their first ever six-game home losing streak at Wells Fargo Arena. Enter Ike Diogu, who scored 10 of the team’s final 16 points in an 83-79 win against the Beavers. Diogu finished the game with 24 points and 15 rebounds, shooting 16-for-22 from the free throw line. Braxton had yet another strong game, finishing with 12 points and six assists and Jamal Hill poured in 17 points off the bench.

Up Next: Thursday at Washington State, Saturday at Washington

California Bears (8-8, 4-3)

The Bears rode the hot shooting – and temper – of guard Richard Midgley to a 63-62 home win against Southern Cal last Thursday. Midgley scored a season-high 22 points, added five assists and tussled with USC’s Errick Craven late in the second half at Haas Pavilion after Craven kicked him while fighting for a loose ball. Cal led 55-52 at the time but would relinquish that lead for the first time in the second half with 36 seconds to play, as Derrick Craven scored off an inbounds pass. Interestingly, the difference in the game came at the free throw line, where the Bears shot just 8-for-14 on the night. Freshman Ayinde Ubaka sank a pair in the closing seconds, however, to give Cal the win. Leon Powe’s 14 points and nine boards complemented Midgley’s career-night.

When the final second ticked off the scoreboard in Cal’s 76-62 victory on Saturday, the Bears had accomplished something they hadn’t done all season: win two consecutive games. A perfect blend of experience (Amit Tamir’s 19 points) and youth (Leon Powe’s 19 points and 14 rebounds) paved the way for the win in front of the first sellout crowd at Haas Pavilion this season. The double-double was Powe’s eighth of the season. Four of his rebounds were offensive, including a couple down the stretch where he flew into the lane for second chance opportunities when the Bruins most needed a defensive stop. UCLA led 31-30 at the half.

Up Next: Thursday at Oregon, Saturday at Oregon State

Oregon Ducks (9-5, 4-3)

Luke Jackson helped build the lead and Ian Crosswhite helped seal the win, as Oregon downed Arizona State 83-76 in Tempe last Thursday. Jacksons scored 21 points, pulled down seven boards and dished out a career-high 12 assists as the Ducks opened a 13-point first half lead. With Arizona State rallying, Crosswhite scored nine of his 15 points in the last five minutes. Oregon’s long-range bombers caught fire in the second half, shooting 5-for-8 from beyond the arc after shooting just 2-for-12 from three-point land in the first half.

Poor three-point shooting and weak defense doomed the Ducks two days later against Arizona. Oregon trailed 52-27 at the half and finished just 5-for-19 from long range. Jackson had yet another strong all-around game, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Crosswhite scored 11 and Mitch Platt added 10. Nineteen Oregon turnovers turned into easy transition buckets for Arizona in a game that was essentially over at the half. Jackson recently became the fourth player in Pac-10 history with 1,500 points, 600 rebounds and 300 assists. The others: Sean Elliot, Todd Lichti and Toby Bailey.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Cal, Saturday vs. Stanford

Oregon State Beavers (8-9, 2-5)

It doesn’t take a zoologist to tell you that beavers won’t last long in a desert. The basketball Beavers don’t either. For the 21st consecutive season, Oregon State lost at the McKale Center, 109-75. Arizona did just about whatever it wanted against the Beavers defense but Chris Stephens scored 16 points and J.S. Nash added 15 points and seven assists in defeat. Jim Hanchett recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Oregon State kept things close in the first half and led 27-26 with 6:37 to go, but the Wildcats broke things open with a 20-4 run and the halftime break did little to break Arizona’s offensive rhythm.

David Lucas scored a career-high 27 points, but it was all for naught in Oregon State’s 83-79 loss at Arizona State on Saturday. The Beavers rallied from a nine-point deficit to take a four-point lead with under five minutes to play, but Oregon State’s big men had no answer for Ike Diogu down the stretch. Diogu finished with 24 points after being held scoreless for the first 13 minutes of the game. Stephens and Nash combined for 21 points in defeat.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Stanford, Saturday vs. Cal

No. 1 Stanford Cardinal (16-0, 7-0)

The Cardinal hosted the SoCal schools last weekend, dispatching of UCLA rather easily before prevailing in one of their tougher tests of the season against USC. In Friday’s 67-52 victory over the Bruins, the Cardinal raced out to a 42-21 halftime lead, limiting Ben Howland’s squad to 36 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. Junior All-American Josh Childress was in the starting lineup for the first time this season, but it was senior Justin Davis who made the most offensive impact. Davis went 10-for-11 from the field, finishing with a game-high 21 points and five rebounds. Childress was solid as well, contributing 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. Stanford’s leading scorer Matt Lottich struggled to find his touch but managed 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

In a physical match-up two nights later, Stanford found itself in the rare position of coming from behind, erasing a six-point USC halftime lead to win 77-67. One of the unsung heroes for Stanford was senior Nick Robinson, who scored all of his career-high-tying 13 points in the second half. Robinson was one of four Cardinal players in double figures, led by Chris Hernandez’s 18, including a bank three-pointer with the shot clock expiring that shifted the momentum of the game in the second half. Hernandez also had seven assists and five rebounds. Childress had 11 points and seven boards.

