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Big 12 Notebook

February 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

With only a month left in the regular season, it’s time to find out who the respective contenders and pretenders are in college basketball, and the Big 12 is no exception. Let’s hop to it.

Either you got it or you don’t

Contender: Oklahoma State – Halfway through the Big 12 slate, Eddie Sutton’s Cowboys have shown that they may be the most consistent team in the Big 12. They have jumped from being merely a strong link in the Big 12 in years past to being perhaps its strongest link.

Pretender: Iowa State – Even with upset wins over Missouri and Kansas, the Cyclones have shown that they’re at least a year away from NCAA Tournament contention. They have yet to win a game outside the state of Iowa and Oklahoma State shredded the mystique of Hilton Coliseum with an 88-67 beat-down on Saturday.

Contender: Kansas – Forget the departures of Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Roy Williams. Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien and Bill Self are doing just fine. And oh by the way – this week, Big Monday pits the Jayhawks and the Cowboys. Missing it would be a travesty.

Pretender: Missouri – Somebody forgot to tell the Tigers that they have to play every game hard, not just home games or those against rivals. To make the NCAA’s, the once-No. 2 Tigers likely need to win the rest of their regular-season games or win the Big 12 Tournament.

Bobby Knight’s temper strikes again

An unfortunate situation has unfolded in Lubbock over the past week surrounding a salad-bar confrontation between Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight and TTU chancellor David Smith. Reportedly, the two men ran into each other in the lunch section of a grocery store, and Smith began a conversation by telling Knight that he thought the coach had done a good job with his 17-5 team. Here the story told by Knight and Smith splits.

Knight said he responded to Smith’s comment by saying he thought he had done a good job all along. Then Knight said Smith asked him “You’ve got issues. What are they?” and Knight said he became upset and an argument ensued. Knight said he acknowledges blame for not walking away after Smith’s comment, but also insisted that he didn’t instigate any confrontation.

Smith, meanwhile, said in a statement that Knight became enraged and accused Smith of calling him a liar. Smith said Knight clenched his fists and came up behind him and made a scene in the restaurant area.

Although university officials mentioned a suspension of three to five days as punishment for Knight, they decided on a reprimand for the General. Knight coached Texas Tech to a win over Baylor on Tuesday night, and then, after the reprimand, led his Red Raiders in a loss to Kansas on Saturday.

We all know Knight has his temper problems, but let’s look at the whole picture. He’s quite possibly the greatest coach to set foot on a basketball court; he places academia before athletics (having donated money to the school library at both Indiana and now at Texas Tech); and refused his salary of $250,000 last year because he felt he didn’t perform his job well. If I were an athletic director, I would hire Knight in half a second despite any behavioral problems he may have exhibited in the past. Knight is a proud man and has every right to be, and he simply likes things done his way. The benefits of having Knight as a coach easily outweigh the costs.

OU player’s season in the books

Oklahoma big man Kevin Bookout had surgery on his sprained shoulder Thursday and will be out for the rest of the season. Bookout suffered the injury in an October practice but played with limited effectiveness until two weeks ago, when he opted for the surgery. The sophomore forward had been averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 25.6 minutes per game. The Texas Longhorns were the first to exploit OU’s lack of a presence inside, as their big men had a field day in the paint in a 66-37 Sunday. Oh yeah, and when you only score 37 points in a game, something might be wrong.

In other big-man-injury news, Missouri freshman forward Linas Kleiza dislocated his shoulder fighting for a rebound against Colorado on Jan. 28. He will be out for at least another week.

The other great game

While the entire country was buzzing yesterday about the incredible finish to the Arizona-Stanford game (and rightfully so), there was a lower-profile finish that rivaled it an hour later in the game between Kansas State and Colorado in Boulder.

With 3:49 to play, Colorado held a commanding 78-67 lead and were ready to play out the string. However, K-State wasn’t through. A couple of three-pointers and four free-throw misses from CU’s Marcus Hall and the lead had been cut to 78-76 with 22 seconds left. Michel Morandais made two freebies for the Buffs, but Jarrett Hart hit another three to cut the lead to 80-79 with 12 seconds to go. Frank Richards then stole CU’s inbounds pass and hit two free throws to give the Wildcats an improbable 81-80 lead with 10 seconds left.

