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Big 12 Notebook

January 12, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

Finally, the conference season is underway, and what a start for the Iowa State Cyclones, who are atop the standings in the Big 12.

Cyclones take care of business at home

Beating two unranked teams at home may not seem like too big of a deal, but it makes Iowa State the team of the week in the Big 12. The Cyclones had two huge games last week in Hilton Coliseum; the first on Wednesday against preseason conference favorite Missouri, and the other on Saturday against fellow upstart Nebraska. ISU emerged 2-0 and is now a bona fide contender for an NCAA Tournament berth.

In Wednesday’s game, Iowa State took a double-digit lead early in the second half, only to see the Tigers fight back with an extended run behind the play of unsung freshman Thomas Gardner. The Cyclones found themselves down 63-56 with just less than six minutes to play. But then another freshman guard, Curtis Stinson of ISU, scored six straight points to spark a 14-2 Cyclone run and a 70-65 win. ISU held Mizzou without a field goal after the Tigers went up by seven. Stinson finished with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

When Nebraska came to town, it was a battle of teams with impressive starts but big question marks. The 8-2 Cyclones came out strong and blew out the 9-1 Huskers 89-74. After a freshman led Iowa State against Missouri, it was two veterans, Jake Sullivan, who drained 7 three-pointers for 23 points, and Jackson Vroman, who had 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, who carried the Cyclones to victory.

Nebraska’s only fight in the second half came early, after Iowa State had taken a 48-35 lead. Jake Muhleisen scored eight points to lead NU on a 14-1 run to tie the game, but Sullivan and the Cyclones quickly responded and coasted to victory.

A word of warning to any overly hopeful Cyclone fans: this team still needs to prove it can win on the road. ISU’s only tests away from Ames came at Virginia and at San Diego State, and it came away a loser both times. Next Saturday, Colorado welcomes this young team to town, but until then, the Cyclones can enjoy a 2-0 Big 12 start and the conference lead.

UConn sends Oklahoma a message

When I turned on the television Sunday afternoon, I was expecting to watch a great college b-ball game between No. 1 Connecticut and No. 5 Oklahoma. I flipped to the right station and quickly discovered UConn up 17-10. Several minutes later, I found myself wondering how OU ever got 10 points. Emeka Okafor was dominating in the paint and OU couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in falling behind first 28-10, then 34-12 before losing 86-59.

Okafor finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds and his usual sprinkling of blocks in the Huskie romp. OU, now 10-1, received its first loss of the season, and the momentum shift couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Sooners travel to Stillwater on Wednesday before taking on Missouri at home Saturday.

Texas Tech makes big statement in classic coaching match-up

There were a lot of reasons to watch Saturday as Texas Tech hosted Oklahoma State in both team’s Big 12 openers. First off, it was a match-up of two of college basketball’s greatest coaches, Bobby Knight for the Red Raiders and Eddie Sutton for the Cowboys.

But more importantly, the game was a gauge for two teams that will contend for the Big 12 title. The 12-2 Red Raiders had won eight in a row coming into the contest, while the 10-1 OSU Cowboys had won six straight.

Oklahoma State had a first-half lead, but Tech came out the winner 83-62. The Raiders blew open a close game in the second half as Andre Emmett had a huge game with a season-high 32 points. Emmett is now averaging 22.2 points per game and Knight’s team should beat Baylor before a Big Monday match-up with Oklahoma on Jan. 19.

Morandais cleared to finish season for Buffs

After weeks of speculation, Colorado coach Ricardo Patton received word Wednesday that his senior guard Michel Morandais will remain academically eligible for the entire season. A grade that was incorrectly recorded last summer had Morandais short of enough credits toward his major to graduate on schedule.

Wednesday the summer grade was corrected and Morandais’ switch of majors was approved. Patton never sat Morandais for the academic issue, and even played him 38 minutes in CU’s 77-62 loss to Kansas last Monday. Morandais is averaging 15.0 points a game.

