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Mid-Continent Notebook

February 25, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

by Matthew Moll

And Then There Were Four

With only a week left in the season the six-team race has dwindled to four for the all-important number-one seed in the conference tourney. Valparaiso, Centenary, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts are all tied in the loss column with four.

Here is the run-down:

Valpo has only one conference game remaining against a tough Chicago State team and will need to win it to ensure a share of the Mid-Con regular season championship and to hope for a number-one seed. Valpo split its series with all of the teams in contention. The tiebreaker would go to IUPUI should they tie, because of its wins against Oral Roberts.

Centenary needs wins against Oral Roberts and at Chicago State to control its own destiny. A loss at either will most likely end its hopes of a number-one seed. Should Centenary tie with Valpo and win out they will get the tiebreaker and the number-one seed. IUPUI owns the tiebreaker should the two teams tie.

IUPUI needs to get past Western Illinois and UMKC to clinch the number-one seed. IUPUI is in the driver seat owning tiebreakers against all the other teams in contention.

Oral Roberts lost twice to IUPUI, split the season series with Valpo and play Centenary this week. They will need to win out and hope IUPUI and Valpo lose to avoid tiebreakers that would go favorably in other team’s directions. Wins this week do guarantee that they have at least a share of the regular season title.

Kicking some Tutt

Oral Roberts is the hottest team in the Mid-Con and look to be the team to beat as the conference tourney lurks. A young core that includes two freshmen and a sophomore leads the Golden Eagles.

Freshman Caleb Green leads the league in rebounds per game at 9.4 and is eighth in the league in points at 16.4 ppg and was named Mid-Con Player of the Week by the conference the week of January 5. Sophomore Jonathan Bluitt leads the Mid-Con in dime-dropping, dishing out 6.5 assists per. Finally, the King himself, Ken Tutt, is receiving national recognition and was named the Unsung Player of the Week by CollegeHoops.com during the week of February 19. He is the nation’s second highest scoring freshman at 20.8 ppg. Currently Tutt is in the midst of a seven game streak where he has scored 25 or more points averaging 27.1 in that run.

During this basket-making barrage the Golden Birdies won three straight and are among those looking for a Mid-Con tourney number-one seed. The string of straight scoring outbursts is the longest consecutive 25-plus efforts in the nation this season.

Mr. 1000

IUPUI’s Odell Bradley joined the Jaguars’ 1000-point club in just his second season. The transfer from Aquinas College in Whites Creek, Tenn., is the team’s leading scorer at 23.0 ppg and has emerged as a team leader since last year’s NCAA run. Bradley broke the 1000-point barrier with his first two points of his 29-point performance against Centenary.

IUPUI will be a major threat in the conference tournament particularly because of Bradley’s leadership and ability to fill up the stat book.

Chopping Oak

Touted as the preseason favorite, Oakland has lost 11 of its last 16 games and is not part of the race for first.

Oakland has had trouble winning close games and has been playing to their competition all year.

Oakland is a dangerous team and can beat anyone in the Mid-Con, but its inconsistency has been its demise and Oakland will need to amend that come March.

Player of Week

Tutt has been unstoppable. Mr. Nation’s Second Leading Scoring Freshman was lights out last week hitting on 15 of 26 (58 percent) shots, which included a 10 of 16 effort from threeland, and did not miss a free-throw (10-10) in last week’s sweep of Chicago State and Oakland.

Freshman/Newcomer of the Week

You could say Tutt for the second straight week, but enough ink on him. How about pumping both your fists for freshman glass cleaner Caleb Green. Green is only leading the Mid-Con in double-doubles registering two last week. The Tulsa native has established himself as the best and most consistent big-man in the conference.

Games of the Week

Valpo at Duke. ESPN, Dicky Veee. What could be bigger? Thursday 9 pm. (EDT)

Mid-Con Notes

Valparaiso Crusaders (13-11 overall, 10-5 Mid-Con)

The Crusaders were handed their 11th loss of the season thanks to cold shooting in their only game last week. Valpo must have had one ear turned towards the Cameron Crazies in Durham and overlooked Southern Utah who shot nearly 60 percent from the floor. Leading scorer Dan Oppland was held to 12 points while Kenny Harris recorded his first career double-double to lead the ‘Saders in a losing effort, 75-58. This loss put a stop to Valpo’s three-game winning streak and slowed its once positive thrust toward the finish.

Up Next: Valpo must now rebound against Top 5 Duke. The Dukies are coming off a loss to Wake Forest, but the game still has tournament implications and gives the Mid-Con’s best a chance to be on a national stage. Duke is fighting for a number-one seed in the NCAA’s and Valpo is looking for respect. Thursday ESPN 9 pm. (EDT)

Centenary Gents (15-10, 9-5)

Last week began with the Gents winning their 17th straight game at home and ended with a loss to IUPUI. The Gents were unable to take advantage of the loss by Valpo to move into first and must now play their way out of a four-way race. Centenary defeated UMKC, 63-55, despite a poor shooting effort and only 10 points from leading scorer Andy Wisniewski. Defense was the word of the day for the Gold Dome win, holding the Kangaroos to 29.5 percent second half shooting. On the road, however, the Jags of IUPUI were able to withstand a 34-point effort from Wisniewski to defeat the Gents 69-61. No other player scored in double figures.

Up Next: Centenary will attempt to extend its home winning streak to 18 when it hosts Oral Roberts on Thursday. Saturday they travel to Chicago State to end the regular season.

