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Horizon League Notebook

January 23, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon League Notebook

by Nick Dettmann

Defending regular season league champion Butler has struggled all season long. They are not the same team as they were last year. After losing Darnell Archey, Joel Cornette and Brandon Miller due to graduation, the Bulldogs were skeptical on who was going to step in and take their place.

So far in 2003-’04, no one has. Butler is the worst offensive unit in the Horizon League averaging just 58.6 points per game. However, their defense is something to lay their hopes on, as they have allowed only 60.2 points per game. But, in order for Butler to make a run at the league title, they will have to win out.

Going into their contest at Youngstown State on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs sit in seventh place in the league standings. Butler is 6-9 overall and 2-4 in the Horizon League, four full games out of first place.

Butler does have hosting rights for the conference tournament in March, that is, if they get at least a number three seed. That is a BIG if.

If the season were to end right now, Butler would be the sixth seed and would host Loyola-Chicago at the Hinkle Fieldhouse. Both Loyola and Butler have the same record, but Butler won the first meeting between the two. So, in order for Butler to hold onto hosting rights, they have to remain in the tournament. But once they lose, the tournament will switch to the city of the team that is the highest remaining seed. Right now, UW-Milwaukee has the top spot.

With 12 games remaining on their schedule, eight of those will be played at home, including a re-match with UWM on Feb. 19. They will also have the ESPN Bracket Buster game on the 21st and then Youngstown State on the 25th. Butler will travel to Chicago to take on UIC in the season-finale. Butler has won the last 10 meetings between the two schools. Their first meeting comes up in Indianapolis on Jan. 31.

So, the league title is still within reach, but they are going to need some help. The Bulldogs have helped their half of the problem. After dropping five straight, Butler returned home and picked up two big wins, one of which was over Detroit in overtime. After YSU on Wednesday, Butler will play their next three at home. So, the Bulldogs are not done yet.

Here is a look at the league tournament seedings and pairings, as they sit going into play on Wednesday:

Top-seed: UW-Milwaukee (11-5 overall, 6-0 Horizon League)
No. 2: UW-Green Bay (11-5, 5-1), holds tie-breaker over WSU because the Phoenix won 53-46 on Jan. 5.
No. 3: Wright State (8-8, 5-1)
No. 4: Detroit (8-7, 3-3), holds tie-breaker over UIC because they swept the season series with the Flames.
No. 5: Illinois-Chicago (12-6, 3-3)
No. 6: Butler (6-9, 2-4), holds tie-breaker over Loyola because the Bulldogs won 72-54 on Jan. 15.
No. 7: Loyola (6-9, 2-4)
No. 8: Youngstown State (4-11, 1-5)
No. 9: Cleveland State (4-12, 0-5)

The match-ups:

Cleveland State at Detroit
Youngstown State at Illinois-Chicago
Loyola-Chicago at Butler

UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay and Wright State would get first round byes.

Wright State would play winner of Butler and Loyola.
UW-Green Bay would play the winner of that game.
UW-Milwaukee would play winner of CSU/Detroit and YSU/UIC game.

Player of the Week

Elijah Warren, Detroit

Warren scored a career and season league-high 37 points against Cleveland State on Monday. He also scored 21 points against UIC and 20 against Butler. Giving him a 26 point average for the week.

Newcomer of the Week

Ed McCants, UW-Milwaukee

McCants averaged 19 points in two UWM wins. He scored 20 points against YSU and tied a career-high with six rebounds. Against Green Bay, McCants scored 18. For the week, McCants was 9-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Game of the Week

Illinois-Chicago at Wright State, Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Previewing the Game of the Week

The pre-season league favorite the Illinois-Chicago Flames have struggled early on in the league season. Collins’ troops marched straight through the non-conference schedule with barely a scratch, going 9-2. But since losing 78-62 to UW-Milwaukee on Dec. 23, the Flames have struggled to find their scoring touch. UIC has only broke 80 points once since then, an 83-68 win over Cleveland State on Saturday. During that span, UIC is an even 3-3, leaving them right in the middle of the league standings.

As for Wright State, they have done just the opposite. The Raiders went through the 2003 portion of their schedule 3-7. But, since flipping to 2004, the Raiders are red-hot, as they have won five of their last six ball games. Their only set-back was a defensive battle against, at the time, league-leading UW-Green Bay.

