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Big 12 Notebook

February 23, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

Two weeks to go, and that means four games for each team in the Big 12 Conference. This is the point in the season where every single game is important, especially for the big group knotted between 7-5 and 5-7 in the Big 12 – the bubble group.

Blowing bubbles

In the Big 12 standings, it’s the race for fourth place. But, much more important than that, it is also a race for the NCAA Tournament. Coming into Saturday’s round of games, there were four teams at 6-5: Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado, and another, Iowa State, at 5-6. Saturday didn’t really clear the picture up much.

Colorado, Texas Tech and Missouri all won to bring their respective records to 7-5 and remain in a tie for fourth place. The Buffaloes completed a season sweep of Kansas State with a 72-62 win on the road, a game in which CU led nearly the entire way. Texas Tech held serve at home against winless Texas A&M, and Missouri had more trouble than expected with Baylor, but came away with a 70-66 road victory.

Later on, Oklahoma had a chance to make it a foursome at 7-5, but the Sooners couldn’t keep up with Texas, as they came up one big shot short in a 68-63 loss. The defeat drops OU to 6-6 and puts a team once ranked in the top 10 squarely on the bubble.

Iowa State played what was by far its best road game of the year in Allen Fieldhouse, but the Cyclones may have played themselves off the fence for the Big Dance with a 90-89 overtime loss. The loss drops ISU’s record 14-9, its conference record to 5-7 and its road record to a measly 1-8.

At this point, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas are clearly in the tournament, and Texas Tech can feel pretty comfortable too. After those four teams, it gets a little sketchy. Oklahoma has 16 wins on the season, but is only in seventh place in the Big 12 and has struggled since starting 10-0. Nonetheless, if today was Selection Sunday, I would put the Sooners in my bracket, based on big wins against Purdue, Michigan State and Texas Tech. As for Colorado and Missouri, neither is in right now – too many bad losses early in the season, and too many losses period. However, both teams still control their own destiny. If either team wins three of its last four games, it can feel good about its chances going to the Big 12 Tournament.

Emmett crowned scoring king

With all the talk about where teams are going when the season’s done, it is easy to lose sight of some outstanding individual accomplishments. Texas Tech senior Andre Emmett stole the spotlight this week. With his 18-point performance in Tech’s 76-60 win against Texas A&M on Saturday, Emmett became the Big 12’s all-time scoring leader. Emmett now has 2,112 career points, passing former Kansas center Nick Collison, who had 2,097 in his career.

Tech coach Bob Knight didn’t start Emmett for the first time this year, but Andre came off the bench quickly and scored his 2,098th point on a dunk with 7:54 to play in the first half.

Graham explodes after halftime

The Oklahoma State Cowboys, Big 12 leaders at 11-1 in conference play, had a little harder time than perhaps they expected in defeating Nebraska 87-83 in overtime Saturday night. But for guard Joey Graham, scoring was not a problem. Graham turned an ordinary, 6-point first half into a career day and finished with 36 points. Graham shot 12-of-19 from the field and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line, and put the Cowboys ahead for good with two free throws with 1:26 to play in overtime.

Cardiac arrest Saturday

There were no reports of heart failure in any of the Big 12 venues on Saturday, but there plenty of close games. Oklahoma State couldn’t do to Nebraska what they had done to Oklahoma and Kansas: blow the Huskers out at Gallagher-Iba Arena. OSU took a 52-44 lead midway through the second half, but could never shake NU, letting the Huskers come back for a 57-56 lead minutes later. John Lucas hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining for a 73-68 Cowboy lead, but John Neal made a three and Nate Johnson had a three-point play for Nebraska to send the game to overtime tied at 74. In the extra period, Joey Graham and Neal both hit threes to again tie the score at 79, but Nebraska didn’t have quite enough gas for the upset, as Okie State hit 7-of-8 free throws in overtime.

It was the same story one state to the north. Iowa State fell behind Kansas by as many as 17 in the second half, but Curtis Stinson led a furious comeback that saw the Cyclones take a 5-point lead with three minutes to play. Stinson missed a free throw with less than a minute to play and Keith Langford tied the game with a three with 28 seconds left. In overtime, KU got a 7-point lead, but nearly blew that too. The Jayhawks didn’t seal the victory until J.R. Giddens sunk a free throw with three seconds left.

That wasn’t all of the close finishes, however. In a game, Missouri absolutely needed to win, Rickey Paulding traveled with under a minute to go to allow Baylor within a point, but then he made three free throws down the stretch to get the 70-66 win for MU. In Norman, Jason Klotz rebounded a missed free throw and P.J. Tucker scored on a put-back to give UT a three-point lead with 26 seconds to play. OU couldn’t make a three, and Royal Ivey sealed the deal at the line.

