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Conference USA Notebook

February 18, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Breakthrough of the week

Last week it was East Carolina winning on the road. This week it was USF winning – period. The last team with no conference wins finally cracked the ‘W’ column with a 68-60 against Southern Miss Saturday. Even without star forward Terrance Leather, who was suspended for the game for missing class, the Bulls withstood the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt with great performances from its backcourt. Bradley Mosley scored a season high 30 points, while playing all 40 minutes. His backcourt mate Brian Swift chipped in thirteen points and eight assists, while also playing the whole game.

The win improved USF’s record to 7-14 overall and 1-9 in conference play. Earlier in the week, the Bulls played well but still could not defeat Cincinnati on the road, losing 80-67. USF’s next game will be difficult, on the road against Charlotte, but have another winnable game Saturday when they travel to Houston.

Holland is back

So much for Delonte Holland’s slump. After averaging 7.8 points per game during a four-game stretch, Holland has rediscovered his stroke and has averaged nineteen points per game during the past three contests, all three DePaul wins. During the stretch, Holland has shot 60 percent from the field and made 11-of-13 free throws. Holland will face another test this week against Saint Louis, one of the better defensive teams in C-USA. However, Holland went for seventeen points against those same Billikens earlier this week.

Defending champs?

Of all the teams that have fallen on hard times, who would have guessed it would be the defending regular season champions and Final Four participant Marquette? The Golden Eagles are currently in the midst of their second streak of three losses and have dropped six of their past eight games. With a 4-6 conference record, they are tied for ninth place and right now are looking at an invitation to the NIT. Their problem right now – no defense.

During its current losing streak, the Eagles are allowing 86 points per game. Even with Travis Diener leading C-USA in both scoring and assists, Marquette does not have firepower to out-score teams. If they are to make a late-season run at the big dance, they will have to make a commitment to defense. Last week they lost on the road to DePaul, 84-78, before getting waxed at home by Memphis, 89-71. They return to Wednesday at Saint Louis.

So if a Billikens win occurs with a lunar moon…

It’s starting to get outright insane at the top of the C-USA. If all the cards fall right, it’s possible six teams will be tied for first. Currently Memphis is in first place at 9-2 but their lone game next week is against UAB. While it’s at home, this will be as tough as beating Louisville was two weeks ago. The Blazers not only must play on the road at the Tigers, but also host Cincinnati. The Bearcats not only have to travel to Birmingham, but also must play Louisville at home. And Louisville also must go on the road to TCU, who has been a pleasant surprise at 5-5 in conference play. Somewhere in that mess, a few of the top dogs are going to fall.

Sitting at 7-3 and 8-3, respectively, are Charlotte and DePaul, who have easier water to tread this week. The Blue Demons play against Saint Louis, while the Niners play USF and Southern Miss. Those two will likely be 9-3 at the end of the week. Say UAB loses to Cincinnati but beats Memphis and Louisville wins both games this week, then all six teams are 9-3 in conference play with two weeks remaining. Forget March Madness, February Madness is in effect in C-USA.

Player of the week

Antonio Burks, Memphis

The senior guard averaged 19.5 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game last week as Memphis pushed its win streak to nine games with victories against East Carolina and Marquette. He scored 25 points against the Pirates, his second highest total of the season.

Around the rest of C-USA

Charlotte (15-6, 7-3) Last week: 1-1

The 49ers won their third game against a top ten opponent last week, before losing on the road to Saint Louis during the final seconds. Funny enough, Thursday’s win against No. 9 Louisville came without Demon Brown, who served a one-game suspension after an arrest earlier in the week. Brown returned against the Billikens, but Chris Sloan’s three-point play with 9.7 seconds sealed SLU’s 46-45 win.

Against the Cardinals, Curtis Withers led the Niners with 23 points and ten rebounds. Mitchell Baldwin, starting in place of the suspended Brown, played 40 minutes and scored thirteen points. When Louisville went on top, 71-70, with less than a minute to play, Baldwin went coast-to-coast for a layup, which proved to be the game-winning basket. After his hoop, Withers hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Up next – against USF, Feb. 18.

