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January 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, January 8th

More Baylor Mess: Earlier this week Baylor lost two players to academics for the rest of the season. Yesterday, former Baylor player Chad Elsey filed suit against Baylor and then head coach Dave Bliss alleging that Bliss breached an oral contract that Bliss would pay for Elsey’s law school if he transferred from SMU. As quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Chad, if you commit to me that you will come to Baylor, I will not only pay for an extra semester, but will pay for law school and any other degree that you are interested in, so long as you work diligently toward a degree.” During a conversation, Elsey asked Bliss about potential NCAA problems with the payments, and Bliss commented that “there are ways to get around NCAA rules.” The allegations, if found to be true, would be yet another stain on Bliss and the Baylor program, which is already under NCAA investigation. Elsey is claiming damages exceeding $100,000.

Cotton Plays Field: Michigan State freshman point guard Brandon Cotton is expected to announce his decision to leave the Spartan program in the next day. Cotton, a McDonald’s All-American and a Mr. Basketball runner-up in Michigan last year, has been injured most of this season, and has also missed time because his uncle was killed in a shooting in Detroit. Cotton has missed several practices of late, and MSU Tom Izzo told the Associated Press, “Brandon has had some personal problems, some of them he could control and some he couldn’t. I don’t know where his head is.”

Ram Out: Colorado State center Matt Nelson will be out indefinitely after injuring his right knee. Nelson, the Rams’ leading scorer with 15 points per game, was diagnosed with a sprain after colliding with a Montana State player in Colorado State’s loss to the Bobcats Monday.

Sooner Gone: Oklahoma has announced that freshman guard Jimmy Tobias has left the school, and will be transferring to Seminole Junior College (Sanford, Florida). Tobias, a Florida native, had averaged 2 points and 1.2 rebounds in six games so far this season. Tobias was disappointed with playing time during the regular season, as he had excelled in the Sooners’ summer exhibition games in Costa Rica, averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds.

Hoosier Sitting: Indiana freshman forward Jessan Gray-Ashley has been declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. A Davenport, Iowa, native, Gray-Ashley has seen action in seven games, averaging less than a point and rebound per game, playing an average of four minutes.

San Diego Update: San Diego’s Nick Lewis returned with the team to San Diego after being carried off the court against New Mexico. The prognosis? A concussion. Lewis was knocked out after hitting his jaw on the floor while scrambling for a loose ball. After being cleared by medical staff after a CT scan, head coach Brad Holland indicated that Lewis will be able to play January 15th against Loyola Marymount.

Top 25 Action:

• No. 10 Cincinnati stuffed Tulane in the C-USA opener for both teams. Reserve guard Tony Bobbitt was the unlikely hero against the Green Wave by notching 18 points, while Jason Maxiell and Field Williams each tallied 13 points in the win. Vytas Tatarunas had 15 points for the Green Wave. Cincinnati remains undefeated at 10-0.

• The No. 11 Louisville Cardinals downed Southern Miss in a defensive showcase 76-42 as both teams opened C-USA play. The Cardinals were led by Nate Daniels and his 15 points as Rick Pitino’s defense held the Golden Eagles to under 30% shooting from the field, including a 13-minute scoreless stretch.

• No. 12 Florida squeaked by South Carolina, 65-62. David Lee led the Gators with 21 points and 14 rebounds, covering for teammate Anthony Roberson, who was held to only 5 points. The Gamecocks got within one point on Renaldo Balkman’s layup with under a minute. Josh Gonner led South Carolina with 18 points.

• No. 14 North Carolina handled soon-to-be conference rival Miami 89-64 last night. Sean May had 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Jawad Williams, Rashad McCants, and Jackie Manuel each had 15 points in the Heels’ 200th win in the Dean Dome. Robert Hite led the Hurricanes with 27 points.

• No. 17 Syracuse edged St. John’s 65-59, as Gerry McNamara heated up late to notch 14 of his 23 points in the second half of a sloppy game. Hakim Warrick had 18 points and 11 boards for the Orangemen, who won their tenth in a row. St. John’s leading scorer Elijah Ingram, who averages 14 points per game, came up with only 3, and the Red Storm were led by Grady Reynolds’ 13 points.

• No. 20 Illinois downed Ohio State 85-63 in the Big Ten opener for both squads. Junior Nick Smith led the Illini with 22 points, including nine of nine from the charity stripe. Ohio State couldn’t handle the Illini press, and only scored six field goals in the first half. The Buckeyes were led by Terrance Dials and his 11 points.

• No. 23 Marquette handled Houston 65-52 in a C-USA matchup. Travis Diener scored 22 points on the strength of 5-for-10 shooting from three-point land for Marquette, and Scott Merritt had a 17/10 double/double in a game that was close until the final minutes. Houston, who trailed by only two late in the game, was led by Marcus Oliver and Andre Owens, who each had 12 points.

• No. 24 Purdue was upset by Iowa 71-61 in a tough road Big Ten opener. Iowa improved its free throw shooting from previous games, nailing 29 of 37 down the stretch. Meanwhile the Boilermakers only managed 7 free throws of 10 attempts. Pierre pierce led the Hawkeyes with 19 points, and Jared Reiner added 14 points. kenneth Lowe led the Purdue with 19 points.

Other Action:

• In the longest game of the night, SMS prevailed over Missouri Valley foe Evansville 95-85 in double overtime. Blake Ahearn scored 25 points for the Bears, who nailed 15 out of 18 free throw attempts in the second bonus stanza. The Purple Aces, who only have one win on the season, were up by as much as 16 in the second half and managed to let it slip away. Evansville was led by Clint Cuffle and his 18 points.

• Creighton, who is getting votes in the Hoopville Top 25 poll, narrowly avoided losing its first game of the season to Illinois State, 56-55. The Bluejays relied on Johnny Mathies free throw with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation to pull out the victory. Brody Deren led the Bluejays with 12 points and seven rebounds. Najeeb Echols led the Redbirds with 13 points.

Tonight’s Menu:

• It’s big time on the West Coast tonight, as No. 4 Stanford faces off against Ike Diogu and Arizona State, while Cal visits No. 6 Arizona, setting up the match of Stanford-Arizona Saturday. Additionally, No. 16 Gonzaga faces Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference opener for both schools. While Pepperdine leads the all-time series 31-24, Gonzaga has won seven of the last eight.

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