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Horizon Notebook

January 14, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Horizon League Notebook

by Nick Dettmann

The conference schedule is in full swing in the Horizon League. Already there are some surprises. The biggest comes from the most-northern team, UW-Green Bay.

The Phoenix, led by second-year head coach Tod Kowalczyk, has already eclipsed last year’s win total both overall and in the conference. The Phoenix sit atop the standings at 11-4 overall and 5-0 in the conference, including 8-0 at home and nine in a row overall. Green Bay last lost on Dec. 10 to Wisconsin in Madison, 73-57.

In their latest outing, the Phoenix had a very rare opportunity – the season sweep of Butler. The Phoenix defeated the Bulldogs on Dec. 22, snapping Butler’s 21-game home-winning streak, 70-63.

The Phoenix used an 11-0 run midway through the second half to pull ahead of the defending regular season champs 45-31. Butler would fight back to within five, but Green Bay would hit 10-of-12 crucial free throws to seal the deal, 60-50.

It is the first time since the 1997-’98 season that Butler had a team sweep their season series in the Horizon League. Detroit was the last to pull it off.

However, the moment of the night came with 2:28 left in the half. Senior Mike King, who took part in the Pan-American Games over the summer for Canada, hit a pair of free throws. Those two charity tosses gave King 1,000 points for his career. He became the 17th player in school history to reach the illustrious plateau.

Green Bay got very deep production from their bench, as three back-ups hit double-digits in scoring. Matt Rhode led the way with 16 points as a starter. But, Javier Mendiburu scored a career-high 13 and King and Kevin Hughes had 11 each to round out the bench punch.

Early on, Butler looked poised to snap their losing skid, as they opened the game with a 10-2 run and led for much of the first half. Mike Monserrez led the way for Butler as he had 14 points, while Jeff James had his second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.

Player of the Week:

Dylan Page, UW-Milwaukee

Page averaged 27.3 points per game in three wins for the Panthers, including a career-high 35 against Loyola.

Newcomer of the Week:

Drew Burleson, Wright State

Burleson recorded back-to-back double-digit scoring performances. He scored 17 in win over Cleveland State and 16 in win over Detroit.

Game of the Week:

UW-Milwaukee at UW-Green Bay, Saturday, Jan. 17.

It is a showdown of not only in-state rivals, but a battle for the top spot in the conference standings. The two split their series last season with each team winning on their home floor. Check on Sunday for the report from this one.

Previewing the Game of the Week

Thus far in the 2003-’04 season, the UW-Milwaukee Panthers have already been engaged in some big time games.

Before the season began, UWM circled three games that would be considered big contests in regards to seeding. Those three were: UIC on Dec. 23, Detroit on Jan. 5 and Butler on Jan. 8. The Panthers got past those three 3-0. However, they did not anticipate that the Phoenix would be as hot as they are now, making it four quick tough ones.

Both teams head into the Resch Center on Saturday afternoon riding the longest winning streaks in the conference this season. The Phoenix have won nine in a row and the Panthers have won four in a row and five of their last six. Both are off to their best league starts in school history, as they are the only two unbeaten teams in league play. The 5-0 start by Green Bay is their best since the 1995-’96 season when the Phoenix went 16-0. Green Bay will also carry an 8-0 record at home into this one.

Something has got to give. Here are some keys to the game:

How Green Bay can win: The Phoenix will have to rely heavily on their defense, which has not been tested very much. They will have to stop the most dominating player in the conference, Dylan Page. The only problem is if you take away one aspect of his game, he has a second one to go to. For the Phoenix to win the game, they will have to hold UWM under 75 points. The Panthers are 1-4 when they are held under 75. Strong bench play will also be an advantage as the Phoenix has the deeper bench.

How Milwaukee can win: In order for UWM to win, it comes simply down to putting points on the board. In their nine wins, the Panthers average 86 points a game. In their five losses, they average 66 points a game. Page will also have to be a factor early. Green Bay do not have the players to match-up. If Page starts off hot, the Panthers will be in control.