Cincinnati (17-4, 8-2) Last week: 1-1

The Bearcats continued to struggle last week, defeating USF at home, 80-67, before losing on the road at Wake Forest, 91-85. Tony Bobbitt led the way for Cincinnati, averaging 24.5 points per game, hitting 12-of-20 three-point attempts. With him the team’s only reliable scorer though hurt the Bearcats during both games.

Against the Bulls, Cincinnati never got on track but was never seriously challenged. Terrance Leather’s foul trouble made a big difference in the game, as he only played eighteen minutes. Sunday, the Bearcats led by twelve, 39-27, with five minutes remaining in the half. Wake Forest then finished the first half on a 20-3 run and Cincinnati never led again. Up next – at UAB, Feb. 18.

DePaul (15-7, 8-3) Last week: 2-0

Say hello to C-USA’s second hottest team. After splitting its first six conference games, DePaul has won five straight and is only one game out of first place (C-USA’s hottest team, Memphis, is in first place). Last week, the Blue Demons went on the road for two games and came away victorious both times, doubling its conference road win total.

Early in the week, DePaul came back from a 21-point deficit to knock off the Billikens during the final minute, 70-68. Delonte Holland, mentioned above, hit five free throws during the final 57 seconds to seal the win. Holland was one of four Demons who scored in double digits. DePaul dominated the boards, 30-16. Saturday, DePaul started the second half with a 9-0 run, blowing open a three-point halftime lead. Holland again led the Demons with nineteen points, as they won 66-54. Up next – against Saint Louis, Feb. 21.

East Carolina (9-12, 1-10) Last week: 0-2

The Pirates fell short for the second and third straight time last week, losing against Memphis and UAB by a total of nine points last week. Instead of securing a huge upset, East Carolina now resides in last place after USF broke threw in the win column. Against Memphis early in the week, the Pirates knocked down 32 free throws and received double-double performances from both Derrick Wiley (21 points, eleven rebounds) and Moussa Badiane (nineteen points, eleven rebounds), but could not stop the Tigers, losing 79-73.

Saturday, the Pirates and Blazers were tied with less than two minutes remaining but a Morris Finley jumper sealed East Carolina’s 72-69 loss. The Pirates had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but their inbounds pass was batted away at the buzzer. Belton Rivers led all scores with 26 points. Up next – against Tulane, Feb. 18.

Houston (8-14, 2-9) Last week: 0-2

The Cougars are in a dangerous trend – win one game, then loss a bunch. Since defeating USF back on Jan. 31, Houston has now lost four straight. Last week, the Cougars fell at Tulane and at home against DePaul, both by double digits. Now for Houston, the biggest concern is qualifying for the C-USA Tournament. This week’s rematch against the Bulls will be a huge game for the squad.

During the two games, Andre Owens led Houston with seventeen points per game but only hit 10-of-33 from the field, including 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. Owens scored 23 points against Tulane, but was the only player to score more than ten points. Houston shot a combined 36 percent from the field during both losses. Up next – at Southern Miss, Feb. 18.

Louisville (17-4, 7-3) Last week: 0-1

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games last week, falling at Charlotte on national television, 77-71. Taquan Dean, Francisco Garcia and Luke Whitehead combined for only 22 points and thirteen personal fouls, as Garcia fouled out during the final seconds when the Cards were forced to send the Niners to the line. A Garcia hoop gave Louisville its final lead of the game at 71-70, but Charlotte ended the game on a 7-0 run. Larry O’Bannon led the Cards with seventeen points. Up next – at TCU, Feb. 17.

Memphis (18-4, 9-2) Last week: 2-0

Say hello to C-USA’s hottest team. Or, say hello to one of the hottest teams in America. Last week the Tigers proved two things: they can win on the road even when they do not play their best basketball and they know how to finish a quality team off on the road. The first was accomplished against East Carolina early in the week, as Memphis won 79-73; the second was accomplish as the team won at Marquette, 89-71, before a national television audience.

The Tigers again displayed their variety of weapons during their two wins last week. Against the Pirates, Antonio Burks led the team with 25 points. Saturday, Sean Banks scored 28 points, one of five Memphis players to hit double digits, while Burks handed out eleven assists. The Tigers hit sixteen three-pointers against the Golden Eagles, setting a new school record. Up next – against UAB, Feb. 21.