Up Next: Thursday at Oregon State, Saturday at Oregon

UCLA Bruins (9-6, 5-3)

Coming off their first Pac-10 loss of the season against Arizona, the Bruins failed to get back into the win column last weekend, dropping a pair at No. 1 Stanford and California. UCLA hung with the Cardinal for the first seven minutes of Friday’s game before going into a scoring drought as Stanford took control. Trailing by 21 at the break, the Bruins went on an 8-0 run early in the second half to cut the Cardinal lead to 48-35, but would get no closer until it was 62-50 with 3:39 left. Dijon Thompson had 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting in defeat but no other player finished in double figures. Freshman Trevor Ariza had the most disappointing performance of all, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

UCLA’s struggles continued Saturday at Cal, where they found themselves playing from behind in the first half again. While the Bruins took a 31-30 lead into the break, Cal freshman Leon Powe got hot in the second half, scoring 12 of his 19 points, and UCLA could not hit shots or make defensive stops down the stretch. Thompson led all Bruins scorers with 17 points while T.J. Cummings added 12 and Ariza 11.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. USC

USC Trojans (8-9, 3-5)

USC put up a valiant effort in both of its Bay Area battles last weekend, but headed home with a pair of losses to No. 1 Stanford and Cal. The Trojans fell to the Bears on the road for the 11th time in 12 games, losing a late lead in a 63-62 loss at Haas Pavilion. Desmon Farmer scored a team-high 17 points and Jeff McMillan added 11, but USC had no answer for an old foe, Richard Midgley. Midgley had a career-high 23 points last season against the Trojans and scored a season-high 22 points in Thursday’s win. USC shot an atrocious 7-for-18 from the free throw line, arguably the difference in the game.

USC hung tough with No. 1 Stanford on Saturday before succumbing in the second half, 67-57. Farmer, seemingly unfazed by Stanford’s Sixth Man Club, which began hounding the eccentric scorer more than an hour before tip-off and throughout the game, scored 13 first half points in guiding the Trojans to the lead. The lead was six at the half and marked just the second time this season a Stanford opponent was ahead going into the break. USC led 47-46 with 10:51 to play before Chris Hernandez drained a three-pointer for the Cardinal to start a 10-1 run. The Trojans have not won at Maples Pavilion since 1992.

Up Next: Wednesday at UCLA

Washington Huskies (7-8, 2-5)

Nate Robinson was feeling it from long range and the Huskies were feeling their second straight conference win, 75-62 over rival Washington State. Robinson led all scorers with 17 points on the road and Will Conroy (14 points) and Tre Simmons (10 points) also finished in double figures. The Huskies, who led throughout after breaking a 2-2 tie, shot 63 percent as a team in the first 20 minutes and led 37-23 at the half. Washington out-rebounded the Cougars 32-24 and shot 9-for-17 from long range.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Arizona, Saturday vs. Arizona State

Washington State Cougars (8-9, 2-5)

Dick Bennett’s squad sank below .500 for the first time this season following a 75-62 loss to Washington last week. The Cougars’ normally stifling defense allowed the Huskies to shoot 53 percent from the field in Washington State’s third consecutive loss. Jeff Varem had 14 points in defeat and Marcus Moore poured in 11. Thomas Kelati shot 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and finished with 13 points for the Cougars.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Arizona State, Saturday vs. Arizona

     

Horizon League Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



Horizon League Notebook

by Nick Dettmann

Alright, how much more can Cleveland State take?

Everything but good has happened to the Vikings so far this season under first-year head coach Mike Garland. Losing two players due to academic ineligibility to injuries, the Vikings have seen it all. And it got worse.

The Vikings already down from the services of Modibo Niakate (disciplinary reasons), Walt Waters (academics), Pete Ritzema (academics) and Pape Badiane (injury), the Vikings could only wonder what else could happen to them.

In the Vikings home game against UW-Milwaukee on Thursday night, the Vikings suffered another blow. This time it was on the injury front.

Junior guard Walt Chavis was lost for possibly the rest of the season after suffering a broken right hand. Chavis was a prime contender for this year’s All-Defensive Team in the Horizon League. His length of absence will be determined following his surgery, which he had on Tuesday.

“The loss of Walt Chavis is the latest in a series of blows to this team,” Mike Garland said in a statement. “He is our best on-the-ball defender and keys the tempo of our offense with his ability to get the ball up the court. He will be extremely hard to replace.”

Chavis, a junior from Steelton, Pa., is one of three CSU players to have started every game this year. He is averaging 5.7 points per game and ranks fourth in the Horizon League in steals (30), seventh in assists (66) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.22). He also ranks 10th on the all-time list with 263 career assists at CSU.

The loss of Chavis leaves Garland with seven eligible players and relatively healthy scholarship players. Three of those seven are fighting through injuries themselves and have limited their contributions.

By the way, this is all on top of a 13-game losing streak.

Freshman Luke Murphy will move into the starting line-up at the small forward position and Jermaine Robinson will scoot over to the point-guard spot.

“I am proud of the way our team has handled all of the adversity that has come this year,” Garland said. “Most teams would have given up by now but the players we have left have stepped up and worked even harder to overcome the losses. It is a great example of the character of this team and its desire to win.”

Butler lands Clemson transfer

Julian Betko, a native of Ruzomberok, Slovakia, has left Clemson University and has enrolled at Butler University. He has immediately joined the team and will be eligible in the spring of the 2004-’05 school year.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore played in all 28 games for the Tigers last season. He averaged 1.9 points a game in 9.9 minutes of action. He had a career-high eight points against Wake Forest and Winthrop. Betko is a first-team Academic All-ACC and was picked to both the ACC and Clemson academic honor rolls.

Betko saw action in just one game this season. He formally announced his decision that he was going to leave Clemson back on Jan. 6.