How UIC can win:
The Flames will hope that history will repeat itself. UIC has won four of the last five meetings between the two squads. UIC won the meeting at the Nutter Center 89-76 last season. In that game, UIC shot a school record 75 percent from the three-point line (12-of-16). Much of that will need repeating. Cedrick Banks has been not much a factor in recent game and much of the rest of the Flames line-up has been inconsistent in their production. In order for them to make a run, they will need their five seniors to turn it up a notch. But if UIC gets a big night from Banks, Martell Bailey and Armond Williams or Aaron Carr, Wright State will be in trouble.

How Wright State can win:
The Raiders will hope that history does not repeat itself. But given how they have played so far this season, it will not be a factor. The Raiders have won four in a row with very solid defense, a balanced offense and consistent contributions from everyone on the roster. Much of the same will be needed. Seth Doliboa and Hollins will need to be dominant, as they match-up with UIC scoring wise, but they do not match-up well physically. Both will need at least a 15-point effort. Bench play will also be a key.

UW-Milwaukee (11-5 Overall, 6-0 Horizon League)

The Panthers might have other things on their mind when they took to the floor last Thursday night against Youngstown State in Milwaukee. The Panthers had a big first-place showdown with their rivals to the north, the Green Bay Phoenix, in two days. But that did not appear to be the case, as UWM defeated YSU 80-74 at the Klotsche Center. Dylan Page and Ed McCants each scored 20 points for UWM. Chris Hill added 10 points off the bench for UWM to round the double-figure scorers. The battle with the Penguins was a shootout, as YSU shot 61 percent from the field and UWM shot 57 percent. But, UWM had a huge disparity at the free throw line as UWM outscored YSU 22-8.

In that intra-state battle for first place, the Panthers got a 20-point effort from Joah Tucker, his best output since Montana on Nov. 22, en route to a big 82-70 win over the UW-Green Bay Phoenix. UWM won their fifth straight game and improved to their best league start in school history at 6-0. UWM also won for just the second time in their last 10 tries in Green Bay. Green Bay overcame an early 11-point deficit, but it was not going to be their day. UWM jumped out to a quick 10-point lead early in the second half, after leading by one at the break, and the Phoenix could not respond. McCants added 18 points for UWM and Page had 15. Adrian Tigert had one of his best games of the season for UWM, as the nearby Oshkosh native scored 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

The Green Bay game started UWM’s second four-game road swing of the season. They went 2-2 in their last adventure. The remaining three will be tough ones. Up first will be Cleveland State on Thursday night, as CSU is just waiting to break-out. Up next on Saturday will be Detroit in the always difficult Calihan Hall. UWM won both games on the road with these two teams for the first time during Bruce Pearl’s reign. The road trip will finish on Tuesday night in Dayton with a key game against the surging Wright State Raiders.

UW-Green Bay (11-5, 5-1)

In a battle of the unbeatens, the UW-Green Bay Phoenix had one of their worst shooting performances this season. Hosting the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, in a battle of undefeated league teams, the Phoenix shot just 35 percent for the game, as they dropped an 82-70 decision to UWM in their only game of the week. The Phoenix saw their nine-game winning streak and 8-0 home record halted by the Panthers. UWM built an early 11-point lead, but Green Bay fought back to make it a one-point edge for UWM at the break. But, UWM came out firing in the second half and built up a double-digit lead they would not relinquish. Senior Mike King, who had a career game against UWM at the Resch Center last season, had another strong game against UWM. King scored a game-high 21 points and had seven rebounds off the bench. Sophomore Terry Parker scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half and Brandon Morris was kept in check, as he had just 10 points. The first-place battle drew 7,522 fans; the second largest crowd in Phoenix history. The largest was the inaugural game for the Resch Center against Wisconsin last season.

After a week off to prepare for UWM, the Phoenix will play three games in seven days. First up will be a pair of games in Chicago – Loyola on the 22nd and UIC on the 24th. The Phoenix will get their re-match with UWM on the 31st.

