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Big 12 Notebook

February 17, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

I’m just confused. Last week, I said Kansas was on the way up and Missouri and Iowa State were on the way down. The Jayhawks, Tigers and Cyclones proceeded to prove me dead wrong. One thing I do know for sure: the last few weeks in the Big 12 are going to be nothing but fun.

Oklahoma State leads by surviving

Last week, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas were tied atop the Big 12 with identical 7-1 records. But this week, OSU was the only team that got through without a loss.

First, on Monday, the Cowboys took out the Jayhawks on Big Monday, jumping to an early 26-8 lead and never looking back. Point guard John Lucas was spectacular for Oklahoma State, scoring 21 points and all five Cowboys scored in double figures.. For KU, Wayne Simien scored 25 points and had 6 rebounds, but nobody else was able to dent a tenacious OSU defense. After the opening Cowboy start, the Jayhawks never got closer than 12 points.

That game by itself made this a good week in Stillwater, but the weekend made it even sweeter. The Cowboys took care of Baylor easily on Saturday and then watched as Iowa State pulled a shocker against Texas, knocking the Longhorns from their first-place perch. ISU forward Damion Staple used a dunk to put the Cyclones up 78-77 and then Brian Boddicker missed two free throws in the final seconds to send Texas to its first loss in 6 games.

As an added bonus, Eddie Sutton’s 9-1 team saw Kansas fall two games out of first with an ugly 74-55 loss at Nebraska. The Huskers shot 61 percent in the second half and turned a one-point KU halftime lead into an upset rout.

So, as the Big 12 standings stand heading into tonight’s Oklahoma State-Oklahoma battle, OSU is alone in first at 9-1, Texas stands at 8-2 and Kansas has fallen to 7-3. What a difference a week makes.

Iowa State and Nebraska shake things up

While the battle for the Big 12 regular-season title has shaken into a set first, second and third place team this week, the melee in the middle of the pack and fourth place is still entirely up in the air.

Iowa State’s tendency to lose badly on the road but its ability to beat anybody at home has contributed to the interesting race. The Cyclones took a step back when Kansas State blew them out Wednesday in Manhattan, but then made up for it and brought Texas back to Earth with a stunner on Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Lincoln, Nebraska has won three straight after upsetting Kansas in Lincoln on Saturday. This makes the Huskers 4-6 in the Big 12 and puts them right in the race for fourth. But the NU win also means something else: Kansas has fallen to 7-3 and is in reach of all of those middle-of-the-pack teams. Three games now separate seven teams, all falling from 7-3 to 4-6 in conference games. Included in that number is five teams that are either 6-4 or 5-5.

Oh, So THAT’S what all the preseason hype was about

Missouri finally looked like the team it was supposed to be on Sunday in thrashing UNLV 94-60. The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country earlier in the season, but have played well below their expected level in starting the season 10-10.

Against the Rebels, however, MU jumped to a 19-8 lead with a 15-0 run and poured it on. The Tigers were led by senior center Arthur Johnson, who had 23 points and 8 rebounds, but two newcomers may have been the key. Freshman guard Thomas Gardner scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and junior wing Jason Conley scored 17, pulled down 8 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and stripped 5 steals. The key for Mizzou will be, as it has been all year, to keep this momentum going this week against Iowa State and Baylor and even more so next week versus Oklahoma State.

Texas A&M stays close, but stays winless

I’m surprised Melvin Watkins hasn’t pulled out all of his hair yet in College Station. The Texas A&M coach has watched his team fight down to the wire in game after game in conference play, but the Aggies haven’t been able to pull even one close game out and are 0-10 in the Big 12. The latest heartbreaks came to Nebraska and Oklahoma at home this week. Against the Huskers, A&M had a one-point lead at the half and fought back to within three with a minute to play, but couldn’t stop NU’s free-throw machine.

Then, Saturday against Oklahoma, the Aggies had a 70-69 lead with less than two minutes to play, but Drew Lavender broke A&M’s collective back with nine points in the final two minutes. Things don’t get any easier in College Station – A&M’s two games this week are at Texas and at Texas Tech, and they have only two home games left.

And now for a non-basketball-related note…

Are there any true sports fans out there who don’t despise what George Steinbrenner is doing with the New York Yankees. The team’s signing of Alex Rodriguez on Sunday increases an already pregnant payroll to $191 million. Two – that’s right, just two – other teams have payrolls of more than $100 million, and here Steinbrenner is pushing double that. Frankly, I’m disgusted. But, looking on the bright side, isn’t that what makes college sports so great?