As a senior at Sharon High School in Pennsylvania, Betko averaged 22.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 58 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He was also money from the free throw line, as he hit 91% of his charity tosses during his career.

ESPN field announcement changed

Due to the Super Bowl, the announcement of the field for the second annual ESPN Bracket Buster Saturday has been moved from Sunday, Feb. 1 to Monday, Feb. 2. 46 teams in 23 games will take part in this event that gives mid-major a ‘last shot’ to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.

The Horizon League has eight teams in the field. Wright State, due to previous schedule commitments, is the only league team not participating. Butler, Cleveland State, Illinois-Chicago, UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee will have home games for the event. Detroit, Loyola-Chicago and Youngstown will head out onto the road.

Last season, the league went 2-1 in the event.

Player of the Week

Cedrick Banks, Illinois-Chicago.

Banks averaged 26 points in two games, including a career-high 36 in a win over UW-Green Bay. He scored 24 points in the first half of that game. He also had 16 points in a one-point loss to Wright State.

Newcomer of the Week

Blake Schilb, Loyola-Chicago.

Schilb averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in two last week. He had 17 points and had seven rebounds in a loss to Green Bay.

Games of the Week

Detroit at UW-Green Bay, Jan. 29 and UW-Green Bay at UW-Milwaukee, Jan. 31.

What a weekend it is going to be for UW-Green Bay head coach Tod Kowalczyk and his Phoenix. Two HUGE league games coming up. The first is at home against Detroit. Detroit is sour after a 17-point beating at home at the hands of the Panthers. They will be looking to rebound and what a way to do it than get a huge road win.

Detroit and Green Bay will meet for the first time this year. The Titans sit right in the middle of the pack of the league standings (9-8 overall, 3-4 Horizon League). The Phoenix (12-6, 6-2), after two losses in a one-week span, they are going to need the win. If Detroit can pull of the win, they will even out to 4-4 and move to within two and a half games of Green Bay for third place and keep pace with fourth place UIC. Green Bay needs the win, as they will play Milwaukee on Saturday. If they lost to Detroit and Milwaukee, the Phoenix will be four games out of first with nine games left on their schedule. They can ill-afford to fall that far behind. If Detroit can pull out the win, the re-match of the two on February 26 in Detroit will be a huge game, as tournament seeds could very well be on the line.

But a win on Thursday for Green Bay will leave them in good shape for their re-match against Milwaukee at the U.S. Cellular Arena. UWM pounded Green Bay in the first meeting at the Resch Center, 82-70, just 10 days ago. UWM is red-hot going into February. UWM has won eight straight games, are 9-0 in the conference and hold a two-game lead in the standing after beating Wright State last night.

In the last meeting, Milwaukee got off to a fast start, forcing Green Bay to play from behind the entire game. Green Bay MUST not let that happen again. A near-capacity crowd is anticipated for the match-up on Saturday and if the Panthers get the home-crowd behind them early. They will be tough to beat. Green Bay needs to get Brandon Morris going early, as he was near non-existent in the first meeting. If he gets hot early and if Green Bay can break UWM’s press, they will have a very good chance of pulling the big road win.

UW-Milwaukee (14-5 overall, 9-0 Horizon League):

It was a busy week for the defending league tournament champions. And, they came out 3-0 to extend the best league start in school history and give them eight straight wins. The first game of the week was their annual swing at Cleveland State and Detroit. Last season, the Panthers won both games in the two cities. They replicated it again this year after a 78-64 win over CSU and 85-68 over Detroit. Dylan Page had 20 points and Ed McCants to lead UWM over the Vikings. The Panthers/Vikings contest featured the top three scorers in the league (Page, CSU’s Jermaine Robinson and McCants). Robinson had 21 points for the Vikings.

The third member of UWM’s three-headed monster, Joah Tucker, had a season-high 26 points to help the Panthers give Detroit their worst home loss since 1994. Page had 21 and McCants had 19 points. Willie Wallace had 23 for the Titans. UWM shot 59 percent from the field on 29-of-49 shooting.

UWM finished off the week with their second first place showdown in 10 days with a visit to Wright State. The Panthers broke Wright State’s Seth Doliboa’s streak of 16 straight double-digit scoring games by limiting him to seven points on 2-of-11 shooting en route to 68-53 win. “Our defense in the conference has been really strong and improving,” UWM head coach Bruce Pearl said. “It’s an area we’ve been focusing on. We weren’t a very good defensive team early in the year but we’re starting to play good team defense.” Page had yet another 20-point game, his 13th of the season, with 23 points, while McCants had 16 and Tucker had 15. All 15 of Tucker’s points came in the second half.

The Panthers get four days to prep for the big showdown with Green Bay. If Green Bay wins, they stay a game off the Panthers for first. But if Milwaukee wins, Green Bay falls three games behind and is succumbed to the season sweep for the Panthers. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT.

Injury report – Ricardo Freeman, G (personal) has left team.

Wright State (10-9, 7-2):

Paul Biancardi’s crew liked close games this week. Last Wednesday against UIC at the Ervin J. Nutter Center, Wright State’s Alex Kock hit a shot with four seconds left to propel the Raiders to a 61-60 win. Seth Doliboa led four Raiders in double figures with 17 points. Drew Burleson had 14 points and eight rebounds as well for the Raiders.

The second nail-biter came in Indianapolis against Butler. This time, it was Butler who had the chance to win it, but missed as the buzzer sounded. Read more on this game by clicking here: http://www.hoopville.com/authors/14?EntryID=6710.