Wright State (8-8, 5-1)

First-year head coach Paul Biancardi has the Raiders on a roll. They have won five out of their last six, including four in a row going into their big match-up with Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday night. Last Wednesday night, senior Vernard Hollins became only the second player in school history to record a triple-double in an 82-60 win over UT-Pan American at the Nutter Center. Hollins had 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his record night. The only other time it was done in school history was on January 25, 1997 by Keion Brooks, as he had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds against Butler. Three other Raiders had double figures. Seth Doliboa had 24, Zakee Boyd had 13 off the bench and Alex Kock had 12. The Raiders led by as much as 78-43 with seven minutes to go on their way to the easy win.

The Raiders are now starting to surprise some doubters, following a convincing 83-68 win at Loyola on Saturday. It was their fourth in a row and gave Wright State their fifth road win of the season. The Raiders did not win a single road game last season. Hollins had 18 points and eight assists to lead the way. Kock had a season-high 17, Doliboa had 15 and DaShaun Wood had a season-high 14 points to round the double-digit scorers for Wright State. With the two teams tied at 11 early on, the Raiders jumped out on a 16-4 run to give themselves a 27-15 lead with 6:15 to go in the first half. WSU put the nail in the coffin in opening 10 minutes of the second half. The Raiders used a 26-13 run to build a 63-42 lead, as Loyola would not close within 15 the rest of the way. The 15-point margin was Wright State’s larges margin in a league road game since beating UIC 100-74 on Jan. 4, 1999. In addition, the 5-1 league record start is the best in school history.

The Raiders will look to continue their winning ways, as they return home for a big showdown with UIC in the game of the week on Wednesday. Then, they will make the 2½-hour jaunt west to Indianapolis for a game against re-surging Butler on Saturday. To finish out the week, the Raiders will return home for a big game against first-place UWM, who will be playing their fourth straight road game.

Illinois-Chicago (12-6, 3-3)

If it comes down to tie-breakers at the end of the season, the Flames could be in trouble. UIC lost 70-67 to Detroit last Thursday night, giving Detroit the season-series sweep. Aaron Carr led UIC with 22 points and Cedrick Banks had 15. UIC had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left, but could not get off a shot, after a 9-2 run got them back into the game. Martell Bailey had five points and eight assists as well for UIC.

Rebounding after their close loss to Detroit on Thursday, the Flames opened up a 19-point lead seven minutes into the game against Cleveland State en route to an easy 83-68 win at the UIC Pavilion. Cedrick Banks had a team-high 17 points for UIC, including 13 in an early 29-10 run that put the game well out of reach. Armond Williams and Bailey each had 11 points, while Bailey added six assists. UIC committed just 10 turnovers and shot 52 percent from the field. But still a sore spot, the Flames shot 69 percent from the free throw line. UIC led 54-27 at the break, allowing head coach Jimmy Collins to empty his bench late in the game.

The only two losses by UIC in 2004 have come at the hands of Detroit; otherwise, UIC is a perfect 3-0 in 2004. Coming up this week is a key match-up with Wright State in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday night. Wright State is on a roll and the Flames need to get on a roll to stay in contention. After that, the Flames return home for another key match-up against UW-Green Bay. Following that battle, UIC will play five of their next six on the road.

Detroit (9-7, 3-3)

In what quite possibly could be a very important factor as the league tournament approaches, the Detroit Titans swept the season series with Illinois-Chicago, thanks to a 70-67 win last Thursday in Detroit. Elijah Warren had a game-high 21 points to help Detroit snap a two-game slide and it helped jump start a three-game stretch in five days for the Titans. Leading by eight, 66-58, with 2:05 left in the game, the Titans had to withstand a late surge by the Flames. UIC went on a 9-2 run and closed within one with five seconds remaining, following an Armond Williams lay-up. On the in-bounds, Warren was immediately fouled on the play and hit both free throws at the other edge to extend the lead to the final margin. Detroit’s entire frontcourt reached double figures. Ryvon Coville had 12 points and Willie Wallace added 10 more. For the first time this season, the Titans got a win, despite being out-rebounded. Detroit shot 59 percent from the field, including 14-of-18 in the first half, while holding UIC to 40 percent.