The common thread of all of these games? The teams that made their free throws won.

Big 12 Player of the Week

David Harrison, center, Colorado

Could have been Joey Graham or Harrison’s teammate Michel Morandais, but the big fella had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks in a win against Texas Tech and then 13 points and 10 rebounds against K-State.

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

J.R. Giddens, guard, Kansas – This was a tough decision over Curtis Stinson of Iowa State and Jason Conley of Missouri, but Giddens hit six threes in the first half and scored 24 points against Iowa State in a 90-89 win. He also had 15 important points in a win over Baylor.

Around the Big 12:

Baylor Bears (7-18 overall, 2-10 Big 12)

Baylor very well could be the most over-achieving team in the country. Wins against Iowa State and Texas A&M aside, the Bears’ performance against Missouri was astoundingly good. BU shot 52 percent in the first half, 49 percent from the game, got Travon Bryant and Arthur Johnson both in foul trouble early, and nearly derailed Missouri’s tournament hopes. In the end, though, the Bears never could achieve a lead late in the game and fell a few big shots short of their second straight win at home against Mizzou. Harvey Thomas led Baylor with 16 points but committed 5 turnovers and R.T. Guinn hit 3-of-5 three pointers and finished with 15 points.

On Wednesday, Baylor hung close with Kansas for a majority of the game before being blown out late. Baylor was down only 39-37 with about nine minutes to play when KU went on a 17-4 run to take control of the game. Terrance Thomas finished with 15 points and Harvey Thomas added 13 more, exemplary of the balanced scoring Baylor usually enjoys. The last four Bear opponents had better watch out or BU could get three or four Big 12 wins.

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

Colorado Buffaloes (15-8, 7-5)

CU had two tough games this week and won them both, and now the Buffaloes can start thinking about an NCAA Tournament bid. First, on Wednesday, David Harrison scored 24 points, had 10 rebounds and 7 blocks in an 85-75 win against Texas Tech at home. Michel Morandais also had 22 points. Colorado led throughout, and was able to stave off two runs that brought the Red Raiders to within four. After Tech got within 70-66, Morandais converted a three-point play to start a 15-6 run to put the game away.

A trip to Manhattan provided exactly what the doctor ordered for the Buffs on Saturday: a road win. Kansas State hung around for the entire game, but an 8-1 run to start the second half put CU up by 13 and KSU never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Morandais led the Buffs in the 72-62 victory with 21 points and Harrison had another double-double, with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

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

Iowa State Cyclones (14-9, 5-7)

It sounds strange to say it, but the Cyclones did not have a bad week. Their two games at Missouri and at Kansas represented their best road performance of the year – by far. Against Missouri on Wednesday, ISU looked primed for another road blowout when they fell behind 52-35 early in the second half. But freshman Curtis Stinson and senior Jake Sullivan led Iowa State on a 20-7 run to trim the lead to four. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, that was all they could muster, and despite staying close throughout the game, MU won 82-70. Stinson had 18 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and Sullivan added 17. John Neal had 11 points in the first half, topping his previous game-high of 6.

Same story, different venue on Saturday in Lawrence. KU led the game by as many as 17 points and was ahead 61-49 when Stinson came to the rescue again. Stinson and Jared Homan each scored d 6 points in an 18-1 Cyclone run that put ISU up 67-62 with three minutes to play. After KU tied it up though, the Jayhawks took an 86-79 lead and made enough free throws (barely) down the stretch for a 90-89 win. Stinson stole the show on the stat sheet again, with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

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

Kansas Jayhawks (17-6, 9-3)

This seems like the most vulnerable 9-3 team in the country. After laying eggs against Oklahoma State and Nebraska on the road two weeks ago, Kansas had trouble getting by Baylor and Iowa State, two teams with a combined 0-13 Big 12 road record, in Allen Fieldhouse last week. Both times, freshman J.R. Giddens came to the rescue. First, against Baylor on Wednesday, Giddens sparked a 17-4 Jayhawk run with two three-pointers. Before that point, KU led only by two with nine minutes to play. KU recovered to win 74-54 and was led by Wayne Simien with 24 points, Keith Langford with 19 and Giddens with 15.

Saturday, Giddens had six threes in the opening stanza, including one that occurred when Jared Homan missed the first shot of a two-shot foul, but KU got the deadball rebound and scored. The officials counted the hoop. Bizarre. But anyway, Giddens helped Kansas to a big lead, and then sealed the deal in overtime with a free throw with 3 seconds left. But it was Keith Langford who hit the biggest shot of the afternoon. His three sent the game to overtime tied at 72. Giddens led the Jayhawks with 24 points and Simien added 20. KU, though, won’t get away with another sub-par performance against Texas or even Oklahoma.