Their third tough game of the week was most certainly a tough one, as the UWM Panthers came to town. With Doliboa failing to reach double figures for just the second time in the last 72 games, the Raiders fell behind early in the second half en route to a 68-55 loss to UWM on Tuesday. The Panthers used a 20-7 run to start the second half to break open the game. Vernard Hollins had 13 points, while Kock had 11 for Wright State.

Wright State will continue their three-game home stand with visits from Cleveland State on Saturday and Loyola next Wednesday. The Raiders will be re-united with UWM in Milwaukee on Saturday, Feb. 7.

UW-Green Bay (12-6, 6-2):

The Phoenix, who struggled on the road last season, made it four road wins in a row with a 60-55 win at Loyola on Thursday night. The Phoenix had foul trouble with five players with two or more fouls. Despite the hacking, Green Bay still had a 29-18 lead at the half. Loyola shot a season-low 19 percent from the field in the first half. But, the second half was a different story as the Ramblers jumped on the Phoenix 17-3 in the first five minutes. But Green Bay would respond with a 7-0 run to re-take the lead at 39-35. Loyola tied the game at 45 with 8:10 to go, but could not re-take the lead. Loyola would make it close late, but Green Bay had 5-of-6 free throws in the final 29 seconds. Matt Rhode led Green Bay with 13 points and Brandon Morris had 12, including 3-of-3 from out deep.

Just off of their big road win at Loyola, the Phoenix continued their Chicago trip as they made the 30-minute commute to UIC in downtown Chicago. The Phoenix held off a late charge from Loyola, but could not hold off the hot-shooting Cedrick Banks, as he scored a career-high 36 points to give Green Bay a 74-57 loss on Saturday night. Despite Banks’ big night, the Phoenix were able to keep it close as they trailed 47-41 early in the second half. But Banks would nail consecutive three’s to extend the lead to 53-41 and the lead would not fall below 10 the rest of the game. Terry Parker was the only Phoenix player in double figures, as he had 16 points and a career-high six assists without a turnover.

UW-Green Bay has their toughest two-game stretch of the season this week. They will have Perry Watson’s Detroit Titans in town on Thursday. Then, they will re-unite with UW-Milwaukee on Saturday. This rivalry is starting to heat up as after the meeting in Green Bay on the 17th, the assistant coaches from each school got into a verbal confrontation and had to be separated.

Illinois-Chicago (14-7, 5-4):

It was a busy week for the Flames, the busiest since their season-opening tournament in Cincinnati. The Flames had three games in five days. The first one was a heart-breaking loss to Wright State, 61-60, in Dayton. Wright State’s Alex Kock scored on a put-back with four seconds left to propel the Raiders over UIC. The Flames trailed 34-25 at the break and trailed by nine, 53-44, with 11:04 to go in the second half. But, the Flames, being the league favorites proved why, as they went on a 12-2 run to take a 56-55 lead with 5:10 to go. The two teams would trade baskets for the next three-plus minutes, as UIC’s Cedrick Banks, who had 16 points, hit a jumper and had a lay-up to give UIC a 60-59 lead with 1:08 to go. Still leading by one with 16 seconds left, senior Martell Bailey had a 1-and-1 free throw situation but missed, setting up WSU’s final possession and Kock’s game-winning bucket. Aaron Carr tried a buzzer-beating three at the end, but rimmed out.

Banks broke out for the best game of his collegiate career, as he registered 36 points, 24 in the first half, in UIC’s 74-57 win over Green Bay at the UIC Pavilion. Banks scored 63 percent of the Flames first half points (38) en route to a 13-point halftime lead in front of 5,012 in Chicago. Banks was 13-of-21 from the field and knocked down a career-high six three’s as well on the night. The 36 points are the fourth most in a game in UIC history. Bailey was not too shabby himself as he got his team-leading fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 assists. Bailey leads the nation in total assists and sits second in the country with 8.5 per game. Only Troy State’s Greg Davis has more, 9.1.

To round out the week, Banks, who scored 24 points in the first half against Green Bay, had zero in the first stanza against Loyola. But, he would rebound to score 22 in the second en route to a 64-57 win over the Ramblers and completing the season sweep. Senior Armond Williams had 10 points while Bailey was up to usual sharing self with 10 assists, giving him 179 for the season. “This is the way that I expect a UIC-Loyola game to be played,” UIC head coach Jimmy Collins said. “We needed to win this game and it was a hard fought game. I am definitely please to come out of here with a victory.” After the scoreless first half and the 28-23 deficit at the break, Banks help spearhead an 11-0 rally out of the break, giving UIC a 34-28 lead with 17:30 to go. The Ramblers would take a 51-48 lead with 6:38 left, but would be succumbed to a 10-3 run by UIC, with six points from Banks, as the Flames put the nail in the coffin.

The Flames only have one game this week and it is a biggie. They will head to Indianapolis to take on Butler. The Bulldogs have had UIC’s number lately as they have won 10 in a row against Collins’ crew. But after their return to Chicago, the Flames will be welcoming hated UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 5 at the UIC Pavilion.

Injury report – Josh Williams, F (academics), indefinitely.

