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Conference USA Notebook

January 13, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

The pulse of UAB

Three players are averaging double figures for the Blazers – guards Ronell Taylor and Morris Finley and forward Gabe Kennedy. Donell Taylor is not averaging double figures and is only fourth on team in scoring, averaging 9.5 points per game. Yet it is the play of this 6-foot-6 guard that determines how UAB performs.

The Blazers are 9-4 on the season and 2-0 in C-USA play, after knocking off East Carolina and Houston last week. So far this season, all one would have to do is check out Donell Taylor’s score sheet to see if UAB won or loss.

During the Blazers’ nine wins, Taylor is averaging 11.7 points per game, scoring in double digits five times and nine points the other four games. However, during UAB’s four losses, he is averaging 4.8 points, including a goose egg against Marshall, and scored in double digits only once.

Taylor is never the first scoring option on the court for UAB, but hits timely shots and has a good medium-range jump shot. He is not going to hit many three-pointers, this year he is only 6-of-27 from deep, but he will knock down just about anything from inside the line.

C-USA Freshman of the Year so far

Have you heard of Sean Banks yet? Well if not, it’s only a matter of time. Only twelve games into his college basketball career and the 6-foot-8 freshman is taking opponents by storm. Banks is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, good for second and first on the team, respectively.

The prize recruit of John Calipari’s recruiting class last season, Banks is paying off immediately. During the Tigers’ last four games, Banks has average seventeen points and seven rebounds. His scoring average ranks him eleventh in C-USA and first among freshman. His rebounding average ranks him ninth in the league and is also first among freshman.

Banks has benefited early from two factors – 1. Memphis has a short bench, giving Banks more playing time than he normally would have and 2. Experienced guard play to get him the ball where he can score. Antonio Banks and Jeremy Hunt have taken pressure off Banks and allowed him to blossom into what it looks to be, the C-USA Freshman of the Year.

Niner inside-out duo

Last week it was Curtis Wither blowing up for Charlotte. This week it was Demon Brown. Brown averaged 23.5 points, including a season-high 34 point outburst at DePaul, as Charlotte won its first two C-USA games and improved its overall record to 10-3.

Brown had struggled with his shot for most of the season before his big night in Chicago, where he hit eight three-pointers. When Brown though cooled off against East Carolina, scoring thirteen points, Withers picked up the slack. He recorded his league-leading eighth double-double, finishing with 22 points and ten rebounds. These two are teaming up to be one of the best inside-outside duos in the league.

Player of the week

Travis Diener, Marquette

Diener averaged 20 points and dished out seven assists during the Golden Eagles’ two wins last week. Diener also hit the game-winning jump shot with 2.6 seconds against Saint Louis as Marquette won, 61-59.

The rest of C-USA

Cincinnati (11-0, 2-0)

The No. 10 Bearcats easily took care of their first two conference games, winning at Tulane, 71-44, Wednesday before cruising against DePaul Saturday, 90-65. Four players scored in double digits against the Green Wave, while five players accomplished the same feat versus the Blue Demons. Tony Bobbitt was Cincinnati’s leading scorer both nights, going for eighteen and nineteen, respectively. Starting small forward Armein Kirkland sprained his right knee early against Tulane. He did not return to the game, nor did he suit up against DePaul. He is probable for the Bearcats’ game at Marquette Wednesday. Up next – at No. 23 Marquette, Jan. 14.

DePaul (7-6, 0-2)

The Blue Demons continued to struggle without their star center Andre Brown, losing at home Tuesday to Charlotte, 75-70, before their 90-65 whipping at Cincinnati. Delonte Holland struggled during the first three halves of play this week, scoring only twelve against Charlotte and just seven during the first half against the Bearcats. Holland scored 22 during the second half and finished with a season-high 29, but most of it came during garbage time. The three-point shot buried the Blue Demons both games. They allowed Demon Brown to go 8-of-14 from deep Tuesday, and then only went 1-of-13 against Cincinnati. Up next – against Memphis, Jan. 13.

East Carolina (8-4, 0-2)

The Pirates appear to be heading down that same old January road after dropping their first two C-USA games, losing 71-68 to UAB at home and 81-65 at Charlotte. Against the Blazers, East Carolina simply ran out of gas towards the end. Playing with practically only seven players, the Pirates could not stop the deep Blazers. The 49ers had their way then Saturday, forcing 22 East Carolina turnovers, while out-rebounding the Pirates 36-22. Up next – against No. 11 Louisville, Jan. 14.

Houston (6-6, 0-2)

Another C-USA team off to a slow start in the conference, the Cougars dropped their first two conference games, losing 65-52 to No. 23 Marquette before getting blown out at UAB, 64-42. Houston has now lost three in a row after rattling off five-straight wins. Against the Blazers, Houston shot an abysmal 26.9 percent from the field and totaled a mere eight assists. Andre Owens was especially cold, going 1-of-15. The story was close to the same against the Golden Eagles, as the Cougars could simply not muster enough offense to pull off the upset. Like Tulane, Houston will be fighting to find offense all season. Up next – against TCU, Jan. 13.