In an overtime thriller that saw, not one, but two video replays showed the Titans dropping a heart-breaker, 70-69 to Butler at the Hinkle Fieldhouse. A three-pointer by Butler’s Bruce Horan with 35 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 59 and sent it to overtime. It was Detroit’s fifth straight setback in Indianapolis. The first replay came with 6.4 seconds remaining in the overtime. Detroit’s Jimmy Twyman drilled a three-pointer as the shot clock expired. But a video replay showed that his shot attempt came after the horn sounded, keeping the game at 68-67 in favor of Butler. Butler’s Duane Lightfoot hit two free throws at the other end to extend the lead to three. Then, Detroit’s James Thues brought the ball down court and fired a three-point shot that went in. However, another video replay showed that Thues’ foot was on the three-point line and was ruled a two-pointer, giving Butler the one-point victory. “It was a typical Detroit-Butler ball game. Nobody gives an inch,” Titans head coach Perry Watson said after the game. “I can’t comment on the TV monitor situations until after we look at the tape ourselves, but I’ve never seen two calls like that go against you, and I’ve been doing this a long time.” Warren led Detroit with 20 points, with Covile scoring 16 points and adding eight rebounds.

To round out a busy and eventful week, the Titans traveled to Cleveland in a Martin Luther King Day matinee. Warren continued his strong week with a career-high 37 points and added seven rebounds en route to an easy 75-53 win over CSU at the CSU Convocation Center. The Titans capped off three games in five days with a 2-1 record with the setback coming in overtime. Warren shot a blazing 15-for-19 from the field, including 6-of-9 from three-point range. Wallace had 12 points and five rebounds as well for Detroit, who shot a blistering 59 percent from the field.

The Titans return for a brief stay at home, as they get a re-match with UWM on Saturday. Detroit jumped out to a 13-0 lead in Milwaukee on Jan. 5, but could not hold on, as UWM won 82-74. That is the only game of the week for Detroit.

Loyola-Chicago (6-9, 2-4)

The Ramblers could not overcome a career-high 25 points by Butler’s Mike Monserez, as the Ramblers fell to the defending league regular season champions 72-54 in Indianapolis last Thursday. Paul McMillan led the way for Loyola, as he had 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Terrance Whiters was 3-of-5 from three-point range en route to a 15-point night and Louis Smith had 10 points. Loyola fell behind 22-6 in the opening minutes of the half, but would close it to 36-31 at the half. But they could never get over the hump, as Butler hit 17-of-20 free throws in the second half.

Continuing to struggle the Ramblers lost their fourth straight game, 83-68 to Wright State at the Gentile Center. With the loss, Loyola is now a dismal 2-4 at home this season, including two in a row. Wright State’s Vernard Hollins scored 18 points to help lead the Raiders. Alex Kock scored 17, Seth Doliboa had 15 and DaShaun Wood had 14 for Wright State as well. McMillan continued his solid season with his fifth double-double of the season (28 points and 10 rebounds). Loyola would trail the Raiders 15-11 with 12 minutes to go in the first half, but Wright State would open up a 9-4 run to go ahead 24-15 and lead 37-29 at the half. Wright State shot a blistering 60 percent in the second half to help pull away.

To wrap-up a busy week for Larry Farmer and the gang, the Ramblers traveled east to take on Big East foe Providence. The Ramblers took a brief pit-stop on their conference schedule, but still could not find an answer to their struggling woes, as they lost their fifth straight game, 89-59 on Monday. Chris Anrin scored 16 points in only 14 minutes of work for Providence to lead the way. McMillan scored 16 points and Majak Kou had 14 for Loyola. Providence set a new school record for three-point field goals made with 17 in the contest.

Loyola returns for two important home games this week. Up first will be Green Bay on Thursday night. Then, a re-match with cross-city rival UIC on Monday night.

Butler (6-9, 2-4)

The Bulldogs finally broke a five-game losing streak with a 72-54 win over Loyola-Chicago in Indianapolis and improved to 4-1 at home. Butler’s last win came nearly a full month to the day. Dec. 20 against Indiana State was their last win. Senior Mike Monserez had his biggest night of the season with a career-high 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Monserez was 16-of-16 from the free-throw line, just one off of the school record for made free throws in a game. Freshman center Jamie Smalligan had a big night as well, as he scored 15 points, 12 of which came in the first half, including 3-of-5 from the three-point line. Duane Lightfoot wrapped double-figure scorers with 12 points. The Bulldogs were in the positive on the assists-to-turnover ratio for the first time in a long time (17 assists, 13 turnovers). Butler also shot 47 percent from the field and a season-high 88 percent from the free-throw line. Butler jumped out a quick 13-0 lead and did not relinquish the lead. Loyola would close to 49-46 with 8:24 remaining in the second half, but that would be all she wrote.