Detroit (9-8, 3-4):

Willie Wallace scored a career-high 23 points, but that was not enough as the Titans suffered their third loss at home and second in double-digits in their 85-68 loss to UWM on Thursday. Milwaukee took early control, as they would go into the half with a 39-32 lead. But, Detroit came out antsy in the second half, as they closed the gap to 41-38 with 18:31 remaining. UWM would open up the lead right back, as they scored the next seven points to get the lead to 10. And, shortly after Detroit go it under 10 at 48-40, UWM went on a 12-0 run and that would be all she wrote. “The threesome of (Dylan) Page, (Ed) McCants and (Joah) Tucker was not only too good, but it was too much for us,” Detroit head coach Perry Watson said. “When we’d get close, one of those three would make a play. They’d make a steal, they’d get a rebound, something. It’s discouraging that they could come into Calihan and be tougher than us.”

The Titans will head out onto the road for one of the games of the week against UW-Green Bay. It is the first meeting of the season and it is one that could very well have a lot of implications on tournament seeds later in the season. Then, Detroit will head south to Chicago to take on the struggling Ramblers in a Saturday matinee at the Joseph J. Gentile Center.

Butler (7-10, 3-5):

Riding on their first win streak since the beginning of the season, the Bulldogs pulled out a tough win on the road against Youngstown State last Wednesday. Butler’s Bruce Horan drilled home a three at the end of regulation to force an overtime and another to win the game, 67-66 in overtime in Youngstown, Ohio. Horan hit a three to tie the game at 56 at the end of 40 minutes with four second left. Then, he hit the second dramatic shot with 11 seconds remaining in overtime to get the win. Horan was a blistering 3-of-5 shooting from out deep. Duane Lightfoot led Butler with a game-high 25 points and sophomore Avery Sheets had 17.

In their second tight affair in three days, the Bulldogs did not come out so lucky. Despite Wright State not scoring the last five minutes of the game, the Bulldogs could not get past the Raiders in a 54-53 set back at the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs had a chance to win the game at regulation as they were down 54-53. Off a missed free throw shot, Mike Monserez dribbled the length of the floor pulled up a jumper that hit all iron. (Read more about this game: http://www.hoopville.com/authors/14?EntryID=6710)

You cannot help to wonder when Butler is going to find their game. They will get a struggling and very-thin Cleveland State team on Thursday night. Then, they will hope to extend a 10-game winning streak against UIC, as the Flames come to town on Saturday to help wrap-up a three-game home stand.

Injury report – Brandon Crone, F (knee), indefinitely.

Loyola-Chicago (6-12, 2-6):

With second-place Green Bay in town, the Ramblers struggled in the first half, as they fell behind 18-5 early and then 29-18 at the break. But the Ramblers exploded in the second half with a 17-3 run, aided by Blake Schilb’s 11 points off the bench to help put Loyola up 35-32. But Green Bay came back with two quick scores that put them ahead for good. Demetrius Williams had 20 points off the bench and seven rebounds to lead the Ramblers. Schilb, who had scored just 18 points in his last four outings, finished the night with 17.

In their city re-match, the Ramblers hosted UIC at the Gentile Center on Monday night. Unfortunately, the struggles continued as the Ramblers fell 64-57 to the Flames. It is Loyola’s seventh loss in a row, their longest since losing eight in a row spanning the 2000-’01 and 2001-’02 seasons. Loyola shot a blazing 59 percent from the field, giving them a 28-23 edge at the intermission. However, in the second stanza, it was UIC’s turn. UIC scored the first 11 points of the half to give themselves a 34-28 lead. Loyola re-took the lead with 5:21 to go 53-50. UIC would open up one last run to shut the door. Williams registered his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. But what killed Loyola were 23 turnovers and UIC’s Cedrick Banks’ 22 points in the second half.

Loyola last got into the win column way back on Jan. 5 at Cleveland State. Unfortunately, CSU is not coming up anytime soon (Feb. 26). But, they do get the second to last place team, Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio on Thursday. Then, they will return home for a matinee affair with the Detroit Titans.

Injury report – Terrance Whiters, G (back), day-to-day.

Youngstown State (5-12, 2-6):

In what they thought was a victory, turned out to be a heart-breaking loss against Butler last Wednesday night. Leading by three with seconds to go, Butler’s Bruce Horan drilled a three at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Horan then struck again in the overtime with a three with 10 seconds left, to pace Butler to a 67-66 win in overtime. The Bulldogs and the Penguins tied the game 16 times and the lead changed hands 16 times, as neither team could open up a big lead. Adam Baumann scored a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, for his eighth career double-double, in the loss.

To finish off the week, the Penguins probably wish they could schedule the rest of their league games against Cleveland State. The Penguins are 2-0 against the Vikings, 0-6 against the rest of the league, after a 61-59 win by YSU in Cleveland on Saturday. The Penguins fell behind early, 32-26 in the second half, but scored 12 unanswered points to take the lead they would never give up. Baumann led YSU with 17 points and seven rebounds and Doug Underwood had 16. The win gave the Penguins their first season sweep of a league opponent since joining the conference two seasons ago.

Youngstown State will finish off January with two home games. First up will be Loyola on Thursday night and will finish off with a non-league game against IP-Fort Wayne on Saturday.

Cleveland State (4-15, 0-8):

Well…what can be said about the season for the Vikings so far? They have had just about anything you can think of go wrong with them. But that does not mean that they are rolling over and playing dead…they are trying to get better from what they have, which is not a lot. It would not get better, as UWM came to town on Thursday. After an early lead for CSU, the Panthers took over en route to a 78-64 win in Cleveland. Jermaine Robinson had 21 points for the Vikings, who lost Walt Chavis to injury during the game. Victor Morris had 15 points and Omari Westley had 11 and a game-high nine rebounds. CSU fell behind by as many as 25 points in the second. But they came back to close it within six, 47-41 with 14:37 left. The Panthers would respond right back with a 17-2 run to take a 64-43 lead with 8:39 to go.