Louisville (11-1, 2-0)

The No. 11 Cardinals are moving from great to awesome and conference play is just getting started. The Cards won their tenth and eleventh straight games this week, dismantling Southern Miss, 76-42, and South Florida on the road, 85-40. While Cincinnati has a better overall second team than Louisville does, the Cardinals bench is just as deep as the Bearcats’. Against the Bulls, eleven different Cards played at least ten minutes. As the Cardinals have gotten hotter, they have even received less production from all-conference player Francisco Garcia. Against the Eagles, both the starting five and the bench scored 38 points. Mark down Jan. 21 on your calendar, that’s when Louisville will greet Cincinnati at Freedom Hall. Up next – at East Carolina, Jan. 15.

Marquette (11-2, 2-0)

The No. 23 Golden Eagles again won a close game. The Golden Eagles again received consistent play from only Travis Diener. No worries though, as Marquette has now won seven-straight regular season C-USA games, dating back to last year. Earlier in the week, the Eagles easily defeated Houston on the road, 65-52. Then against Saint Louis at home Saturday, Diener banked in a baseline jumper with 2.6 seconds remaining, breaking a tie and giving Marquette a 61-59 win. Scott Merritt did have his best two-game offensive production in a month, averaging fourteen points and shooting 50 percent from the field. The Houston game was the Eagles’ first true road win of the season. Their lone win away from home was against St. John’s on a neutral court. Up next – against No. 10 Cincinnati, Jan. 14.

USF (6-6, 0-1)

Not the start to the C-USA season that Robert McCullum wanted from his Bulls. USF was blown out in its conference opener 85-40, at home no less, to No. 11 Louisville. The worse news was that junior guard Marlyn Bryant tore the ACL in his left knee during practice earlier in the week, ending his season. Last year, Bryant tore the ACL in his right knee nearly one year ago, Jan. 11, 2003 against Marquette. Even with Bryant, the Bulls would have had very little chance beating Louisville. Their 45-point loss was one point short of an all-time school record, and their 40 points was four off of the school’s all-time low. USF made thirteen total field goals and Bryant Mosley led the team with eight points. Up next – at Saint Louis, Jan. 17.

Southern Miss (8-5, 1-1)

The Golden Eagles followed up their second-worst loss of the season with its biggest win of the season last week. Against No. 11 Louisville, Southern Miss was embarrassed 76-42, but rebounded to defeat Memphis 66-63. The Eagles continued their inability to win on the road or loss at home, as they are 8-0 in Hattiesburg and 0-5 away from home. Against Memphis, the Eagles controlled the game the entire way, before allowing the Tigers to comeback and get within one point with fourteen seconds remaining. Clement Carter’s two free throws and Rodney Carney’s turnover with three seconds left sealed the win. Southern Miss will get two more opportunities to break its away game losing streak this week. Up next – at Saint Louis, Jan. 13.

Saint Louis (8-5, 1-1)

The Billikens came back to knock off TCU on the road, 60-50, before dropping a heartbreaker to No. 23 Marquette, 61-59, last week. Saint Louis withstood the two-man show of Corey Santee and Marcus Shropshire, holding the rest of the Horned Frogs to 21 points. Three players scored in double digits for the Billikens, led by Josh Fisher’s thirteen. Against Marquette, Reggie Bryant’s 25 points, including a game-tying lay-up with 11.3 seconds remaining was not enough for the upset road win. Travis Diener hit the game-winning jump shot with 2.6 seconds to go. Saint Louis now returns home for three-straight C-USA games. Up next – against Southern Miss, Jan. 13.

TCU (5-8, 1-1)

The Horned Frogs salvaged their first week in conference play, losing to Saint Louis 60-50 but coming back to beat Tulane, 70-65. The backcourt of Corey Santee and Marcus Shropshire provided the firepower for both games, as the two combined for 60 points during the two games. Santee’s two free throws with 50 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winning points for the Frogs against the Green Wave. Junior guard Corey Valsin contributed big play off the bench, as he scored nine points during fifteen minutes of play, the most he has seen on the court in a month. Against the Billikens earlier during the week, TCU blew a one-point halftime lead. Up next – at Houston, Jan. 13.

Tulane (6-6, 0-2)

The Green Wave did not even get No. 10 Cincinnati’s best effort Wednesday and still lost bad at home, 71-44. Tulane followed up that loss by dropping its second game of the week, a 70-65 decision to TCU. Ben Benfield, the team’s leading scorer coming into the week, went scoreless against the Bearcats and scored only five points against the Horned Frogs. Wayne Tinsley scored a season-high eighteen points versus TCU, but it was not enough for the win. This loss is especially discouraging for the Green Wave, as the Horned Frogs are currently at the bottom of the C-USA standings. Up next – at No. 11 Louisville, Jan. 17.

Games to watch

No. 10 Cincinnati at No. 23 Marquette, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

This is a big one and should be a good one. Cincinnati has not played a tough game all season, while Marquette has played several tough teams. The Bearcats have yet to play in a close game; seemingly every Golden Eagles game has been close. Marquette swept Cincinnati last year, if the Bearcats needed any more motivation.

UAB at DePaul, Saturday at noon

This is an important game for both teams. If the Blazers are to contend for the C-USA title, these are the type of games they must win. For the Blue Demons, after a 0-2 start to the conference season and with Andre Brown still hurt, it seems they are scrambling to keep their season afloat.

Charlotte at Memphis, Saturday at 2 p.m.

This could be one of the highest-scoring C-USA games of the season. The 49ers are starting to click on all cylinders, while Memphis nearly came back to defeat Southern Miss on the road. The battle between Demon Brown and Antonio Burks will be the key.

     

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