UW-Green Bay (11-4 overall, 5-0 Horizon):

The Phoenix used a very strong first half to help capture a 62-52 win over Youngstown State on Thursday night. The Phoenix went into the half with a comfortable 34-20 lead and never encountered problems the rest of the evening. Green Bay was led by a team-high 13 points off the bench and seven rebounds in only 21 minutes. “An eight-game winning streak is new to our guys and I want to enjoy it,” head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “But in the same sense, we need to learn top handle success and you could tell tonight that we have areas where we need to improve.”

The Phoenix rounded out the perfect week with a 60-50 win over defending regular season league champion Butler from Green Bay on Saturday.

The Phoenix will get a week off until their big showdown with league and in-state rival, UW-Milwaukee on Saturday. It will, pending UWM’s result against Youngstown State on Thursday, be a battle for first-place. Then, the Phoenix will look to test their luck on the road, as they play five of their next six away from home. Up first will be Loyola on Jan. 22.

UW-Milwaukee (9-4, 4-0):

In a story late last week, the UWM Panthers got re-acquainted with their foes from Indianapolis, the Butler Bulldogs. In a match-up described by head coach Bruce Pearl as scrappy, the Panthers left off where they did last year with a 71-59 win over Butler last Thursday night. It was the first meeting since the 69-52 win by UWM in the league championship game last March. Dylan Page scored 23 points to lead the way for UWM, while Ed McCants chipped in with another 13, Joah Tucker had 11 and Nate Mielke had 10 to round the top scorers for UWM. Both teams struggled in the first half, as UWM only held a 25-20 lead at the break. For the better part of six minutes of the opening frame, neither team could find the scoreboard, leading Butler to shot 21 percent in the half. But UWM shot 58 percent in the second half to help pull away.

In the second game of the week, the Panthers used a blazing 60 percent shooting performance to win the high-scoring, 97-87 ballgame over Loyola in Chicago on Saturday. Page had the game of his career, as he had 35 points and nearly every shot fell for the 6-foot-9 forward. “You know what he is, he’s a mid-major version of Keith Van Horn,” Loyola head coach Larry Farmer said. McCants added 20 points, with Tucker adding 13 and Kadima had 10.

The Panthers will have a quick stop back to the familiar confines of the Klotsche Center on Thursday night. Youngstown State will come to town, as UWM will play just their second game of the season in the on-campus facility. UWM won 90-62 over Concordia-St. Paul on Nov. 25 the last time there. Then, it will be up I-43 to Green Bay for the first-place showdown with the Phoenix.

Injury report: Ronald Davis is still out with a sore knee. He is listed day-to-day.

Wright State (6-8, 4-1):

After a 1-5 start, the Raiders have now three of their last four and have got themselves right in the thick of the conference championship race. Their only setback in the last four games was to Green Bay on Jan. 5. The Raiders first went up north to take on in-state rival Cleveland State at the CSU Convocation Center. Wright State never trailed to the Vikings, as they defeated CSU 78-73. Senior Vernard Hollins returned to form after a struggling week the week before, as he registered 18 points. Freshman Drew Burleson scored a career-high 17 points in just 20 minutes. Seth Doliboa continued his remarkable performance of 66 of his last 67 games where he scores at least 10 points, as he scored 12. Vova Severovas also scored 12 for WSU. The Raiders were out-rebounded by the Vikings, 33-25, but committed just 12 turnovers compared to 17 miscues by CSU. The loss was CSU’s eighth in a row.

Led by Doliboa’s 17 points, the Raiders defeated Detroit 67-61 in Detroit on Saturday afternoon. It was WSU’s first win in the Motor City in nine years and the first back-to-back wins in three years. It also tied Wright State’s league win total from last season. Hollins scored 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Detroit native DaShaun Woods had eight points, five rebounds and five assists. Burleson also continued his strong play this past week with his second straight double figure performance with 17 points and five rebounds.

