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Mid-Continent Notebook

February 17, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

by Matthew Moll

Six Teams Within Striking Distance of Conference Title

With only two weeks left in the regular season six teams still remain in the hunt for the number one seed in the conference tournament. Three teams – Valparasio, Centenary, and IUPUI – have four losses while the five-loss teams include Oral Roberts, UMKC, and Chicago State.

First place Valparaiso controls its own destiny and its final two conference games are against teams that have more losses than the Crusaders. Valpo plays Chicago State in its final game of the regular season, which, if both teams win out, could be the biggest game of the year.

Centenary and IUPUI also control their own destiny. One of them will have at least five loses at the end of the regular season after the two battle February 21st. The two will need help from either Southern Utah or Chicago State to avoid a potential tie-breaker with current leader Valpo. One thing is certain, however, is that no matter how the Thursday night match up ends, only one of these teams will have the opportunity to tie Valpo at season’s end, assuming the Crusaders win out.

Five-loss teams Oral Roberts, UMKC, and Chicago State can help each other in games against four-loss teams. Only Chicago State plays league-leading Valpo, while Oral Roberts and UMKC play Centenary. UMKC also has a regular season ending match against IUPUI. The five-loss teams each play one another before the season is over. This round robinesque end to the regular season will scale down the number of teams in contention.

Chicago State Plays Way Into Contention

Coming into last week the Cougars were at .500 in league play and in need of a pair of wins to remain in the regular season race. State’s two wins could not have come at a better time as it now travels for two consecutive Mid-Con road games. The Cougars look to be the hottest team going into the tournament. If their momentum takes them into the March 7th tournament on a winning streak the Cougars will be the team to beat.

Chicago State’s Freshman on Verge

If State is going to be a legitimate team in the Mid-Con tournament, Deji Akindele will need more weeks like this past one, particularly his block party against Southern Utah. The 7-foot-1 freshman neutralizes the middle with Rubeen Perry and compliments the perimeter play of Tony Weeden and Craig Franklin.

IUPUI’s Big Week

After a loss to Chicago State, IUPUI is nearing the must win phase part of the season if they wish to have the number one seed in the Mid-Con tourney. The Cougars next play the streaky Oakland Golden Grizzlies who defeated Centenary last week. IUPUI will also have to beat a Centenary team that defeated them by two earlier this season when a last second Odell Bradley three-point try rattled out.

King Tutt

Freshman Ken Tutt has emerged as Oral Roberts’ scoring leader. Injuries to senior guard Ralph Charles forced Tutt into the starting role. Even with Charles’s return, Tutt remains the starter and the team’s go-to-guy. Tutt has scored at least 28 points in the last four games with a high of 30 on Saturday.

Player of Week

Rubeen Perry, senior, Chicago State

Played a pivotal role in wins over Southern Utah and IUPUI averaging 17.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 2.0 steals per game. Perry and company will now make their run towards a Mid-Con regular season title and all important number one seed.

Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

Ken Tutt, freshman, Oral Roberts

Thanks to an injury, Tutt and fellow freshman guard Caleb Green have seen significant playing time. All Tutt has done is average 20.0 points a game and 29.0 points per game in this past week against Valpo and Western Illinois, respectively.

Games of the Week

Oral Roberts vs. Oakland – This game can be seen on Fox SportsNet. This should give Ken “King” Tutt a chance to display his talents to a larger regional audience and to a national audience during half-time high light shows. Saturday 8:00pm (EDT).

Mid-Con Notes

Valparaiso Crusaders (13-10 overall, 10-4 Mid-Con)

Thanks to help from Chicago State, who defeated IUPUI, coupled with two wins last week, perennially tough Valpo now sits alone atop the Mid-Con standings. An 84-73 win over Oral Roberts on February 12 began the week for the Crusaders. Five players were in double figures led by junior Ali Berdiel who had 17 points to go along with his six assists. Homer Drew and company then posted a 70-60 victory over UMKC. Sophomore Dan Oppland scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Valpo past the Kangaroos. This was the Crusaders’ third straight victory and their 9th win in the last 10 games.

