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Mountain West Notebook

January 27, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Mountain West Notebook

by Bob Thurman

No Harm, No Foul

During his tenure at Utah, Rick Majerus has always been close to his players, even after they have left Salt Lake. However, recently some rumors and allegations have put a minor stain on the Ute basketball program. The latest involved former Ute, and current Weber State Wildcat, Lance Allred. Allred complained that Majerus used foul and offensive language when criticizing him during the 2001-2002 season. He also claimed discrimination due to his partial hearing loss.

This past Thursday, Utah athletic director Chris Hill cleared Rick Majerus in an internal investigation into the complaint. Hill found no evidence of discrimination on Majerus’ part, but couldn’t elaborate any further. Majerus has always refuted Allred’s claims and was backed up by two of his assistant coaches.

This seems that it may be a situation where Allred couldn’t perform under the pressure of big time college hoops, and possibly claimed victim status for his failings. Majerus has turned out a number of outstanding big men from his program, so Allred should have worked with his coach instead shouting “abuse.” Maybe, due to his poor hearing, he was incapable of that, or simply misunderstood the instructions from his coach. Regardless, it was perhaps another example of some overly-sensitive soul who didn’t hold up to his end of the bargain.

Monday’s Results

Only two games were on tap this past Monday. First, BYU hosted Wyoming in a battle of two of the bigger teams in the conference. The Cowboys kept the game close in the first half, thanks to their stellar backcourt of Jay Straight and David Adams. Early in the second half, BYU freshman forward Garner Meads scored 6 straight points to give the Cougars a comfortable lead they would never relinquish. BYU ended up winning 78-64, as they stayed undefeated at home this season. Meads, along with center Rafael Araujo, combined for 37 points and 19 rebounds, as they clearly won the frontcourt battle this evening. Luiz Lemes had one of his better offensive showings, pumping in 17 points to compliment the bug guys down low.

In the late match-up, Colorado State traveled to Salt Lake City to battle the Utes in a game they needed to win. The Rams were boosted by the return of center Matt Nelson, who had been nursing a knee injury the past week. Nelson made an immediate impact by hitting a number of shots and leading CSU to an early lead. Utah fought back to cut the lead to a single point, 28-27 at the break. In the second half, the Rams lost their shooting touch while the Utes scorched the nets by hitting two of every three shots as they pulled away for a 67-49 victory. Rick Majerus’ club remained undefeated in league play, while CSU lost their fourth in a row.

Saturday’s Results

The most exciting game of the day was in Fort Collins, where Colorado State hosted San Diego State. The Rams were finally back at full strength, as point guard Michael Morris joined center Matt Nelson on the court for the first time in four games. CSU started off slowly, trailing by nine points in the first four minutes of the game. However, the Aztecs cooled off dramatically, shooting only 22% in the first half, as they relinquished the lead before halftime. The second half was a tight affair, with SDSU having a chance to win it at the end of regulation. However, Chris Walton missed his second free throw to keep the game deadlocked at 62 apiece.

In overtime, the Rams held a three point lead late, but the Aztecs’ Brandon Heath buried a three pointer with 6 seconds remaining to force another overtime. However, Heath’s heroics were for not, as Colorado State dominated the second overtime, winning handling 92-82. The trio of Michael Morris, Matt Nelson and Matt Williams combined for 66 points and 30 rebounds to give the Rams their first conference win. Brandon Heath scored 26 points, while Aerick Sanders had 15 points and 16 rebounds in SDSU’s tough loss.

UNLV was back on the road this week, as they visited Wyoming in one of the most hostile arenas in the conference. With two conference losses already, the Rebels needed a win and they came through in a major way, winning decisively 76-62. UNLV never trailed in this game, as their quickness and hustle were too much for the Cowboys, who lost center Mory Correa with a sprained ankle in the first half. The Rebels took advantage of this, out-rebounding the bigger Pokes 42-33. Four UNLV players scored in double figures, with workhorse Odartey Blankson leading the way with 15 points, along with 11 rebounds.

After a bad home loss to Air Force a week ago, New Mexico was hoping for better play against league leading Utah. Coach Ritchie McKay decided to shake things up by playing star power forward Danny Granger at point guard. The move flustered the Utes’ defensively, as the Lobos shot 54% in the first half, including 7 three pointers. Meanwhile, Utah struggled offensively against the athletic Lobos, as they ended the first half down 20 points, 38-18. In the second half, the lead never got closer than 12 points, as New Mexico cruised to a 70-54 win. Granger led the way with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, in a display that should have left NBA scouts drooling.

After whipping non-conference foe Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 61-37 on Wednesday night, Air Force was ready to face preseason favorite BYU in the week’s most intriguing match-up. Joe Scott’s squad came out of the locker room on fire, hitting its first 6 shots while forcing 5 turnovers to take a quick 14-4 lead. The Falcons never let up, as they made the Cougars look like they were standing still on defense with numerous drives and backdoors for easy baskets, on their way to a 42-19 halftime lead. Against the nation’s top defense, BYU never had a shot to get back in this game and lost badly, 74-52. Air Force shot an amazing 72% for the game, including 56% from three point land to take sole possession of first place in the Mountain West.

Besides teaching the Falcons about fundamentals, discipline and teamwork, Joe Scott has instilled in his players one of basketball’s most overlooked techniques: the art of flopping at the first sign of contact. With a huge frontcourt advantage, BYU should have been able to pound the ball inside against the weaker Falcons. Yet whenever Rafael Araujo or Garner Meads tried to post up, a quick flop would lead to a whistle and the ball heading the other way. The Mountain West officials, who are some of the best in the country, fell for this scheme and literally took the Cougars out of their offensive game plan. Though it may not have mattered in the final outcome, the game would have been much closer if the refs would have called the game much more evenly. Look for Rick Majerus, whose Utes come to town on Monday, to make some adjustments after watching the film of this game. It should be interesting to see if they can stop the high-flying Falcons.

This Week’s MWC Heat-Miser Award

Michael Morris, Colorado State

24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists versus San Diego State

The stability he brought to the point was the key reason why the Rams were able to break their four game skid against a talented Aztec squad. Coming off a serious injury makes this performance even more impressive.

This Week’s MWC Snow-Miser Award

Mike Hall, BYU

2 points, 0-3 shooting, 2 rebounds versus Air Force

Besides his inept offensive performance, the Cougars’ most athletic player and top defender looked lost against the active Falcons.

     

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