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Big 12 Notebook

January 6, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

It’s that time of year again, time for the cupcake schedules to end and the real college basketball season to begin. And in the country’s heartland, it’s no different. Kansas travels to Boulder, Colo., to take on the Colorado Buffaloes in the first Big 12 league game of the season Monday night on ESPN. The best thing about it? It all gets better from here.

A bad week in the North

At the start of last week, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State and Missouri were a combined 24-6 on the season, for a winning percentage of .800. Last week, those schools went 1-6, with losses to such teams as Richmond, Missouri-Kansas City and Belmont.

Tuesday night started the barrage on the teams in the Big 12’s North. Kansas State, winless on the road, traveled just a couple of hours west on I-70 to play Missouri-Kansas City, a team they had defeated in the teams’ first 14 meetings. UMKC pounded the Wildcats 93-52. K-State shot only 36 percent and committed 18 turnovers, while UMKC jumped to a 14-4 lead en route to a 40-22 halftime lead.

As if that weren’t enough for one night, if you had traveled two more hours west on I-70 on to Columbia, you would have witnessed another shocker: Belmont 71, Missouri 67. The Tigers lost twice last week to fall from grace, but both losses were by a combined three points and against good teams away from home. This, on the other hand, was in the Hearnes Center and against the Belmont Bruins from the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Tigers nearly avoided the upset with a 12-2 run to tie the game at 59, and two Rickey Paulding three-pointers in the final minute to get within 69-67, but Adam Mark rebounded a Belmont free-throw miss with eight seconds left to seal the win.

On Wednesday, Colorado pulled out a dud in the second half and lost to Richmond 75-62, and Iowa State suffered its first loss of the season at Virginia. Then on Saturday, K-State and Iowa State both lost again, to St. Louis and San Diego State respectively. If you’re counting, that’s six losses by four teams in seven games, with four of those losses coming to teams from non-major conferences. Ouch.

OK performances from Oklahoma schools

At the All-American Classic on Saturday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State pulled an impressive sweep over Princeton and Southern Methodist.

OU’s win, although only by a 58-55 margin, was a good one because the Sooners were able to overcome Jabahri Brown’s injury earlier in the week and hang on for a tricky victory over a determined Princeton squad. The Sooners improved to 10-0 on the season with a match-up at Connecticut looming on Sunday.

As for Oklahoma State, the win was impressive for different reasons. A lot of reasons. Six Cowboys scored in double figures as OSU pounded SMU 89-54. The Mustangs had been 2-0 against Big 12 teams (Texas Tech and Baylor) this season, but Oklahoma State used a 28-9 run to end the first half to leave no doubt in this one. The Cowboys shot 60 percent from the field in the romp.

A lot of folks in Oklahoma are salivating while they wait for the continuation of the Bedlam Series, which happens on Jan. 14.

Baylor’s woes continue

As if things could get any worse for the Baylor Bears… Coach Scott Drew is now down to just five scholarship players (ten overall) after senior starters R.T. Guinn and Terrance Thomas were declared academically ineligible. Thomas led the team with 18.6 and 8.0 rebounds per game, and Guinn averaged 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. The Bears responded with a good performance in a loss against Purdue, but wins from now on will be hard to come by for Baylor.

Conference Predictions

Now that the non-conference slate is over save for a few intriguing match-ups (Texas and Oklahoma against UConn, Missouri against Syracuse), it’s time to catch up on what we’ve learned so far. Here are my predictions for the final Big 12 standings:

1. Kansas – take out one hiccup against Nevada, and the Jayhawks have been the best team in the league
2. Oklahoma – the only undefeated team left, but the Sooners are too young to win it all
3. Missouri – despite a rough start, the Tigers have tremendous talent; this prediction might even be too low
4. Texas – the Longhorns need to continue to give the ball to P.J. Tucker
5. Texas Tech – first Big 12 team to 12 wins, including Iowa and Minnesota
6. Oklahoma State – extremely balanced, but can the Cowboys win on the road?
7. Nebraska – impressive start, including a blow-out of Minnesota on the road
8. Colorado – the Buffs have talent, but are way too inconsistent to compete every night in the Big 12
9. Iowa State – a freshman backcourt might hold this talented team down
10. Kansas State – losing by 41 to UMKC was a bad sign
11. Texas A&M – the Aggies are lucky Baylor is in this league
12. Baylor – five scholarship players may equal winless Big 12 season

Big 12 Player of the Week

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech – averaged 22 points in wins over Minnesota and Ohio State and has his Red Raiders streaking into conference play

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

P.J. Tucker, Texas – averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in Texas’ two wins

Around the Big 12

Baylor Bears (5-7)

Harvey Thomas led the Bears with 16 points in their 76-65 loss to Purdue on Saturday, but Scott Drew has to be concerned with the grueling schedule ahead. Baylor starts Big 12 play at Texas on Saturday with no depth whatsoever – four Bears played at least 36 minutes against the Boilermakers. Tommy Swanson stepped up with 14 points, but even a 15-5 second-half run only brought BU within eleven.