Big 12 Player of the Week

Wayne Simien, Kansas

I couldn’t give this to Andre Emmett two weeks in a row, so he only gets honorable mention this week for his 32 points against Oklahoma State. Instead it belongs to Simien, who led KU to something nobody else in the Big 12 has so far: a road conference win.

Big 12 Freshman of the Week

Curtis Stinson, Iowa State

How many times is a Cyclone going to take this award? Stinson was magnificent against Missouri, with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal. Then he backed it up with 15 points and 6 assists as ISU beat Nebraska.

Big 12 Standings as of Monday, January 12

Team		       Big 12  Overall
Iowa State		2-0	9-2
Texas Tech		1-0	13-2
Kansas			1-0	9-2
Texas			1-0	9-2
Missouri		1-1	6-5
Oklahoma		0-0	10-1
Kansas State		0-0	8-3
Oklahoma State		0-1	10-2
Nebraska		0-1	10-2
Colorado		0-1	8-4
Texas A&M		0-1	7-5
Baylor			0-1	5-9
   

Around the Big 12

Baylor Bears (5-9, 0-1 Big 12)

The wins will be few and far between for the Bears the rest of the season. Their Tuesday game at home against Texas-Pan American may have been their last chance to taste victory, but BU squandered it in a heartbreaking 55-54 loss. Baylor tied the game at 46 with six minutes left with an 8-0 run and took a 54-53 lead with 13 seconds to go on Harvey Thomas’ lay-up. But UTPA called a time-out, and Sergio Sanchez split two Bear defenders down the right side of the lane and hit the game-winner.

After losing to an independent team with a losing record, Baylor couldn’t expect much against No. 19 Texas on Saturday. The Bears didn’t get much either, as the Longhorns beat them 79-57. Harvey Thomas scored 19 points and Corey Herring added 16 for the Bears, who hung relatively close in the first half until Texas went on a run late. After the game, Thomas said he believed Baylor could win a Big 12 game, but that it would take a perfect performance. He’s probably right.

This week: Saturday vs. Texas Tech

Colorado Buffaloes (8-4, 0-1 Big 12)

CU couldn’t compete with Kansas’ inside-outside combination of Wayne Simien and Keith Langford (or Aaron Miles or J.R. Giddens) in a loss on Big Monday in Boulder. The Jayhawks won 77-62, but Colorado did make a run to make a game of it late behind David Harrison and Michel Morandais. Harrison forced two Jayhawks to foul out and scored 13 points and had 11 rebounds, while Morandais added 14. The Buffs got within 7 points late, but never any closer.

Then, Morandais got the news that he would stay eligible, something Colorado sorely needed. The Buffs would not likely have a shot at this year’s NCAA Tournament without Morandais’ talented presence on the court.

The Buffs went out on Thursday and celebrated the good news with an 89-57 shellacking of Savannah State. Morandais, of all people, led the way with 21 points, and Jayson Obazuaye added 17 off the bench in an easy win over 1-15 Savannah State.

Northern Colorado wasn’t much of a test either, and Colorado closed out its non-conference slate with a 78-48 win. Harrison had 18 points and 4 blocks and Colorado used a 15-5 run to go up 56-28 early in the second half.

This week: Wednesday at Nebraska, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Iowa State Cyclones (9-2, 2-0 Big 12)

With all the trouble there was in Ames in the off-season, first place in the Big 12 is not a place Wayne Morgan could have expected to be, even if it’s just a week into conference play. ISU was able to continue the early-season struggles of Missouri and then put up 89 points against a Nebraska defense that was giving up an average of only 53.1 points per game.

Part of the surprising success comes from the fact that the Cyclones are so balanced. Jackson Vroman and Jared Homan have experience and ability in the paint, while Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock are two freshman guards that can make you pay dearly from the outside. Even if ISU can’t keep this pace up, Morgan has to be excited about his team’s prospects for future seasons.