Big 12 Player of the Week

Drew Lavender, guard, Oklahoma: He’s only a freshman and he’s not very tall, but Lavender earned these honors this week. He had 11 points and 5 assists against Texas Tech and then single-handedly held off Texas A&M with 31 points to help the Sooners bounce back from an ugly loss to Texas last Sunday.

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

Jason Conley, junior wing, Missouri: the highly-touted transfer Conley is starting to live up to expectations in Columbia, where this week he had 12 points and led a key run against Colorado and then filled up the stat sheet against UNLV: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals.

Around the Big 12:

Baylor Bears (7-16 overall, 2-8 Big 12)

If Baylor still had Kenny Taylor, the Bears would have beat Texas on Tuesday 76-66. Unfortunately for Scott Drew and company, Taylor transferred to the Longhorns and scored his 18 points on their side in the game, leading to an 84-58 Texas win. Harvey Thomas, who still does play for Baylor, scored 20 points and pulled down 7 rebounds, but Baylor shot 18-of-61 from the floor for a paltry 29 percent, while Texas shot 51 percent.

Against Oklahoma State on Saturday, the poor Bears were over-matched from the beginning. Terrance Thomas poured in 16 points, but another poor shooting performance, this time 34 percent, doomed Baylor. Another former Bear hurt his old team in this one, John Lucas with 13 points and 4 assists. Baylor was down 43-14 at the half as the two Thomas’s, Harvey and Thomas, were held to two points before the break. It was all academic from there.

This week: Wednesday at Kansas, Saturday vs. Missouri

Colorado Buffaloes (13-8, 5-5)

David Harrison, the Buffs’ senior center, was almost in tears after Colorado’s 77-65 loss to Missouri on Tuesday. Harrison went 2-of-11 from the free-throw line, including 2-of-7 during a crucial stretch that ended up being Mizzou’s deciding 18-2 run. As a team, CU shot only 13-of-26 from the charity stripe, and only 5-of-18 outside of Michel Morandais. Morandais finished with 18 points but shot only 4-of-15 from the field, and the Buffaloes committed 19 turnovers, 15 in the first half, and lost despite 8-of-17 team shooting from three-point range.

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

Iowa State Cyclones (14-7, 5-5)

It was famine, then feast for the boys from Ames this week. In a starving performance Wednesday night, the Cyclones lost by 31 points to Kansas State in their 21st consecutive Big 12 road loss. ISU shot 37 percent and made 17 turnovers, trailed 47-25 at halftime, and then played an equally abysmal second half. In two good individual performances, Jackson Vroman scored 16 points and had 11 rebounds and freshman Curtis Stinson also scored 16 points.

The big dinner came in Ames on Saturday night, when ISU came back from a 61-47 second-half deficit to trump Texas 78-77. Jake Sullivan had 24 points, Vroman scored 20 and Stinson added 18 with 10 assists, including the assist for the game-winning dunk by Damion Staple, who scored 6 points off the bench. Brian Boddicker missed two free throws to seal the win for Iowa State. Coach Wayne Morgan said the crowd at Hilton Coliseum played a huge role in the comeback. I think I see a developing trend here (OK, so a small child could probably see it): Iowa State is tough, nearly impossible to beat at home, but on the road, your local intramural team could stand a chance. Uh oh, two tough road games this week.

This week: Wednesday at Missouri, Saturday at Kansas

Kansas Jayhawks (15-6, 7-3)

The fans in Lawrence aren’t used to losing two straight games by a combined 39 points, but that’s what they’ve got to deal with this week. Before I blinked and took a second look, I thought Wayne Simien was the only Jayhawk who caught the plane to Oklahoma State on Monday. Simien played his heart out in getting 25 points, but the rest of the KU players combined for only 35 and Oklahoma State poured it on early and often in an 80-60 win. Aaron Miles had eight more assists, but he shot 1-of-7 from the floor. Besides Simien, who was an uncanny 12-of-15, the Jayhawks shot 13-of-40, or 32 percent.

At least Kansas played one half on Sunday when they traveled to Lincoln to face Nebraska. Kansas took a one-point lead in to the locker room, but emerged only to get its tail kicked. The Huskers outscored KU in the second half 47-27 for a 74-55 win. Again, Simien played well (17 points and 12 rebounds) and Miles did not shoot well (3-of-10 from the floor). Forward Jeff Graves didn’t even suit up for the game because Bill Self was disappointed with his practice effort, the second time this season such a suspension has occurred.

Rest for the wounded Jayhawks comes in the form of games against Baylor and Iowa State (away from dreaded Hilton) this week.