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas-Pan American, Saturday at Texas

Colorado Buffaloes (6-3)

After CU had a big home winning streak snapped against Utah, they turned it into a losing streak by falling to Richmond on Wednesday. The Buffs led 50-49 but the Spiders answered with a 15-4 run. Mike Skrocki led Richmond with 20 points, including 5 three-pointers. Even the positives had a downside to them for Colorado. Junior center David Harrison had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he landed hard on his shoulder going for a rebound late in the game and may not be at 100 percent for the Big Monday match-up with Kansas, a game where the Buffs will find a lot out about their chances in the Big 12 this year.

This week: Monday vs. Kansas, Thursday vs. Savannah State, Saturday vs. Northern Colorado

Iowa State Cyclones (7-2)

The Cyclones had a dream start to the season after a nightmare of an off-season, but they came crashing from the ranks of the undefeated with two losses last week. First, on Wednesday, ISU led Virginia on the road 64-57 with about nine minutes left, but the Cavaliers went on a big run to win 85-74. Devin Smith, who scored 25 points, put Virginia ahead for good with a three-pointer with 3:43 to play that made the score 72-70. ISU out-rebounded the Cavs 40-23, but committed 23 turnovers and only forced 5.

Then, on Saturday, San Diego State dealt Iowa State another loss. ISU led 44-43 with 14:40 to play, but SDSU went on a 19-6 run to seal the victory. Freshman Curtis Stinson scored 27 in a losing effort. Next week is vital for the Cyclones.

This week: Wednesday vs. Missouri, Saturday vs. Nebraska

Kansas Jayhawks (8-2)

KU enjoyed its first home game in nearly three weeks by pounding Binghamton 78-46 on Monday. The Jayhawks started the game on a 19-2 run and never looked back. On Friday versus Villanova, however, Kansas got a bit more of a challenge. The game was tied 38-38 at halftime, and even after the Jayhawks got out to a 66-48 lead, the Wildcats came back to pull within five with less than three minutes left. KU used good free-throw shooting to seal the win, however, and Keith Langford and Wayne Simien combined for 47 points. A downside to the victory was the fact that only six Kansas players scored. A lack of depth may hurt the Jayhawks down the stretch.

This week: Monday at Colorado

Kansas State Wildcats (7-3)

What an awful week in Manhattan, as the K-State football team got beat in the Fiesta Bowl three days after UMKC pounded the Wildcats on the hardwood in Kansas City. KSU tried to rebound Saturday versus Saint Louis, and did with a better performance but not with a win. Kansas State held a commanding 64-59 lead with 1:20 to play, but Chris Sloan hit a three for the Billikens and then, with eight seconds to play, Josh Fisher completed a three-point play to put SLU up 65-64. Reggie Bryant, who scored 25, sealed the win with a steal with two seconds left. Cartier Martin, who had 19 points, was the only Wildcat in double figures.

This week: Saturday vs. Savannah State

Missouri Tigers (5-4)

The loss to Belmont was a new low for the Tigers, despite 21 points from Rickey Paulding and 18 from freshman Linas Kleiza. Coach Quin Snyder responded by shaking up the starting line-up for the first time this season, starting freshman Thomas Gardner and sophomore Kevin Young in place of senior Josh Kroenke and preseason Big 12 player of the year Arthur Johnson.

Saturday, it still didn’t look as if MU would be able to rebound against Iowa, as Paulding and Johnson were held to 11 points combined, with Paulding shooting 0-of-9 from the field. However, Kleiza dropped another 18 points to go with 9 rebounds and Travon Bryant added 14 points, and Mizzou blew out the Hawkeyes 76-56. All 12 Tigers in uniform scored, as MU’s bench outscored Iowa’s bench 40-9.