In their final game of the week, the Vikings trailed Youngstown State 59-51 with three minutes to go in the game. But, YSU would go into a scoring funk and allowed CSU to get back into the game at 61-59 with 43 seconds left. CSU had the chance to win it, as YSU missed two shots in the final seven seconds of the game, but grabbed their own rebounds en route to a 61-59 loss for the Vikings. It is the 13th straight loss for CSU. Robinson had 23 points in the loss to lead the Vikings.

Something good is bound to happen soon or later, but it is not going to come this week. On Thursday, the Vikings start a two-game road swing with the first stop in Indianapolis against Butler. The Vikings will then head closer to home on Saturday to play Wright State.

Injury report – Walt Chavis, G (broken hand), Walt Waters, C (academics), Percell Coles, G (academics), Pape Badiane, C (broken hand), out indefinitely.

     

Patriot League Notebook

by - Published January 30, 2004 in Conference Notes



Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

This past weekend was a very entertaining weekend of basketball in the Patriot League, with a large share of very good basketball games. Conversely, there were also a few games that were decided before the first 20 minutes had concluded. But most importantly, the eight games played this weekend went a long way in determining who are the haves and the have-nots in the league this season.

At this point in the league season, nobody has yet to stop the Lafayette Leopards, who continue to stay atop the Patriot League as the lone undefeated squad. Also, it looks like Navy is keeping a firm grasp on the cellar keys to the Patriot League, having yet to win a league game this season, although Army might wrestle those keys away if they continue their terrible play (see below).

And in the middle of the pack, there is a trio of two-win teams that find themselves looking up in the standings, wrestling each other for the all-important statistical advantage for when tournament time comes.

Just as this weekend was a litmus test for many teams to see where they stand in the Patriot League, another important league weekend looms in the near future, as teams strive to prove they belong near the top of the standings.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Austen Rowland, Lehigh; The senior guard single-handedly took the Lehigh team under his wing this weekend, averaging 29 points in two games against Lafayette and Army. His best game of his short Patriot League career took place in the team’s OT loss to Lafayette, in which he dropped 35 points on the Leopards. The Hyattsville, MD native also averaged five assists, four rebounds and three steals this weekend.

Patriot League Rookies of the Week

The League’s Pick: Marcus Harley, Lafayette; The first-year guard averaged 15.5 points per game in the Leopards’ two wins this weekend, including 17 points in the win versus Lehigh.

My Pick: Kendall Chones, Colgate; The forward stepped up his play in the absence of leading scorer Howard Blue, scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds in both the team’s loss to American and its victory over Navy. His emergence was a pleasant surprise in a weekend of uncertainty for the Raiders.

Lafayette Works Overtime to Keep Unbeaten Record Intact

The Leopards (14-4 overall, 5-0 PL) must really like the game of basketball, because 80 minutes just wasn’t enough for Lafayette this weekend. In one of the best basketball games of the season, the Leopards outlasted Lehigh in a first place showdown on Friday night, 111-104, to take sole possession of the top spot. Justin DeBerry carried the Leopards past the archrival Mountain Hawks, scoring 26 points and dishing out seven assists to lead five Leopards in double figures. Lafayette excelled from the free-throw line on the evening, hitting 35-of-43 free-throw attempts, including 14 alone from the charity stripe in the extra session. Lafayette’s sizzling offense managed to carry them through this one, at the team shot 56 percent from the field and nearly matched that with a 53 percent outing from three-point range. Along with shooting at an 82 percent clip from the free-throw line, the Leopards managed to put together a very impressive offensive night at the right time. And let it be noted that Lafayette scored 21 points in the five-minute overtime alone; that stat will come in handy during another team’s review.

Not content to sit on their laurels, the Lafayette team came back on Sunday and put away a pesky Bucknell team, 81-72. Freshman Marcus Harley stepped up for coach Fran O’Hanlon, scoring a team-high 14 points in 25 minutes off the bench for the Leopards. Rob Dill added 13 points and 4 blocks, while Mike Farrell became the 20th Leopard to snatch up 500 rebounds for his career. Lafayette never trailed in the second half, utilizing just enough defensive pressure to repel a couple of Bison late-game charges. As in the Lehigh game, Lafayette was able to out-score its opponents’ reserves, as the Leopard subs registered 17 more points than their Bucknell counterparts.

Now with a big bull’s eye squarely on their backs, the Lafayette men face an upcoming four-game road trip, leaving the Kirby Sports Center where the squad has won its last 11 games and 15 of 16 contests. The team will face off with a surging American team on Friday night and a sinking Navy team Sunday afternoon.

A Pair of Battling Birds Perched Near Standings Summit

Lehigh and American sit tied for second place in the Patriot League this weekend, after the Mountain Hawks’ weekend split and the Eagles’ two-game sweep.

The Mountain Hawks (11-7 overall, 4-1 PL) fell out of first place with Friday’s tough loss to Lafayette, despite the efforts of Austen Rowland. The senior guard dropped 35 points on the Leopards in a long 42 minutes of action, vaulting over the 1,000-point plateau for his collegiate career. Another bright spot for Lehigh was the play of its freshmen, who each recorded double-digits in scoring. Jose Olivero continued his stellar rookie campaign with 17 points, while Jason Mgebroff and Kyle Neptune both recorded career-highs with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Lehigh led for most of the first three quarters, but a Lafayette rally faced the Mountain Hawks with a 1-point deficit with 3 minutes remaining. Lehigh wouldn’t quit, however, with Olivero tying the game with 11 seconds left with a pair of free-throws to send it to overtime.