This week: Wednesday vs. Baylor, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Kansas State Wildcats (11-10, 3-7)

K-State is proving it will be a tough test for whoever decides to take the Wildcats on, especially in Manhattan. KSU manhandled Iowa State 90-59 on Wednesday, as Jarrett Hart scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and Jeremiah Massey added 20 points and 12 rebounds. Marques Hayden also had a double-double for the Wildcats, with 10 points and 13 boards. K-State scored the first nine points of the game, never trailed, and put the game away early in the second with an 8-0 run that made the scored 62-32.

Despite continually falling behind Texas Tech on Saturday, K-State was able to make it a game with the Red Raiders. The Wildcats made a 13-point deficit only three at halftime and again cut the lead to a single possession with just than five minutes to play. Unfortunately for KSU, Tech got another lead and the Wildcats had no chance to come back from this one. Hart and Tim Ellis both scored 20 points in a losing effort. The final scored was 82-71.

This week: Wednesday at Nebraska, Saturday vs. Colorado

Missouri Tigers (11-10, 5-5)

It’s ironic that the Tigers are finally showing some ferocity without the services of the Vanilla Gorilla. Freshman forward Linas Kleiza will have surgery on his separated shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season, MU announced this week. Earlier in the week, senior guard Josh Kroenke became unavailable when he was injured by a broken backboard in practice. For the Tigers, however, this was all the bad news they would receive this week.

A hard-fought game turned Mizzou’s way on Wednesday and they beat Colorado 77-65. With CU leading 59-57, Missouri went on an 18-2 run to put the game safely in its hands. The run was led by Jason Conley, who scored 7 of his 12 points during the stretch, and Jimmy McKinney, who hit a big three-pointer. MU’s front-court players carried the load in the first half, however. Forward Travon Bryant scored 17 points and had 9 rebounds and 6 assists while center Arthur Johnson added 16 points.

In an impressive showing Sunday, the Tigers thrashed UNLV 94-60. The boys from Vegas had no chance almost from the tip. UNLV got out to an 8-4 lead, but the Tigers played the most impressive half of basketball I have seen this year. The facts: a 54-27 lead at the break, 15 assists versus only 2 turnovers, a 29-11 rebounding edge, 22-of-42 from the field, including 6-of-12 from long range, and 22 consecutive possessions in which MU scored 21 times. Needless to say, the second half wasn’t needed. Thomas Gardner finished with 20 points, Johnson had 23 and Conley had 17 to go with 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.

This week: Wednesday vs. Iowa State, Saturday at Baylor

Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-7, 4-6)

Usually, hitting only 2 field goals in the last 14 minutes of a game spells doom. But, of course, it helps when you shoot 26 free throws and make 25 of them. Such was the case Wednesday night for Nebraska in its 78-72 victory over Texas A&M. An 18-3 run gave Nebraska a 50-36 edge early in the second half and they held on with freebies. Nate Johnson led the Huskers with 19 points.

Sunday versus Kansas, a 31-12 run out of the gate in the second half was all NU needed to secure a 74-55 win. Johnson, John Turek and Andrew Drevo paced the Huskers with 14 points a piece. All three had good shooting performances: Johnson was 4-of-6, Turek was 5-of-9 and Drevo was 7-of-11. As a team NU shot 56 percent, but it may have been a guy who went 1-of-5 from the floor that hit the game’s biggest shot. Marcus Neal hit a three to start the second half to give Nebraska a 30-28 lead for his only 3 points. The Huskers never trailed again.

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

Oklahoma Sooners (16-5, 6-4)

A quick start and spread-out scoring gave the Sooners a much-needed 63-48 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday. OU got off to a 23-8 lead and each team scored 40 points from that point in the game. Lawrence McKenzie had 15 points on just three field goals and Drew Lavender and De’Angelo Alexander each had 11 points. Alexander was playing on a bum ankle and Lavender was coming off a scoreless performance in a game OU lost 66-37 to Texas. This win at home was vital to Oklahoma’s season after the crushing loss in Austin.

Lavender shone in Saturday’s 78-72 win at Texas A&M. He scored a career-high 31 points, including 9 in the last two minutes to help the Sooners hold off the Aggies. Jason Detrick added 14 points and McKenzie had 10, but it was Lavender who scored all but four of OU’s points down the stretch, including a big three he hit after the Sooners rebounded one of his free throw misses.

Two big, big rivalry games this week. In-state showdown on Big Monday, and then a quick turnaround game against Texas where OU will be looking for some revenge.