Colorado, though, avoided the heartbreaking loss when Jayson Obazuaye drove all the way down the floor for a lay-up with 3 seconds to go and an 82-81 win. Wonder if Ricardo Patton and the Buffaloes had a little chat about closing out games and hitting your free throws after that one.

Around the Big 12

Baylor Bears (2-6 Big 12, 7-14 overall)

This is going above and beyond the call of duty for Scott Drew. He came into Waco to take over a program in shambles, and at times this year, the team has looked pretty bad. But Drew, with only six scholarship players and a stained program, has managed to win seven games and now two in the Big 12.

In a 72-64 win over Texas A&M on Saturday, Harvey Thomas stole the show inside and Matt Sayman stole it on the perimeter. Both players scored 20 points and Thomas added 6 blocks and Sayman contributed 5 assists as the Bears hung on for a victory. BU led by as many as 15 before A&M closed within four with just more than two minutes to play. The Bears made 12-of-16 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

Earlier in the week, Baylor had to play second fiddle to the news surrounding the Bobby Knight fiasco. BU lost to the reprimanded Knight and his Red Raiders 83-63 despite 14 points from Sayman and 13 from Terrance Thomas. Still, the Bears didn’t play poorly in Lubbock, keeping the game even until the second half. But Tech buried eight of its first 11 shots in the second half to go up 55-42 and Baylor couldn’t recover.

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas, Saturday at Oklahoma State

Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 13-7)

Going to Austin on Wednesday wasn’t a really good idea for the Buffaloes. Texas shot 56 percent in the first half and built a 38-26 lead. Colorado came back with nine unanswered points to cut the lead to three at halftime, but no matter what the Buffs did, Texas had an answer. In the second half, it was seldom-heard-from guard Sydmill Harris who lit up CU, shooting 3-of-3 from three-point range in the game for 13 points. Michel Morandais cooled down from a red-hot stretch the week before but still scored 15, and David Harrison led the team with 18 points and 9 rebounds, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Letting K-State waltz back from a late 11-point deficit could have destroyed Colorado’s season, but Jayson Obazuaye made sure that didn’t happen with his game-winning driving lay-up. Blair Wilson got Colorado the big lead, shooting an astounding 7-of-10 from three-point range and putting up 26 points, and Harrison and Morandais combined for 37 more in the win.

This week: Tuesday at Missouri

Iowa State Cyclones (4-4, 13-6)

Ouch. Pretty disheartening week in Ames after the Cyclones had excited fans with their recent upset of Kansas. First, on Wednesday, Oklahoma crushed ISU 75-48, even without the services of Kevin Bookout. The Cyclones did everything wrong – they let a bad offensive team roll up 75 points, and only put up 17 of their own in the first half. OU exploded for a 60-36 lead after a 21-5 run midway through the second half. It’s hard to find a bright spot for Iowa State in this one; freshmen Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, the only two Cyclones who scored in double figures, went a combined 8-of-26 from the floor.

The struggles followed ISU to a place they haven’t before on Saturday, Hilton Coliseum. After getting out to a 12-4 lead, things didn’t go so well, but at least the offense was somewhat back on track. Oklahoma State pounded Iowa State 88-67. Jake Sullivan, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit his fifth three-pointer to cut the lead to 61-55 in the second half, but OSU responded with an 11-2 run. Stinson added 19 points.

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

Kansas Jayhawks (7-1, 15-4)

First, on Monday, Kansas put on a great defensive show in beating arch-rival Missouri 65-56. Then the Jayhawks put on a startling offensive performance in throttling Texas Tech 96-77 on Saturday. The constant was a great Allen Fieldhouse crowd and the play of Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien.

On Big Monday, KU had to fight off a spirited MU team all night long. A back-and-forth first half saw nearly as many blocks as field goals and a 29-27 Jayhawk lead at halftime. In the second stanza, the offenses woke up for a short while, and KU made a decisive 8-0 run to take a 48-42 lead. The Tigers fought back to within a point, 53-52, but Miles had some spectacular assists to Simien to hold on for the win. Miles finished with 11 points and 8 assists and Simien led all scorers with 18 points.

Opening a game by shooting 14-of-19 from the field is impressive by itself. Doing it against a Bob Knight-coached team, like KU did against Texas Tech on Saturday, is downright amazing. Kansas couldn’t really shake the Red Raiders, though, until an 11-0 run midway through the second half that made the score 74-54. Simien finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds and Miles added 9 assists to go with 8 points. Coach Bill Self wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive effort, however. He said KU will have to step it up on that end to beat Oklahoma State on Monday.