The team bounced back on Sunday afternoon, when the team was fortunate enough to play Army. In the team’s 60-45 victory, Austen Rowland once against led the team with a game-high 23 points as the team led throughout the entire contest. The Mountain Hawks held the Black Knights to just 10 points on 12 percent shooting in the first half, before the Army team boosted its percentage up into the thirties by the end of the evening. Junior Nick Monserez was the only other Mountain Hawk in double digits for the Bethlehem ballers, who made sure no Army comeback would occur by shooting an excellent 57 percent from the floor in the second half and an even 50 percent for the game. Freshman Jason Mgebroff had another encouraging outing for Coach Billy Taylor, as he contributed seven points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The American Eagles (10-9 overall, 4-1 PL) swept through this past weekend to grab hold of second place, beginning Friday night with a hard-fought 74-71 road win against Colgate. This game matched up two teams in gear offensively, as both teams ended up with identical 53 percent shooting percentages from the field. Matej Cresnik and Linas Lekavicius were the only two Eagles to score more than ten points, but the duo was helped greatly by five other players scoring at least seven points. Lekavicius, along with Jamaal Caterina (7 points) provided a spark for American off the bench, helping the team overcome 44 percent shooting from the free throw line. Andres Rodriguez had a particularly tough time from the charity stripe, going 1-for-7 and keeping Colgate in the game as the team continued to foul the Patriot League assist leader. While missing 10 free throws may not have hurt them against Colgate, you can be sure that type of shooting performance would not stand up against Lehigh or Lafayette.

The Eagles continued playing well and left Worcester on Sunday with the team’s first ever road victory against the Crusaders, leaving the Hart Center with a 62-59 decision. This time, Andres Rodriguez clinched the game for the Eagles with his free-throw shooting, as he scored the team’s last six points and 10 of his 14 on the afternoon from the free-throw line. Once again, Matej Cresnik led the team with 15 points, followed by Rodriguez’ 14 tallies, while seven other Eagles got their names on the score sheet as well. American dominated the Crusaders in the paint, scoring 28 points to the Cross’ 12, in storming back from a six-point halftime deficit. Freshman Andre Ingram was held to only five points on 2-of-10 shooting for the Eagles, being held under double digits in consecutive games for the first time since the second and third games of the year.

Lehigh will attempt to replicate the success of American this weekend when it faces off with both Colgate and Holy Cross, with both games being played at Stabler Arena. American, meanwhile, gets the daunting task of attempting to knock off unbeaten Lafayette in front of the Eagles’ home crowd, but for their efforts they also get to play Army on Sunday. It will be an interesting weekend for these two teams, as Lehigh will be going up against two very tough teams hungry to get back into the thick of things in the Patriot League, while American has the toughest test of them all in Lafayette.

Colgate Singing the “Blue”s

The Raiders (10-8 overall, 2-3 PL) split their two games this past weekend against American and Navy, which was a respectable result considering the team was without the services of senior Howard Blue, who leads the team in scoring and ranks third in the league in both scoring and rebounding. Mark Linebaugh scored 21 points to lead Colgate, but it was freshman Kendall Chones who picked up the slack for Blue in his absence. The forward scored 16 points and grabbed five boards in his first collegiate start, including hitting all seven of his shots from the field. The team shot 53 percent on the evening, but as mentioned above the Raiders also allowed American to shoot at the same clip. The Raider bench contributed very little to the loss, as they were outscored by their American counterparts by a score of 31-10. Jon Simon led the Colgate reserves with six points.

Against the Naval Academy, a pair of freshman stepped up for Colgate and rallied the team to victory. Kendall Chones had his second straight impressive outing, again collecting 16 points and five rebounds, while Jon Simon scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to keep the Raiders ahead of the Midshipmen. Simon’s 21 points, a career high, was aided by 9-of-9 shooting from the charity stripe. Besides Chones and Simon, three other Raiders reached double figures, while the team’s bench produced 36 points – thanks in large part to Simon – but nevertheless a huge improvement from two nights before. Colgate once again shot over 50 percent for the game (55 percent), but this time was able to keep Navy under 50 percent (49 percent). The Middies shot the ball well in the first half, opening up a six-point lead at one point, before Colgate went on a 15-4 run to close out the first-half and regain a lead they would now relinquish.

Colgate has a difficult weekend ahead of them, at the Raiders travel to Lewisburg to take on Bucknell before trekking to Bethlehem to take on the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh. And, while the team managed to pull off a split last weekend, if the team remains without the services of Howard Blue, Colgate will have to pull off a couple miracles in order to defeat these two strong teams.

Holy Cross and Bucknell Each Win One, Lose One

Holy Cross and Bucknell both kept pace with Colgate last weekend, as both teams were victorious on Friday before falling on Sunday.

The Crusaders (8-10 overall, 2-3 PL) got back on the winning track on Friday by cruising to an 88-54 win over the winless Midshipmen of Navy. Senior guard Jave Meade was all over the floor for Holy Cross, scoring a game-high 15 points, dishing out seven assists and adding six steals. A couple of big runs in the first half helped Holy Cross pull away from Navy, as an 11-0 run closed out by eight straight points by Keith Simmons pulled the Crusaders ahead, while a 20-5 run last in the first half helped put the Middies away for good. Holy Cross held a 23-point advantage at the half, as the team shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on two-thirds of their shots. Ralph Willard’s club was able to coast through the second half, as no starter played more than 27 minutes for Holy Cross on the evening.