Southern Miss (11-10, 4-6) Last week: 0-2

It was going to happen eventually; USF was going to win a conference game. It just so happen to against the Golden Eagles, a capper to a dismal week. Southern Miss first lost at home to UAB, 69-65, before dropping yet another road game, this time to the Bulls by the score 68-60. The Eagles are now 2-8 on the road this year.

Jarekus Singleton out-did his performance from a week ago with a new career high, 21 points, against the Blazers. However, Singleton disappeared at USF, scoring only three points and fouling out. Saturday, the absence of USF’s Terrance Leather was still not enough for the Eagles to overcome. Charles Gaines led the squad with 20 points and twelve rebounds. Up next – against Houston, Feb. 18.

Saint Louis (12-9, 5-5) Last week: 1-1

Wednesday was a game that got away from the Billikens. Saturday was a game that the Billikens clutched to until the final buzzer sounded. The results – not exactly what Saint Louis was looking for, but nonetheless a split. The Billikens lost to DePaul, 70-68, before beating Charlotte, 46-45.

Against the Blue Demons, SLU led by as many as 21 points during the first half but let the lead slip away. Saturday was the team’s lowest scoring output of the season. However, it was Charlotte’s worst as well. Chris Sloan, who missed a shot to tie the game Wednesday, won Saturday’s contest with a three-point play with only 9.7 seconds remaining. Up next – against Marquette, Feb. 18.

TCU (9-12, 5-5) Last week: 1-1

For a few days, the Horned Frogs had a winning conference record in February, something that had not happened to them in C-USA. Tulane wrecked it. TCU defeated USF early in the week, 54-51, before losing to the Green Wave during the final seconds, 67-66.

Corey Santee continued his torrid run through the conference during the past few weeks, scoring another season high of 25 points against USF. He averaged 22 points per game, while totaling eleven rebounds and nine assists. Marcus Shropshire hit a crucial jump shot with three minutes remaining against the Bulls after they had trimmed the lead to one. However, Shropshire missed a shot at the buzzer to win Saturday. Up next – against Louisville, Feb. 17.

Tulane (10-11, 3-7) Last week: 2-0

Break up the Green Wave? After starting the conference season 0-7, Tulane has won three straight. It’s not too much to get excited about’ its three wins came against teams with a combined eight conference wins, but it is something in an otherwise losing season for the Wave.

Saturday, Vytas Tatarunas nailed a hook shot with 5.7 seconds remaining to beat the Horned Frogs, 67-66. Tatarunas redeemed himself after missing a three-point attempt only seconds earlier. The rebound caromed off a Frog player out of bounds, setting up Tulane for one last second play, which it capitalized on. Wednesday, Tulane shot 49.1 percent from the field and dished out 21 assists, coasting to a 77-63 win against Houston. Up next – at East Carolina, Feb. 18.

UAB (15-6, 8-2) Last week: 2-0

After getting blown out by Louisville, the Blazers played two lackluster games last week. Lucky for them, they held on to both games. This week is huge for UAB as the team easily plays its’ two toughest remaining games, against Cincinnati and at Memphis. If the Blazers do pull of both games, they will have the inside track at the C-USA championship.

Wednesday, UAB went on the road and become only the third visiting team to win in Hattiesburg this season, winning 69-65. Free throws proved to be the difference maker down the stretch. At East Carolina Saturday, a Morris Finley jumper with less than two minutes remaining was the game winner, as the Blazers held on 72-69. Up next – against Cincinnati, Feb. 18.

Games to watch

Cincinnati at UAB, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.
This is the first of two big games for both teams this week. Cincinnati is only 4-4 during its past eight game. Both teams play very similar styles. Whichever team shoots the deep ball better will have the advantage.

Louisville at Cincinnati, Saturday at 1 p.m.
Last year, the Bearcats won by 21 points at home. Earlier this year, the Cardinals defeated Cincinnati by 27 points. Both are looking for a statement game; Saturday will provide that opportunity.

UAB at Memphis, Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Blazers failed in their first attempt at a big road win, losing by eighteen at Louisville. Memphis already proved it’s for real with a win at home against those same Cardinals. But in C-USA this season, you never know.


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