This week: Wednesday at Iowa State, Saturday vs. Texas A&M

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-1)

It was a slow week but a good week in Lincoln, where there is still no football coach but there is a good basketball team. The Huskers left the state for the first time all season and beat Minnesota 77-60 on Monday. Nebraska used 6 three-pointers during a 24-6 second-half run that made the score 65-47, and NU shot 52 percent to only 33 percent for Minnesota. Nate Johnson scored 25 points and Brian Conklin added 17, with both players coming off the bench.

This week: Tuesday vs. St. Francis (PA), Saturday at Iowa State

Oklahoma Sooners (10-0)

In an otherwise uneventful 72-57 shellacking of Texas Pan-American on Monday, Kelvin Sampson and OU got a scare when Jabahri Brown was kicked in the jaw early in the game. Brown played only 10 minutes, but came back on Saturday to play 30 minutes against Princeton with a mouthpiece in. Brown scored 6 points in a 58-55 win. The Sooners got out to a 10-point lead in the second half but suffered through a six-minute scoring drought until Jason Detrick made two free throws with 33.9 seconds left. Ed Persia missed a three at the buzzer for the Tigers, and OU can rest up as an undefeated team until they play No. 1 Connecticut on Sunday.

This week: Sunday at Connecticut

Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-1)

Samford jumped out to a 9-0 lead in Stillwater on Tuesday night, but Oklahoma State responded with a run of its own to take a lead at halftime and then used two big second-half spurts to win 65-50. Tony Allen (19 points) and Joey Graham (15 points) led the Cowboys to the victory.

Saturday, the Cowboys led by as many as 37 in blowing out Southern Methodist 89-54. Graham, Allen and Daniel Bobik all scored 14 points, but balanced scoring is nothing new for OSU. Six players average more than 10 points a game for Eddie Sutton, something that will make the Cowboys very hard to defend come conference play. Saturday’s game against Texas Tech will be great to watch and have a big effect on the conference race in the early-going.

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Saturday at Texas Tech

Texas Longhorns (7-2)

It was a coming-out party for freshman P.J. Tucker in Austin. After Duke held Tucker scoreless in blowing away Texas 89-61, the big man exploded with 27 points and 15 boards in an 88-72 win over George Washington on Monday. He scored 6 of UT’s 11 points in an 11-0 run to start the game and finished the night 12-of-16 from the field. Tucker continued to dominate despite getting into foul trouble early against Texas-Arlington. He had 22 points and 5 rebounds in the game and Texas shot 61 percent as a team in the first half. The final score was 99-79.

This week: Monday at Providence, Saturday vs. Baylor

Texas A&M Aggies (6-4)

The Aggies got 19 points from both Antoine Wright and Jesse King as they continued a patsy schedule with a 75-67 win over Louisiana-Monroe. A&M out-rebounded the Indians 43-16, shot 54 percent and got out to a 16-2 lead, but still couldn’t put Monroe away. In the good news department, another scoring threat emerged for the Aggies: Leandro Garcia-Morales shot 4-of-4 on three-pointers and scored 14 points.

This week: Tuesday vs. Long Island, Saturday at Missouri

Texas Tech Red Raiders (12-2)

Bobby Knight went back to his old stomping grounds this week as his team improved to 3-0 against the Big Ten this season with wins over Minnesota on Thursday and Ohio State on Sunday. Five Tech players scored in double figures, including Jarrius Jackson with 20 and Andre Emmett with 17, and the Red Raiders shot 58 percent to pull away from Minnesota in an impressive second half. The final score was 90-73, and Knight thanked the season-high crowd of 10,524 for showing up on New Year’s Day after Knight had reprimanded the community for poor support earlier this season.

Against Ohio State, Emmett exploded, scoring 27 points and pulling down 11 rebounds to lead four Raiders in double figures. TTU won 80-72 even though the Buckeyes took 26 more shots than Tech. Ohio State was 26-of-79 while the Red Raiders were 32-of-53. A 10-0 run that put TTU up 57-52 was the key to a hard-fought second half in Columbus.

This week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

Five games to watch

Kansas at Colorado, Monday – the first Big 12 game and a gauge for Colorado

Missouri at Iowa State, Wednesday – the Cyclones have exceeded expectations while the Tigers have disappointed. Does that mean ISU can spring the upset?

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Saturday – OSU’s balanced scoring against TTU’s great defense

Nebraska at Iowa State, Saturday – which of these two surprises is for real?

Oklahoma at Connecticut, Sunday – a win puts OU squarely in position as Big 12 favorite and Final Four contender


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