Holy Cross against jumped out to an early lead against American on Sunday, but the team’s shooting failed them in the second half, allowing the Eagles to erase a ten-point deficit to win for the first time at the Hart Center. Once again, Jave Meade did all he could for his team, as he poured in 14 points while adding seven assists. His first assist of the evening was number 532 on his career, breaking the old Patriot League record set in 1997 by Navy’s Brian Walker. Greg Kinsey also added 14 points for the Crusaders, who shot just 28 percent from the field in the second half. Holy Cross was held to just one field goal in over 11 minutes during a 19-3 American run late in the second half, and a late Crusader surge was not enough to overcome the team’s dismal shooting stretch.

Speaking of dismal shooting performances, the Bucknell Bison (6-12 overall, 2-3 PL) might have been able to use some local high school players and still beat Army on Friday, as the team barely broke a sweat in a 56-23 embarrassment of the Black Knights. Abe Badmus and Charles Lee both scored 13 points to lead the Bison offense, but most of the attention was on the lowest-scoring performance against a Bucknell team since the pre-shot clock era of 1941, when the Bison defeated Susquehanna, 22-18. The Bison dominated on the glass against the overmatched Black Knights, rebounding all those Army misses to the tune of a 43-17 rebounding advantage. In a surprising statistic, Bucknell didn’t make a field goal in the final 10 minutes of the game, but by that point the game was so out of hand that it didn’t matter. Bucknell could have played with four, maybe even three players and still won.

Things got a little bit tougher for the Bison on Sunday, when they were beaten by the still-undefeated Lafayette Leopards, 81-72. Bucknell actually came out of the game with a higher shooting percentage than the Leopards, but the team’s three-point shooting and free-throw shooting let the team down. Bucknell shot only 29 percent from beyond the arc, while hitting only 17 percent of its free throws, compared to 45 percent and 82 percent, respectively, for Lafayette. Chris McNaughton and Kevin Bettencourt both had 16 points to pace to Bison attack, however McNaughton fouled out late in the second half. After giving up the fewest points in League history, the 81 points scored by Lafayette were the most Bucknell has given up in a Patriot League contest since the 2001 season.

The Crusaders take to the road this weekend, in two crucial games against Lehigh and Bucknell. Bucknell stays home this weekend to take on the Crusaders while also welcoming Colgate to Sojka Pavilion, looking to defeat the two teams currently tied with them in the league.

Down Times For the Service Academies

It’s kind of getting repetitive, but it just has to be said once again. Army and Navy do not have very good basketball teams this season, and it is becoming readily apparent that these two squads will certainly be battling each other to stay out of the league basement for the remainder of the year.

The Black Knights (4-13 overall, 1-4 PL) put together one of the worst shooting weekends in the history of the Patriot League in falling to Bucknell and Lehigh. Against the Bison, Army was held to just 23 points, the lowest school total since 1941 and the second-lowest total for any school since the inception of the shot clock in 1986. Army hit as many free throws as field goals on the night, seven, in shooting under 20 percent for the game, including a ridiculous NINE percent in the second half. That’s 2-of 21 shooting in the game’s final 20 minutes. As noted above, Lafayette scored 21 points in five minutes of overtime against Lehigh, which really puts into perspective the offensive ineptitude put forth by Army against Bucknell. Josh Wilson, as the only Army player over three points, led the Black Knights with six.

The team didn’t do much better on Sunday afternoon against Lehigh, as a 10-point first half led to thoughts of a repeat performance but only ended up leading to another loss. The team shot 12 percent in the first half, hitting only three first-half shots, before getting its act together and shooting at a 50 percent clip in the game’s second stanza. Matt Bell managed to reach double figures for Army, scoring 11 points, while three other Black Knights actually scored over eight points. The team did hang with Lehigh in the second half, being outscored only 36-35, which does show that the team has the ability to put the ball in the basket, but that the team is just going through a very, very tough stretch at this point.

The Midshipmen (3-15 overall, 0-5 PL) continued their losing ways in the Patriot League as well, first losing by 34 points to Holy Cross on Friday night. Jeff Charles was the only Middie in double figures against The Cross, scoring 12 points, but the team was doomed by yet another slow start. Navy couldn’t get within 29 points for the final 16 minutes of the half, with Holy Cross’ largest lead being 38 points for the game. Yes, this recap is short, basically because there wasn’t too much to say about Navy on this day.

The team did come out on Sunday and play a much better game, but the result was the same as the team lost, 91-84 to Colgate. The team entered the contest having lost all eight road games of the season by an average of 28.8 points, but in this one the Midshipmen actually held a lead for the first 10 minutes of the game. Navy was down by as much as 14 in the second half, but the team clawed back to get within three, thanks to the efforts of Carlton Baldwin, who scored a team-high 19 points in just 19 minutes. Kwame Ofori and David Hooper scored 15 and 12, respectively, while Leonard Green had his best game of the year with 14 points and four boards. Another good sign of the Midshipmen is that, despite the loss, the team shot better than 50 percent from the three-point line, hitting 10-of-14.

One good thing about this weekend’s games is that, when Army faces off against Navy, one of the two teams has to win the game. Of course, when these two teams go at it, it might not be the prettiest of games. Army also has to play once-beaten American, while Navy will attempt to pull of a huge upset against Lafayette.

     

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