IUPUI Jaguars (17-9, 9-5)

IUPUI managed to stay in contention for a Mid-Con regular season title thanks to some help and revenge over Centenary. Last week began with a loss, 76-73, to Oakland, which made last year’s Mid-Con NCAA representative look as if it would stumble as the regular season ended. The lead changed throughout the last 2:19 of the game thanks to several missed free throws by the Golden Grizzlies (52.8 percent for the game). Oakland gave IUPUI a chance to send the game into overtime but the three-pointer by Akeem Clark was long. Senior Odell Bradley led IUPUI with 23 points and also grabbed nine boards. IUPUI exacted revenge for the late January loss to Centenary by a score of 69-61. Timely free throw shooting and a defense that only allowed one double-digit scorer pushed the Jags past their 16 turnovers. Mr. 1000-point club, Odell Bradley, led the way with 29 points. Bradley reached the 1000th point plateau in just two seasons with the Jags. Bradley also led the rebounding effort with 11.

Up Next: Ron Hunter’s crew will play post-season eliminated Western Illinois on Thursday. Saturday UMKC will come to Indianapolis to fight for the undecided number-one seed.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (16-9, 9-5)

Oral Roberts rolled off two wins last week extending its current winning streak to three. The Golden Eagles flew into Mid-Con contention with the help of net scorching freshman Ken Tutt. In the 75-61 win over Chicago State, Tutt scored 25 points including a stretch where he scored 13 straight points. Fellow freshman Caleb Green notched his league leading 12th double-double to aid the Eagles. Fox SportsNet brought the Mid-Con to a national audience. Oral Roberts had to withstand a 60.7 percent shooting effort by Oakland and deficits as high as 12 points to come away with the 84-75 win. Tutt, Green, and sophomore Jonathan Bluitt turned the homecoming game into an underclassman show combining for 66 points including all 46 points in the Golden Eagle second half. Tutt scored a game high 25 points while freshman middle man Green recorded yet another double-double and his ninth 20 and 10 game scoring 24 and cleaning the glass 10 times. Bluitt scored 15 of his 17 in the second half and also added eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Up Next: The Eagles have their destiny in their own hands as they play fellow contender Centenary Thursday and will face a Southern Utah team that has recently found their touch to finish off regular season play.

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

Chicago State’s hopes for a regular season title became mathematically improbable after a 1-1 week. After a hot shooting first half, lack of free-throws and a coach Kevin Jones ejection, Chi-State became Team King Tutt’s latest victim. Junior Tony Weeden led the way with 21 points and Rubeen Perry chipped in 14. CSU was out boarded by the Golden Eagles 35 to 19 in the loss. State managed to end its three-game road losing streak and beat UMKC for the first time since 1997 on UMKC’s home floor last Saturday with a 66-65 win. Weeden led the Cougars with 16 points while Perry added a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. State held the Kangaroos to 37 percent shooting from the field, but still needed Brandon Lipsey of UMKC to miss a free-throw at the end of regulation to avoid overtime. The win marked the most wins in conference in one season for CSU.

Up Next: State hopes to play spoiler and be on a roll when the conference tourney begins when they play Centenary on Saturday.

UMKC Kangaroos (12-13, 7-7)

Last week the ‘Roos extended a losing streak that is now at three games. The week included losses to Centenary and Chi-State. In the 63-55 loss UMKC led by two at halftime and by as many as six in the second half. But UMKC saw the game slip away after tying it at 49 with 7:45 left. Additionally the Kangaroos could only manage seven made field goals in the second half. Michael Watson led the way with 28 points. The loss to Chicago State was the ‘Roos first loss at home in 13 games. The late charge by the Roo’s was halted by poor free-throw shooting that haunted them throughout the game. Watson was the Kangaroos’ leading scorer with 17.

Up Next: UMKC will play Southern Utah and IUPUI before the conference tournament.

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

After having three straight poor shooting performances Southern Utah rattled off two wins last week and have their eyes on the conference tournament. Western Illinois comeback, after a dismal first half fell short as the T-birds went on to win 63-55. Southern Utah led by as many as 21, but saw that lead slowly shrink to six thanks to a couple of double digit Leatherneck runs, but Western never got closer. DeAngelo Newsom led Southern Utah with 20 points. Senior night became lone senior David Palmer night when the T-birds pounded Valpo, 75-58. Valpo’s shooting was virtually nonexistent while Southern managed to shoot over 51 percent from the field. Palmer led all scorers with 17.

Up Next: Southern Utah prepares for the post-season with two road games. They will play UMKC on Thursday and end the week in Tulsa to play Oral Roberts.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies (11-16, 5-10)

Formerly known as the pre-season favorite to win the conference, OU has found itself not in the race for a number-one seed in the tourney. Last week Oakland started with a win defeating IUPUI on their home floor, but ended the week feeling the wrath of the Tutt led Golden Eagles. Mike Helms led Oakland with 23 points over the Jags of IUPUI. Against Oral Roberts, Oakland could not hold onto its slim halftime lead to defeat the Golden Eagles. The battle of the Golden teams was decided during a two-minute scoreless span by OU during the game’s final five minutes. Helms again led Oakland in scoring with 22 points while Rawle Marshall dropped in 20 points and eight rebounds.

Up Next: The Golden Grizz hope to get back to winning when they play host to non-conference opponent IPFW and battle last place Western Illinois on Saturday.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-13, 3-23)

The Leathernecks extended their losing streak to nine games after a loss in their only game last week to Southern Utah. T.J. Gray and Bobby Carter each scored 14 points in the 63-55 loss.

Up Next: The ‘Necks will finish their season with two conference games versus IUPUI and at Oakland.

     

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