Up Next: Valpo will travel south to Cedar City, Utah, to clash with conference foe Southern Utah on Saturday at 9:35 pm. (EDT). Drew will then have five days to prepare the Crusaders for a Thursday night clash with the ACC powerhouse Duke Blue Devils at 9 pm on ESPN2. (EDT)

Centenary Gents (14-4, 8-4)

The Gents find themselves looking up in the standings after splitting two conference games last week, but remain tied in the loss column with both Valpo and IUPUI. Thursday, 23 turnovers halted Centenary’s four-game win streak and allowed Oakland (4-9 Mid-Con) to steal a game with a 76-64 win in Rochester, Michigan. Leading scorer Andrew Wisniewski managed 20 points, while being held to just one of six from three-point range. The Gents bounced back by trouncing Southern Utah, 86-44. Wisniewski celebrated his Mid-Con Student Athlete of the Month selection by pouring in eight of nine threes while leading all scorers with 31 points. Junior Jarmorrow Moragne chipped in 16 points in the win. Forty-four points marks the lowest point total a visiting team has tallied at in the Golden Dome in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Up Next: Two critical conference games this week. On Thursday, the Gents will play host to third place UMKC at 8:05 pm. (EDT). On Saturday they will travel to Indianapolis to squeak sneakers against reigning conference champs and fellow second placers IUPUI at 8 pm. (EDT)

IUPUI Jaguars (16-8, 8-4)

Ron Hunter Bobblehead Night began the Jaguars week in honor of last season’s Mid-Con championship and its subsequent NCAA birth. But the week ended with the defending champs in a tie for second and without momentum heading into the end of conference regular season play. Hunter and his bobbleheads managed an 81-59 win over IPFW. This alphabet soup match gave IUPUI its third straight win. Senior Odell Bradley had 23 points while junior Akeem Clark added 22. Matt Crenshaw also recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 11 assists. Chicago State ended the Jags’ win streak sliding in a 76-72 win in Chitown on Saturday. Valentine’s Day brought no love for the Jags from beyond the arc as they could only connect on two of 10 attempts.

The game saw its last tie at 69 with 1:53 left, but after taking a brief lead IUPUI was unable to hit open shots to close out the game. Bradley scored 24 points but turned the ball over six times.

Up Next: IUPUI will attempt to avenge a January 31st loss to Centenary on Feb. 21. But the Jaguars cannot look past Oakland on the 19th. Both games will be played in Indianapolis at 8 pm. (EDT).

Chicago State Cougars (14-9, 7-5)

With seven wins in the Mid-Con this season the Cougars have already tied their previous record for wins in conference and there are still at least five more Mid-Con games to be played. Chicago State’s first win last week came in the form of a 73-59 win over struggling Southern Utah. Four players scored in double figures for the Cougars led by a breakout performance by freshman Deji Akindele who had 18 points, 10 boards, and swatted three shots. The 7-foot-1 rookie could not have picked a better time to showcase his talents as post-season play looms. Rubeen Perry also contributed 15 points and eight rebounds in the win. State’s 76-72 rollercoaster win (three ties in the last four minutes) on Saturday, allow the Cougars to make a run at a number-one seed for the conference tournament. Four players again scored in double figures for coach Kevin Jones while his team also forced 15 turnovers. Rubeen Perry scored 20 points, gathered seven rebounds, and had three steals in the victory.

Up Next: Chicago State looks to go on the road for a two game stint. The Cougars will play co-third placers Oral Roberts on Thursday at 8:05 pm and UMKC on Saturday at 8 pm. (EDT).