This week: Monday at Texas, Sunday vs. Oklahoma

Kansas State Wildcats (12-11, 4-8)

It took an unbelievable ending, but Kansas State finally ended its 21-game Big 12 road losing streak Saturday. The Wildcats trailed Nebraska 58-57 with 4.5 seconds left when Jeremiah Massey was fouled and went to the line for two shots. As if KSU was bound to lose again, Massey missed both shots, but then something bizarre happened. NU’s John Turek stumbled after the second miss, allowing Tim Ellis to score on a tip-in for a 59-58 lead. Nebraska threw the ball out-of-bounds on the ensuing play, and Ellis was fouled with 0.1 seconds left. NU coach Barry Collier was also called for a technical foul, and Ellis’ four free throws accounted for the final margin of 63-58. Ellis finished with 25 points and Massey had 17 and K-State missed only two free throws in the second half – Massey’s two that set up Ellis’ tip-in.

On Saturday, there was no such miracle for Kansas State. The Wildcats failed to hit a field goal in the last eight minutes of the first half, shot only 36 percent for the game, and lost 72-62 to Colorado. Massey had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Ellis scored 16.

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

Missouri Tigers (13-10, 7-5)

Saving a once-promising season is still a possibility for the Tigers, who beat Iowa State 82-70 on Wednesday night. Five players scored in double figures for MU, led by Jimmy McKinney with 21 points and Arthur Johnson, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. MU finished the first half on a 12-3 run and continued the hot spurt for a 17-point lead early in the second half. ISU battled back to within four with just less than 10 minutes to play when junior transfer Jason Conley stepped up in a big way for the Tigers. Conley drove down the baseline from the left corner, went under the basket, jammed and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 62-55 lead and finished with 14 points.

On Saturday, Conley saved the Tigers from what would have been a devastating upset with 24 points and 5 steals in a 70-66 win against Baylor. Rickey Paulding struggled from the field, but hit three free throws in the game’s last 18 seconds to get the Tigers the win. It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but Mizzou needed this win the worst way. Now if MU can figure out a way to win three of its last four games, the NCAA Tournament would be a pretty good possibility. Beating Oklahoma State would be a huge first step.

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

Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-9, 4-8)

The difference between 4-8 and 6-6 with five straight wins is razor-thin in Lincoln. NU let one get away against Kansas State in a game the Huskers never should have let get close. Nebraska led by 12 in the first half and had a 7-0 run to go up 44-38 early in the second half and stayed ahead until the fiasco at the end. Husker fans will curse their luck, but a team as hot as Nebraska was should have blown away a team like K-State that can’t win on the road. Nate Johnson led the Huskers with 17 points.

Andrew Drevo had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and Johnson had 18 more in NU’s 87-83 overtime loss to Oklahoma State. But the pair wasn’t enough to overcome Joey Graham’s 36-point performance. Johnson scored on a reverse lay-up with six seconds to play, was fouled, and made the ensuing free throw to force overtime. NU actually held a three-point lead in the extra session, but didn’t score for nearly the final two minutes of overtime. Their at-large hopes may have faded this week, but the Huskers are a team nobody wants to face in Dallas in a couple of weeks.

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas Tech, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Oklahoma Sooners (16-7, 6-6)

OU continued its woes against upper-level competition this week, losing by 13 to Oklahoma State and by five to Texas. Even when at home, the Sooners have struggled against winning teams in the Big 12, going 1-3 in Norman and 1-6 overall. Oklahoma led OSU by one point at the half until the Sooners went only 6-of-30 from the field in the second half, including a 1-of-17 start to the half that gave OSU an insurmountable lead. The Cowboys won 65-52. Jabahri Brown led OU with 16 points.

Saturday, things got a little better for OU, but the Sooners lost to another rival. Late in the game, OU converted several three-point plays, including one by De’Angelo Alexander to tie the game at 63 with 51 seconds left. But OU couldn’t rebound a free-throw miss and then didn’t have an answer for Texas the next time down the floor and the Longhorns won, 68-63. Drew Lavendar led OU with 18 points.

This week: Wednesday at Colorado, Sunday at Kansas

Oklahoma State Cowboys (21-2, 11-1)

It seems as if the Cowboys get a big contribution from a different player every single time out. Oklahoma’s biggest foe was Ivan McFarlin, who scored 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting. John Lucas also had a good game, scoring 18 points while holding Drew Lavender to 5 points and 1 assist on 2-of-9 shooting. The Cowboys won, 65-52 to complete a season sweep of the Sooners, their first sweep since 1998.