The Raiders will be in action tonight, as they will host UT-Pan American. Then, it will be off onto the road for one game in Chicago against the Loyola Ramblers on Saturday.

Injury report: Braden Bushman remains out with a bruised sternum. His return is expected by the end of January.

Illinois-Chicago (11-5, 2-2):

The week saw only one game for head coach Jimmy Collins and his squad. But, it was the big rivalry game with cross-town foe Loyola. These two heated up their rivalry in 2002 when they faced off in the league championship game. A game won by UIC in overtime in Cleveland, giving UIC their trip to the NCAA and Loyola going home.

Many of the UIC players on the current roster were around for that game; one of them was Aaron Carr. Carr broke out of a shooting slump as he helped lead the Flames to a 77-59 win over Loyola, thanks to his 22 points. It was UIC’s fourth straight win over Loyola, including the 2002 league championship game, and their 12th straight at the UIC Pavilion. Cedrick Banks tallied a game-high 23 points in the win, while Martell Bailey registered his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 assists.

After getting Saturday off, the Flames will get ready to take on Detroit in a re-match of their Jan. 3 meeting. Detroit won that meeting in Chicago, 56-48. Two days later, UIC will head back home to host the struggling Cleveland State Vikings.

Loyola-Chicago (6-7, 2-2):

In their first of two annual meetings with cross-town arch rival UIC, the Ramblers lost their first league game of the season as they dropped a 77-59 decision to the Flames. It is the fourth straight loss to UIC by Loyola and 12th in the UIC Pavilion. The four-game slide began in Cleveland in 2002 for the league championship game, which was won in overtime by the downtown boys. Loyola could not find the right track, as they shot 34 percent for the game, despite Demetrius Williams reaching double figures for the sixth straight game with 10 points. “Obviously, this is a disappointing performance for us,” head coach Larry Farmer said. “In the first half, we didn’t match their energy and it annoyed us that we didn’t share the ball enough. That reflects individual play. We expected UIC’s best game and that’s what we got.” Terrance Whiters, who has picked up his play in recent games, scored 14 points and added four rebounds and three steals to lead the way. DaJuan Gouard had 11 off the bench.

In their second game of the week, the Ramblers could not corral the league’s highest scoring offense, UW-Milwaukee, in a 97-87 setback at the Gentile Center on Saturday. The Ramblers could not stop Dylan Page, as he scored a career-high 35 points. In the first meeting between these two last year, Page scored a then career-high 32 points. The 97 points by UWM was the second most ever scored by an opponent at the Gentile Center. Loyola could not overcome a 30-13 run in the first half that broke an 11-11 tie. Paul McMillan scored a team-high 24 points and snagged eight rebounds. Williams posted his three double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Majak Kou also scored a season-high 20 points.

Loyola will look to get back into the win column, as they head to struggling Butler on Thursday. Loyola won the last meeting of these two in Chicago. Then, the Ramblers will return home for a quick home game against Wright State on Saturday.

Detroit (7-6, 1-2):

Things have not gone well for Detroit in recent weeks. Despite beating UIC in Chicago on Jan. 3, the Titans have dropped three of their last four, including two in a row at home. It is the first time since the 1995-’96 season that Detroit has suffered consecutive setbacks at Calihan Hall. In their only game of the week, the Titans hosted surging Wright State on Saturday afternoon. Detroit had numerous extensive leads, including a 44-31 lead with 13:12 left in the second half. But, Detroit would hit only five more field goals the rest of the way, allowing Wright State to make their comeback. The Titans shot 50 percent in the first half and 28 in the second. Elijah Warren would lead four Titans in double figures with 13 points. Willie Wallace matched his season-high of 12 points, while Ryvon Covile and Rulon Harris each contributed with 11.

Detroit will look to get back on the winning side of things with a meeting with UIC in Detroit on Thursday. Detroit won the first meeting in Chicago, 56-48, on Jan. 3. After UIC, Detroit will head down to Indianapolis to play Butler to start a brief two-game road trip. It will finish in Cleveland against the CSU Vikings on Jan. 19.