This week: Monday at Oklahoma State, Sunday at Nebraska

Kansas State Wildcats (2-6, 10-9)

K-State certainly made a valiant effort Saturday at Colorado, but before we get to that, let’s look at a game the Wildcats actually won. KSU got a 78-61 win over Nebraska on Wednesday by nearly doubling the Huskers’ shooting percentage. That’s right: 63 percent for Kansas State, 32 percent for Nebraska. You’ll win a lot of games doing that. Jeremiah Massey scored 24 points to lead K-State.

Maybe if KSU had started fouling CU’s Marcus Hall from the opening tip, the Wildcats would have gone 2-0 this week. The freshman missed four straight free throws to let KSU take an improbable lead with 10 seconds to go, but the Wildcats failed to get in front of Jayson Obazuaye on the final possession of the game and the Buffaloes won anyway. Tim Ellis scored 25 points and Massey added 21 more, but K-State lost its 20th straight Big 12 road game.

This week: Wednesday vs. Iowa State, Saturday at Texas Tech

Missouri Tigers (4-5, 9-10)

A pair of losses made this a tough week for Mizzou, and the Tigers are at a point where they can’t afford any more slip-ups this season.

In Monday’s 65-56 loss in Lawrence, a game that featured 7 ties and 17 lead changes, Missouri played perhaps its best defense of the season, but in the end, missed too many easy baskets and gave Kansas too many of its own to pull out the road win. Arthur Johnson scored 15 points and had 9 rebounds and Rickey Paulding had 14 and 6, but Johnson’s miss of the front end of a one-and-one and a Paulding turnover contributed to the loss in the final minutes.

As for Saturday’s disaster in Lincoln, there really are no excuses for Mizzou. This was a game Missouri probably should have won easily, but the Tigers committed 17 turnovers, dropping passes and not fighting for loose balls all over the place, but also failed to defend the three-point shot or even mount a serious threat. After Nebraska jumped to a 14-4 lead, MU never got closer than nine points down. Nothing looks good now for Missouri, but sophomore transfer Jason Conley did find his shooting touch again and scored 12 points. Another scoring threat might be just what MU needs to go on a much-needed run.

This week: Tuesday vs. Colorado, Sunday vs. UNLV

Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-6, 12-7)

It was a tale of two cities for the Huskers this week, much like it always is.

Wednesday in Manhattan: 32 percent from the field, 8-of-33 from the three-point line, no field goals for nearly 11 minutes at one point in the second half, and a 78-61 loss to Kansas State.

Saturday in Lincoln: 12-of-21 from three-point land, a 10-2 run over the same second-half stretch and a 78-62 win against Missouri. Brian Conklin led the charge with 5 three pointers and 17 points. One of the threes put NU up 52-35 with 13:55 to play to cap the 10-2 run. The Huskers also took advantage of 12 offensive rebounds for 22 second-chance points and 17 MU turnovers for 24 points.

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

Oklahoma Sooners (4-4, 14-5)

Kelvin Sampson may want to put his foot in his mouth after Oklahoma’s next big win. Following the Sooners’ 75-48 shellacking of Iowa State on Wednesday, Sampson said his squad was finally playing like “a team” and that the Sooners were “due for this.” He also said his guys were “tough” for winning four straight after losing the same number in a row. He had reason to be proud: the Sooners played suffocating defense and put up 75 points despite a scoreless night from point guard Drew Lavender and the absence of Kevin Bookout. De’Angelo Alexander scored 17 points off the bench to lead OU.

Kelvin wasn’t so pleased after OU was torched 66-37 by Texas on Sunday. 37 points? Are you kidding me? That’s less than OU scored in the second half alone Wednesday. The Sooners returned to their offensive woes by shooting 26 percent from the floor, and had only one player, Alexander, in double figures with 12 points. Perhaps the most telling statistic in this one: OU was 1-of-21 from three-point range, and didn’t hit one until there was only 2:25 left and Texas had a 30-point lead.

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

Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1, 17-2)

Wednesday’s 91-79 win for Oklahoma State over Texas A&M probably wasn’t quite as easy as it should have been. The Aggies hung around and were within five points several times in the second half, but OSU just couldn’t be stopped. Point guard transfer John Lucas scored 27 points and Tony Allen added 21, as the ‘Pokes shot 69 percent in the second half.