This week: Monday vs. Northern Colorado, Saturday at Colorado

Kansas Jayhawks (9-2, 1-0 Big 12)

Wayne Simien had a monster game Monday night in Boulder, recording 21 points and 14 rebounds. It seemed every time CU went on a run to get close, KU responded. With their lead cut to 40-34, the Jayhawks went on a 7-0 run. Up only 66-59, Aaron Miles hit a three-pointer to ignite another 7-0 blitz.

David Harrison was a problem at times on the inside, causing David Padgett and Jeff Graves both to foul out, but he couldn’t stop Simien on the other end of the floor.

KU will have had nine days off when it plays next.

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

Kansas State Wildcats (8-3, 0-0 Big 12)

Savannah State, a team without a conference, is still looking for its second win of the season. Apparently the Big 12 is bad place to look for it, because after taking it on the chin Thursday against Colorado, Savannah went west on I-70 to Manhattan and got treated just as poorly by K-State.

The Wildcats won 92-51 on Saturday, rebounding from road losses at Missouri-Kansas City and at St. Louis. Two K-State players had double-doubles, Jeremiah Massey with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Marques Hayden with 19 and 11. The Wildcats jumped to a 35-14 lead and never looked back.

Some bad news out of Manhattan: KSU’s two fab freshmen, Cartier Martin with an ankle injury, and Dez Willingham with a shoulder injury, are both out of action indefinitely. Bad timing, guys. Tough week ahead.

This week: Wednesday at Kansas, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

Missouri Tigers (6-5, 1-1 Big 12)

Signs of brilliance from Mizzou this week, but only in short flashes. Wednesday against Iowa State, the Tigers played yet another lackluster first half and fell behind 37-29. They responded with a 23-5 run in the second half, but faded badly down the stretch and lost 70-65. Freshman Thomas Gardner more than doubled his season output for points with 17; if not for him, MU might not have even been close. Gardner hit his fourth three-pointer of the night for a 63-56 lead, but the Tigers got only two free throws from that point on.

On Saturday, Tiger fans finally got to see what they had been waiting for all year: 35 combined points from Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson, who finished with a double-double. MU went up by double digits in both halves, but again couldn’t play well for a full 40 minutes, letting the Aggies go on big runs. Until this team learns to play hard for a full game and win against a good team, question marks will continue to linger. Chances are coming up, though: Monday against No. 17 Syracuse, Saturday at No. 5 Oklahoma and next week at home versus No. 19 Texas.

This week: Monday vs. Syracuse, Saturday at Oklahoma

Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2, 0-1 Big 12)

The loss Saturday to Iowa State has to be disappointing for Nebraska. The Huskers appeared to be better prepared than ISU for the game, having defeated Minnesota and Tennessee, but they flopped. Nate Johnson and Jake Muhleisen are not to blame, however, as they combined for 39 points and several big shots to keep NU close before they succumbed to ISU’s inside game.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Nebraska took care of St. Francis 93-49. Five Huskers scored in double figures, and Muhleisen wasn’t even one of them. Nebraska played terrific defense, which has been a theme in its season thus far. That just makes the performance against Iowa State more disappointing, though. Giving up 89 points and 55 percent shooting from three-point range? That’s no way to win conference games.

This week: Wednesday vs. Colorado, Saturday at Texas

Oklahoma Sooners (10-1, 0-0 Big 12)

The Sooners had the week off until their big showdown with Connecticut on Sunday. Unfortunately for OU, the only team that showed anything was wearing blue, not Sooner red.

The loss exposed some serious flaws, especially interior offense and defense. Dealing with David Harrison, Wayne Simien and Arthur Johnson won’t be any easier. Now the Sooners have to get ready for the continuation of the Bedlam series Wednesday night in Stillwater before they welcome Missouri to Norman on Saturday. A couple of wins here and OU is in the Big 12 driver’s seat early.