Joey Graham was the man in Saturday’s 87-83 overtime win against Nebraska, going for 36 points. Nebraska victimized OSU’s aggressive D with lots of backdoor cuts, but Oklahoma State showed it could win close games as well as blow people out. This was the closest game OSU had been in since beating Texas Tech by four on Jan. 31.

OSU is certainly on the inside track for the conference title, but a couple of roadblocks still remain: Tuesday at Missouri, and March 1 against Texas, a game that could be for the Big 12 title.

This week: Tuesday at Missouri , Saturday at Baylor

Texas Longhorns (19-4, 10-2)

No problems for Texas against Texas A&M on Wednesday night. The Longhorns shook off a slow start and blew the Aggies out 77-57 behind 20 points from Brandon Mouton. Like with Oklahoma State, it seems that a new guy emerges every night for UT. On Wednesday it was Kenny Taylor, who got 18 points off the bench to spark the team. Early in the second half, A&M pulled to within 33-32, but Taylor hit four three-pointers in a 31-8 run that gave Texas control at 64-40. Freshman P.J. Tucker, who has slowed off his early pace of late, got back on track with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Texas took its 10th conference win of the year Saturday against Oklahoma, 68-63. Mouton had his third straight game of at least 20 points, this time scoring 25, but he was the only Longhorn in double figures. Six other Texas players had at least 5 points. The turning point of the game again came early in the second half, when a 15-2 UT run turned a 45-40 deficit into a 55-47 lead. OU came back to tie the game at 63, but Tucker scored some second-chance points after Jason Klotz got an offensive rebound for a three-point lead, and Royal Ivey sealed the win with two late free throws.

This week: Monday vs. Kansas, Saturday vs. Texas Tech

Texas A&M Aggies (7-16, 0-12)

Things are getting worse, not better in Aggieland. In both games this week, a 77-57 loss to Texas and a 76-60 loss to Texas Tech, A&M hung around for a while, but couldn’t even keep it close at the end, like it had been doing in most games. Jesse King had 12 points and 9 rebounds and Antoine Wright also had 12 to lead the Aggies against Texas, but nobody could do anything during Texas’ huge second-half run. TAMU looked like a team that has packed it in for the season.

After Andre Emmett set the Big 12 scoring record Saturday, there was little else to watch. A&M made a token 19-8 run in the second half to cut the lead to 60-50, but the score wasn’t closer than 10 points almost as soon as the game got going. Wright scored 17 points and Acie Law added 12, but if A&M wants to win a Big 12 game, this week may be its last chance.

This week: Wednesday vs. Baylor, Saturday vs. Colorado

Texas Tech Red Raiders (19-7, 7-5)

The Rocky Mountain trap caught Texas Tech on Wednesday and the Colorado beat the Red Raiders 85-75 behind David Harrison’s big game. TTU cut the lead to four several times in the second half after falling behind big early, but could never get any closer than that. Devonne Giles had a great game for the Raiders, scoring 18 points and pulling down 18 rebounds. But, then again, Giles made only 5-of-16 shots, which took away scoring opportunities from Andre Emmett, who finished with 16 points, five below his season average. The loss was the fifth in Texas Tech’s last seven games.

Coach Bob Knight decided to shake things up against Texas A&M by benching Emmett and freshman Jarrius Jackson to start the game. The team responded by starting off up 18-8 and by getting every normal starter in double figures, led by Jackson with 19 points and Emmett with 18 in the 76-60 win. Oh, and by the way, Emmett had quite an important dunk in the first half: he set the all-time Big 12 scoring mark, finishing with 2,112 points in his career. Knight called Emmett’s accomplishment “neat.”

This week: Tuesday at Nebraska, Saturday at Texas

5 games to watch this week

At this point in the season, they’re all games to watch, but here’s a list anyway:

Monday – Kansas at Texas: Longhorns trying to catch OSU for first, and the Jayhawks need to start playing better in a hurry

Tuesday – Oklahoma State at Missouri: The Big 12 leader traveling to perhaps the league’s hottest team, one that needs every win it can get. Should be a great game.

Wednesday – Baylor at Texas A&M: Best chance for the poor Aggies to get a Big 12 win

Wednesday – Oklahoma at Colorado: A classic bubble game: both teams need this one desperately.

Saturday – Texas Tech at Texas: Texas stole one in Lubbock, now the Red Raiders want some revenge and some fuel for better seeding in the Big Dance.

     

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