The second half was good to OSU again Saturday, when it was an 88-67 winner over Iowa State on the road. The Cowboys scored 49 points after halftime and shot 63 percent for the game. Lucas and Ivan McFarlin both had 21 points, and Allen scored 18. The game was going the Cowboys’ way early, as they answered a 12-4 opening deficit with a 9-0 run.

Since losing at Texas Tech by 21 to open conference play, Oklahoma State has won its Big 12 games by an average of 10.4 points. Having Monday’s game with Kansas at home is a big bonus.

This week: Monday vs. Kansas, Saturday vs. Baylor

Texas Longhorns (7-1, 16-3)

The mark of a good team is when different players step up every game, and the Longhorns had that this week. First on Tuesday, Sydmill Harris connected on 3-of-3 three-pointers for 13 points and Kevin Paulino also had 13 as Texas beat Colorado 76-63. The Longhorns kept CU at a comfortable 8-to-10 point distance the entire second half, after shooting 56 percent but leading only 38-36 at halftime.

Brian Boddicker and James Mouton were the catalysts on Sunday in the ‘Horns’ 66-37 blow-out of Oklahoma, as each scored 13 points, but the real story was Texas’ defense. UT had a 44-30 rebounding edge, forced 17 turnovers and held OU to 26 percent shooting. A 10-3 run out of the locker room made the score 45-23 and put the game safely in the Longhorn’s hands.

This week: Tuesday at Baylor, Saturday at Iowa State

Texas A&M Aggies (0-8, 7-12)

You’ve got to feel for the Aggies down in College Station. The only winless Big 12 team has come so close so many times. A&M has lost its conference games by an average of 7.6 points and its biggest defeat came Wednesday in a relatively close game that Oklahoma State won 91-79. The Aggies went on an 11-2 run to close to 55-51 early in the second half, but couldn’t stop OSU. Jesse King led TAMU with 19 points and Andy Slocum added 10 points and 15 rebounds.

Not even hapless Baylor could provide relief for apparently more wretched Texas A&M on Saturday. Again the Aggies hung tough after falling behind by 15, as King made a three to pull within 60-56, but A&M committed two consecutive turnovers to allow the Bears to hang on. The Aggies’ 23 turnovers offset their 43-22 advantage on the boards.

“It’s been too long, and we need to win a game,” Nick Anderson said. Maybe relief for the Aggies can come in the form of Nebraska’s 13-game conference road losing streak.

This week: Wednesday vs. Nebraska, Saturday vs. Oklahoma

Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3, 17-5)

Despite the controversy surrounding coach Knight and David Smith, you had better believe the General will keep his troops playing well. In the first game after Knight’s reprimand, TTU took care of Baylor 83-63 behind 25 points from Andre Emmett and 22 from Ronald Ross. After a back-and-forth first half, Tech used a run of 13-2 to put the game away early in the second period. Knight received a loud ovation from the crowd and said after the game he hadn’t eaten in 48 hours.

Tech didn’t play poorly on Saturday, at least not on the offensive end, but the Raiders couldn’t keep up with KU in the Phog. Emmett exploded for 29 points and 8 rebounds, but the Jayhawks were too much. Eight KU players scored at least 7 points, while only five TTU players can make that claim. Something tells me defense will be even more of a priority in Raider practice this week.

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

Big 12 Player of the Week

Aaron Miles, Kansas

The headlines might go to Wayne Simien (20 points and 10.5 rebounds this week), but the catalyst is Miles. Key player in both Jayhawk wins this week, averaging 9.5 points and a whopping 8.5 assists against Missouri and Texas Tech.

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

John Lucas, Oklahoma State

This is kind of cheating, considering that Lucas previously played in the Big 12 for Baylor, but you can’t argue with 24 points and 5 assists per game and a 7-1 conference record.

Five games to watch this week

Monday: Kansas at Oklahoma State – for the conference title? (The Longhorns might have something to say about that.)

Wednesday: Texas Tech at Oklahoma – big game for two teams reeling from last weekend

Saturday: Texas at Iowa State – the kind of business Texas needs to take care of to stay at the top of the standings

Sunday: Kansas at Nebraska – ever dangerous in Lincoln, the Huskers would love to give KU another surprise road loss

Sunday: UNLV at Missouri – The last non-conference game of the year for Big 12 teams until the postseason, and Mizzou needs a win bad.

     

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