This week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, Saturday vs. Missouri

Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2, 0-1 Big 12)

OSU started the week Tuesday with an 84-52 blowout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Cowboys had a 9-0 run to start the first half and an 8-0 run to start the second half, and Tony Allen scored 24 points while John Lucas added 16. The win over Corpus Christi, however, only makes one thing apparent: the Cowboys weren’t ready for stiff Big 12 competition.

The boys from Stillwater led Texas Tech in the first half by scores of 13-8 and 31-25, but couldn’t hold on to the lead, falling behind 39-35 at halftime. Everything went downhill from there. With the Red Raiders up 42-41, Andre Emmett sparked an 11-0 run that OSU never recovered from. The Cowboys have to take the positives from this game, namely Ivan McFarlin’s 13 points and a solid first half, and move on.

This week: Wednesday vs. Oklahoma, Saturday at Kansas State

Texas Longhorns (9-2, 1-0 Big 12)

The talk of the country on Tuesday was about P.J. Tucker’s buzzer-beating (or was it?) shot in the lane to beat Providence 79-77. The road victory for the Longhorns was a sweet one, but after they lost a big early lead, there were concerns as well.

Tucker had 13 points, but the Friars effectively shut down UT inside and forced the Longhorns to hook ’em on the perimeter. Brandon Mouton and Royal Ivey responded with 22 and 20 points respectively, but Providence provided somewhat of a blueprint on how to beat Texas.

Brad Buckman changed all of that on Saturday, when he exploded for a career-high 16 points to go with 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a 79-57 win against Baylor. Granted, the Bears are hardly quality competition with only five scholarship players, but Buckman has made teams think twice before focusing only on Tucker in the paint. Tucker, Texas’ leading rebounder, only had 1 board in the game, however. If both Buckman and Tucker could hit on all cylinders, this team would be scary to face. The Longhorns will need to be scary to beat Wake Forest.

This week: Tuesday vs. Wake Forest, Saturday vs. Nebraska

Texas A&M Aggies (7-5, 0-1 Big 12)

All told, A&M had a good week, blitzing Long Island 89-63 before giving Mizzou a run for its money on the road. Antoine Wright had 18 points in the first half on his way to 25 against LIU. He hit a three just before halftime to give the Aggies a 44-27 lead. Texas A&M was 23-of-24 from the free-throw line on the night.

Saturday against MU, A&M was able to use big runs to make a game of it. A 13-1 run, including 3 three-pointers, gave the Aggies their first lead at 30-28, but, unable to contain Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant inside, they fell behind by double digits again in the second half. TAMU cut the lead all the way to four with a 9-2 run. Five Aggies scored in double figures, but they fell 82-77.

This week: Saturday vs. Kansas

Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-2, 1-0 Big 12)

Give Bobby Knight a full week to prepare for a game and he’s usually going to win it.

Texas Tech has already played 15 games, but Knight left a week before the Raiders’ conference opener against Oklahoma State, and it showed. Texas Tech shot 53 percent to OSU’s 37 percent, and Andre Emmett went wild with 32 points, 19 in the second half.

The defense was most impressive, though. In Tech’s key 11-0 run shortly after intermission, Emmett had six points and two steals, with the steals leading to the points. Now that’s Bobby Knight basketball. Watch out for the Red Raiders in the coming weeks. They could go on a long run.

This week: Saturday at Baylor

Five games to watch this week

Monday: Syracuse at Missouri – The zone has given Mizzou problems all year, so this certainly doesn’t look good for the Tigers.

Tuesday: Wake Forest at Texas – The Longhorns finally get a chance for a big win at home.

Wednesday: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State – Big game anyway, but this one always means a bit more.

Saturday: Missouri at Oklahoma – Either the Tigers get back on track or the Sooners pull away from the pack.

Saturday: Iowa State at Colorado – A road win here would be huge for the Cyclones.

     

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