For the first time since the season began, the Bulldogs are on a winning streak. In the second one, they finally got two huge breaks, thanks to video replay. In the closing seconds of the overtime, there were two video replays. The first came with 6.4 seconds left after Detroit’s Jimmy Twyman sank a three-pointer that would give Detroit a 70-68 lead. But, after reviewing the play, it was determined that Twyman put up the shot after the shot clock horn sounded, keeping the game at 68-67. Lightfoot would sink two free throws at the other after a quick foul, pushing the lead to 70-67. Then, Detroit would come right back, as James Thues rushed the ball up the floor and drilled home a game-tying three-pointer, as the overtime period ended…or so they thought. After reviewing the play, it was determined that Thues had his foot on the three-point line, making it a two-pointer and giving Butler the 70-69 overtime thriller in Indianapolis. “This was one of those games when both teams deserved to win,” Butler head coach Todd Lickliter said. “We knew after Duane hit the free throws that we had to contest anything above the arc and let them go if they went inside. It was scary, but we got it done.” Monserez led the Bulldogs with his second straight 20-point performance with 24, while Lightfoot had 15 points to go along with eight rebounds.

After a brief stop in Youngstown, Ohio with a match-up against the Penguins on Wednesday, the Bulldogs will return home for four straight games. Butler is 5-1 so far at the Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. Wright State will come to town for a Saturday matinee in a key match-up for both schools. Cleveland State will come to town on the 29th and UIC and IP-Fort Wayne will round out the biggest home stand of the season.

Youngstown State (4-11, 1-5)

Still looking to gain their winning edge, the Penguins had a tough meeting with the UWM Panthers last Thursday night. Doug Underwood would sink a career-high 29 points, but that would not be enough, as the Penguins fell 80-74 to the defending tournament champions. YSU was out-scored 22-8 on the free throw line and Underwood converted five and four-point plays to keep the game close. After a TeJay Anderson bucket with 2:40 left in the game, the Penguins got within 77-72. But that would be as close as they would get as Ed McCants hit two free throws and Chris Hill added another to stretch the lead to 80-72.

Cleveland State (4-13, 0-6)

Talk about first year bad luck for first-year head coach Mike Garland. The Vikings started 4-2, but since then, they have lost 11 games in a row. Their last win was at Norfolk State on Dec. 13. During that span, Garland has gone without the services of Walt Waters and Pete Ritzema, as Waters attended a funeral and missed two games and Ritzema has been battling back troubles, missing a couple games. Then, on Dec. 30, they lost their team-leader Pape Badiane to a broken hand and will not return until early to mid-February. For icing on the cake, Garland has now lost two players due to academics. Waters is one of those players and key sixth-man Percell Coles is the other. Both Waters and Coles have been declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season. Waters, a freshman, has started in nine games this season averaging four points and four rebounds a game after filling in for Badiane. Coles, a junior, was averaging 10 points off the bench. Garland is now down to his third center and just eight eligible or healthy players on his bench.

On Saturday, the Vikings traveled to Chicago to take on the UIC Flames. UIC’s Cedrick Banks scored 17 points en route to UIC’s 83-68 from the UIC Pavilion. The Vikings fell behind by 19 seven minutes into the game and would trail 54-27 at the break. Banks had 13 points during a 29-10 run early in the contest. Jermaine Robinson led the Vikings with 27 points. His run for Player of the Year is being slowed by the drought for CSU, as Robinson is second in the league in points per game, behind only Dylan Page of UWM. Omari Westley scored 12 points and had seven rebounds as well for CSU.

The struggles continued for CSU on Monday, as they hosted Detroit in Martin Luther King Day matinee. The Vikings could not overcome a career-high 37 points from Detroit’s Elijah Warren, as CSU dropped their 11th straight game 75-53. Omari Westley had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Jermaine Robinson struggled from the field, but still managed 19 points. CSU shot a cold 38 percent from the field for the game, including 9-of-24 in the first half.

CSU will continue their current three-game home stand with a meeting with UW-Milwaukee on Thursday night. Then, they will wrap up the stay with a meeting with in-state rival, Youngstown State on Saturday.


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