This week: Monday vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday vs. Texas

Oklahoma State Cowboys (19-2, 9-1)

The favorite to win the Big 12 regular-season title unfolded before the nation’s eyes on Monday when Oklahoma State toyed with Kansas throughout a dominating 80-60 victory. John Lucas, OSU’s stud point guard, scored 21 points and didn’t miss a shot in the first half. He finished shooting 7-of-9 from the field. Every OSU starter scored in double figures and the Cowboys took a 44-26 lead into halftime en route to the big victory.

Speaking of dominating wins, Oklahoma State pulverized Baylor 91-58 on Saturday in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. OSU led 43-14 at halftime and led by as many as 39 points in the second half. Baylor players, some of them Lucas’ former teammates, said the former Baylor guard has improved tremendously since last year, when he led the Bears to a shocking win at Oklahoma State.

Some tough challenges still remain for OSU before it gets to a big March 1 showdown with Texas, including a game at Oklahoma tonight. Are you ready for Bedlam?

This week: Monday at Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Nebraska

Texas Longhorns (17-4, 8-2)

The Longhorns lost a chance to be tied for the Big 12 lead when a raucous Iowa State crowd persuaded Brian Boddicker to miss two free throws in the game’s closing seconds as the Cyclones got the 78-77 upset victory. The loss came after Texas had gotten a 14-point second-half lead, but when P.J. Tucker slipped on defense, Curtis Stinson found Damion Staple for a dunk and then Brandon Mouton’s follow of Boddicker’s second missed free throw was an airball. Mouton finished with 29 points and Tucker re-emerged with a 12-point game, but for once, Texas couldn’t come up with a miracle road win, as they did at Providence, at Missouri and at Texas Tech.

No miracle was needed in Tuesday’s 84-58 victory at Baylor. Former Bear Kenny Thomas scored 18 points on 6 three-pointers, Kevin Paulino had 15 points and Tucker had 10. Texas turned a close, 21-18 lead into a 36-19 halftime cushion with a deciding 15-1 run.

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

Texas A&M Aggies (7-14, 0-10)

Mark it down on your calendars, folks. February 24, Baylor at Texas A&M, and the Aggies’ best chance to win a Big 12 game in the regular season. Of course, if they could just win close games, they might be 10-0 at this point rather than 0-10. A&M hasn’t lost a conference game by more than 12 points and this week was no different, losing by a combined 12 points in losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma. Jesse King scored 18 points and had 7 rebounds against the Huskers, but the Aggies had to play catch-up for the entire second half and couldn’t quite get it done, losing 83-77.

It was just about the same story on Saturday in OU’s 78-72f victory. This time, A&M even had a late lead, but Drew Lavender wouldn’t let TAMU taste victory. Kevin Turner, returning from a one-game disciplinary suspension, led A&M with 16 points.

Something else to keep in mind: teams that lose lots of close games eventually start winning them. The Aggies will affect the Big 12 race in some way before it’s all said and done – they’re the perfect spoiler team.

This week: Wednesday at Texas, Saturday at Texas Tech

Texas Tech Red Raiders (18-6, 6-4)

In the first half of Wednesday’s 63-48 loss to Oklahoma, Texas Tech committed 16 turnovers and made only 8 field goals. That’s not exactly the best strategy to win a game, and it gave TTU a 31-21 deficit going into the break. But a 2-of-20 shooting stretch from OU gave the Red Raiders some daylight, and they got to within 34-33 before OU hit some big three-pointers to keep a working margin en route to the victory. Andre Emmett scored 22 points, but only one other Raider got into double figures.

Texas Tech got back in the winning column on Saturday with an 82-71 win over Kansas State in Lubbock. Emmett scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds and seven Red Raiders scored at least 6 points in the win. Coach Bob Knight wasn’t happy that TTU blew several double-digit leads before securing the win late, but this was important for Tech’s seeding in both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

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

5 games to watch this week

Monday: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – The first of two revenge games for OU this week.

Wednesday: Texas Tech at Colorado – If Tech is going to be a factor for the Big 12 title, they need a win in Boulder.

Saturday: Colorado at Kansas State – Likewise, if Colorado wants to make the Big Dance, it needs to avoid traps like the one waiting in Manhattan.

Saturday: Nebraska at Oklahoma State – NU has been playing very well lately, but can the Huskers take it to a place like Gallagher-Iba Arena?

Saturday: Texas at Oklahoma – Revenge game No. 2, and also a chance for the Sooners to be right in the thick of things for a top-three finish.

     

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