Youngstown State (4-10, 1-4):

Playing the league’s top team was already a difficult task. But the Penguins, trimmed a 14-point lead down to three in the second half. Unfortunately could not get over the hump as the Penguins lost 62-52 to Green Bay at the Resch Center. Doug Underwood scored a game-high 22 points, including 16 of which came in the second frame. With 12:33 to go in the half, YSU closed the margin to 40-37 on a Bill Mallernee bucket, but that would be as close as they would get. YSU held a 12-6 advantage in field goals made, but the Phoenix had a 16-6 advantage from the charity stripe.

In a battle of the two lower teams of the conference, it was the host Penguins that held on for their first victory of the league season. YSU fought off a valiant effort by Cleveland State for an 86-82 win at the Beeghly Center on Saturday. YSU led by as many as 14 on three different occasions, but CSU hung in there and eventually took a 63-62 lead with 7:24 left in the second stanza. The Penguins would work the lead up to 78-66 with 2:47 left and 82-71 with 1:26 to go. But CSU would not go down as they cut the lead to two with 27 seconds left. But, Adam Baumann went 4-of-4 from the line in the last 20 seconds to help secure the win. YSU would shot a season-high 59.6 percent in the win. Sophomore Jonathan Mends had eight points, eight assists, four rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes of work.

YSU will return to action on Thursday as they head into Milwaukee with a meeting against the Panthers. The Penguins will return home next week Wednesday when Butler comes to town.

Butler (4-9, 0-4):

The struggles continued for Butler, as they went 0-4 on their recent four-game road trip and have now lost five in a row. If the conference tournament were to start today, Butler would be playing in the ‘play-in’ game in order to try and get hosting rights. The week started off with a re-match of last year’s league championship game against UW-Milwaukee. After a sluggish start, the Bulldogs shot nearly 50 percent in the second half, but that would not be enough as UWM defeated the Bulldogs 71-59.

The long road-trip concluded in Green Bay and a meeting with the top team of the league, UW-Green Bay. Despite getting 12 points and 10 rebounds from Jeff James, the Bulldogs could not get past the first place Phoenix in a 60-50 loss on Saturday. It is Butler’s worst start in league play in school history. It was also the first time a conference rival swept a season series with Butler. Detroit was the last to accomplish that feat in the 1997-’98 season.

Butler will hope to re-gain the winning touch, as they return for five of their next six at home. The first will be on Thursday with Loyola coming to town. Then, Detroit will pay a visit to the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse two days later.

Injury report: Brandon Crone is nursing a sore knee and is expected to return by the end of the month.

Cleveland State (4-11, 0-4):

The Vikings were off to such a convincing 4-2 start and looked ready to challenge for the league championship. Unfortunately, the Vikings have lost nine in a row by a total of 24 points (2.67/game). Their latest setbacks included a 78-73 loss to Wright State on Thursday and 86-82 to Youngstown State on Saturday. Against Wright State, Omari Westley scored 21 points and had nine rebounds, with Jermaine Robinson recording 20 points as well. “I love the effort our guys gave tonight,” head coach Mike Garland said. “I was looking for another gut-wrenching effort, and it was there. This team is just snakebit. There’s guys making shots against us that don’t score any other time all season.”

Westley capped off a solid week with a 17-point effort in the loss to Youngstown State. Percell Coles, who is playing competitively with contact lenses for the first time in his career, hit a three with 27 seconds remaining to close the lead for YSU to 82-80. But CSU could not keep YSU’s Adam Baumann off the free throw line, as he iced the deal with 4-of-4 free throws. Coles came off the bench to score 23 points. Robinson had 19 points, six assists and seven rebounds.

Cleveland State will continue to try and get into the win column during league play this Saturday. CSU will travel to UIC before returning home for three straight games. First up will be Detroit on the 19th.

Injury report: Pape Badiane will be out until mid-February after breaking his hand on Dec. 30 against Drake.

     

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