UMKC Kangaroos (12-11, 7-5)

After going 1-1 last week, the Kangaroos also find themselves as one of the six teams a game apart in the loss column. UMKC defeated Mid-Con’s last place team Western Illinois, 74-52. The ‘Roos began the game with a 19 to nothing run. Senior Michael Watson scored 26 points to lead all scorers. UMKC’s three-game winning streak vanished along with its three-point shooting when Valpo held the ‘Roos to just four of 23 from beyond the arc. After a cold shooting first half the Kangaroos pulled to within four with 2:23 left, but that was as close as they would get. Watson led the way for the ‘Roos with 20 points and five assists. But with two wins this week UMKC would put itself in position to make a run at the regular season championship.

Up Next: UMKC will try to sweep season series with two teams jockeying for Mid-Con control. The Kangaroos will play Centenary on Thursday in Shreveport, Louisiana, and will play host to Chicago State on the Saturday. Both games are at 8 pm. (EDT)

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (14-9, 7-5)

Last Thursday the Golden Eagles were in the midst of two streaks that were of the losing nature. Valpo defeated Oral Roberts, 84-73, increasing its losing streak to four games and its losing streak at Valpo to eight games, which is as many times as they played there. The Golden Eagles lost despite an influx of freshman points. Ken Tutt blew up for 28 points while fellow newcomer Caleb Green scored 20 and had 15 boards. Josh Atkinson also scored his 1,000th career point. Valpo did not once relinquish its early lead. The losing streak did end thanks to playing not-so-hot Western Illinois. But then again no one can seem to stop Tutt who lit up the scoreboard again with 20 straight points during the second half. Tutt finished the game with a career-high 30 points. He now has scored 28 or more in four straight games.

Up Next: King Tutt will try to lead the Golden Eagles at home past Chicago State on Thursday and will showcase his skills in front of a national audience on Saturday against Oakland on Fox SportsNet. Both games will be played at 8:05 pm. (EDT)

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (8-15, 4-8)

Formally known as the 15th best shooting team in the nation, Southern Utah has suddenly shot their way out of games and out of the Mid-Con hunt. Last week the T’birds shot a combined 38.2 percent from the field over the course of two games. Chicago State kept all players but leading scorer Jason Baker from scoring double figures. Baker put up 21 in the 73-59 loss. Then on Saturday, Southern Utah was embarrassed by the Gents of Centenary losing by 38 points. David Palmer had 14 points and was the only T’bird to break the single digit barrier.

Up Next: Southern Utah has suffered three straight losses and will face 1-12 Western Illinois on Thursday and the surging Valpo Crusaders on Saturday. Valpo defeated the T’birds, 79-69, earlier this season. Both games will be played in the Cedar City, Utah, and both at 8:00 pm. (EDT)

Oakland Golden Grizzlies (10-15, 4-9)

In their only game last week the Golden Grizzlies posted a 76-64 win over second-place Centenary. Oakland had 17 steals while the Gents turned the ball over 13 times. The double G’s defense held the Gents’ leading scorer, Andrew Wisniewski, without a point in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Senior Mike Helms led the way with 21 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. DeMarcus Ishmell led the defensive effort with six steals while also adding six assists.

Up Next: The Golden Grizzlies hope to upset IUPUI on Thursday in Indianapolis at 8:05 and on Saturday will look to show the nation Mid-Con basketball while facing off against Oral Roberts on Fox SportsNet also at 8:05 (EDT)

Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-12, 3-22)

With two losses last week the Leathernecks have lost eight straight. Carter put up 15 points on five of eight shooting in the loss to UMKC. Will Lewis scored 16 points and had a career-high 15 rebounds in the 74-66 loss to Oral Roberts. The Leathernecks gave up an eight-point lead in the first half as well has allowed the Golden Grizzlies to outscore them on second chance points 16 to two.

Up Next: The ‘Necks hope to have a change of fortune at Southern Utah on Thursday and on Saturday at IUPUI. The games will be at 8:00 and 8:05pm, respectively. (EDT)


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