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Big East Notebook

March 1, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big East Notebook

by Thomas Hart

Conference Play Heads Towards Finish Line

Pittsburgh continues to show it is the team to beat in the Big East, putting some distance between itself and the rest of the pack with several big wins. Connecticut is hanging tough despite losses to both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After a brief slump, Providence is coming on strong as they had down the home stretch. Also picking up steam have been Boston College and Seton Hall. Both teams are now heading for bids in the NCAA tournament. Rounding out the top six in the conference is Syracuse, which has overcome injuries and suspensions to stay in the top echelon of the conference. It should be an exciting end to the regular season with teams jockeying for seeds in the Big East tournament. If history holds true, there are bound to be a few upsets before all is said and done.

Players of the Week

Emeka Okafor, Connecticut
Hakim Warrick, Syracuse

Okafor averaged 16.0 points, 18.5 rebounds and 6.5 blocks in a 2-0 week for the Huskies. He had 14 points, a career-high 22 rebounds, and seven blocks in a 61-50 win over Notre Dame. In a 76-63 triumph over Miami, Okafor registered 18 points, 15 boards and six blocks. Warrick averaged 23.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in a 1-1 week for the Orangemen. He had a game-high 28 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in an 84-72 loss to Notre Dame. In a 57-54 victory at Georgetown, Warrick scored a game-high 19 points, grabbed six boards and blocked five shots.

Rookie of the Week

Daryll Hill, St. John’s

Hill posted consecutive career scoring highs in a 1-1 week for the Red Storm. The first-year guard helped St. John’s to its first league win of the season; a 65-58 victory over Georgetown, with 22 points and four steals. He followed that effort with 27 points in a 54-53 loss at Virginia Tech. Over the last five games, the native of Queens, N.Y. has averaged 20.4 points.

Team Notes

Boston College (18-8 Overall / 7-6 Big East)

After losing to Providence 61-52, Boston College put together two excellent performances in a row in beating Seton Hall and Rutgers. Ryan Gomes had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Friars over BC. In that game Craig Smith was held to 13 points and missed eight of fourteen foul shots. Against Seton Hall, the Eagles posted their second win over the Pirates 67-63. Smith led the way with 21 points and 8 rebounds despite nursing a bad back. BC had only 10 turnovers in the game. Andre Sweet led Seton Hall with 15 points. The Pirates shot only 3-14 from 3-point land. On Sunday, Boston College solidified its chances for a NCAA tourney bid by routing Rutgers at home 76-44. The Eagles – well rested after five days off – came out sharp, focused, and hungry for a victory and kept the pressure on throughout the contest putting it away in the second half with a 38-12 run which surprisingly occurred with leading scorer Craig Smith on the bench with four fouls. BC received solid performances from all their regulars, and dominated Rutgers in every phase of the game. Freshman forward Jared Dudley led BC with a superb all-around performance racking up 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. He was ably supported by reserve junior center Nate Doornekamp, who came off the bench for the foul-plagued Smith and chipped in with 11points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. The Eagles played tough defense throughout and held Rutgers to 3-20 shooting from 3-point land. The Eagles shot 75% from the field in the second half and displayed crisp inside passing throughout to capitalize on their power game.

Connecticut (21-5 Overall / 9-3 Big East)

In a battle of Big East and national titans, eighth-ranked Connecticut lost to fourth-ranked Pittsburgh 75-68. The Panthers featured their usual balance attacked with Jaron Brown scoring seventeen points, Mark McCarroll fifteen, Julius Page with eleven, and Carl Krauser with thirteen. Ben Gordon led the Huskies with 23 points. Connecticut then won two in a row versus Miami and Notre Dame. Against the Hurricanes, Connecticut shot 55.1% and Emeka Okafor again had a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds. He also had half a dozen blocks. Taliek Brown tallied seven points, seven rebounds, and 13 assists, and Rashad Anderson contributed 19 points. On Saturday, Connecticut overcame 35% shooting from the field and avenged their February 9th 80-74 loss to Notre Dame, handing the Fighting Irish a 61-50 defeat. Emeka Okafor once again was dominant with 14 points, a career-high 22 rebounds, and 7 blocks to lead the Huskies. Josh Boone added 12 points and 11 rebounds. Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown contributed 12 points apiece to round out a balanced attack by UConn. Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas was held to 6 for 23 shooting from the field and finished with only 13 points to lead Notre Dame. Colin Falls added 10 points for the Irish. Once again, Notre Dame played without the services of forward Torin Francis who is suffering from back problems and may be done for the year.

Georgetown (13-10 Overall / 4-8 Big East)

Georgetown has lost five out of their last six games and fallen to 4-8 in the Big East, leaving them all but out of contention for any postseason birth in the NCAA tournament. The Hoyas lost a non-conference game to the Temple Owls 59-53, before falling to St. Johns and Syracuse in Big East play. In the first game, David Hawkins, the third-leading scorer in the country (24.1), scored 28 points to lead the Owls, and Mardy Collins added 17 points, 4 steals, and 3 assists. Gerald Riley led Georgetown with 15 points before fouling out. Against St. John’s, the Hoyas faced an undermanned but fired up Red Storm contingent in Madison Square Garden. The home squad finally gave their fans something to cheer about in winning their first conference game this year. Leading the scoring for St. Johns was Daryll “Showtime” Hill with 22 points. Brandon Bowman had 20 points, and 9 rebounds to lead the Hoyas. Georgetown had 23 turnovers and shot only 35.6% from the field. Georgetown capped off a disappointing week by losing to Syracuse in a close game 57-54. The Hoyas had a three-point lead at the half but could not hold on in a sloppily played game. The Orangemen were victorious despite committing 25 turnovers. They had twelve blocks however, and shot 45.8%. Georgetown shot a paltry 27.7% and had only two players in double figures in scoring.

Miami (13-14 Overall / 3-10 Big East)

Miami’s losing streak extended to nine games as the Hurricanes lost three more tough games to the iron of the Big East Syracuse, Connecticut, and Providence. The Canes fell below .500 for the first time this year and slipped to 3-10 in the conference. Miami clearly missed leading scorer Darius Rice, who has missed the last two games with a sprained foot. In the first game Hakim Warrick shot a perfect 11-11 from the field, and 5-6 from the foul line to lead the Orangemen with 27 points. Sophomore point guard Gerry McNamara had 23 points. Rice went over the 1000-point mark in his career for Miami, but left the game with his foot injury. Against UConn, the Hurricanes put up a valiant effort before falling by thirteen 76-63. Finally, against Providence, the Hurricanes were once more out-manned as they were beating by another superior club in Providence. Although their schedule gets a little easier down the stretch, Miami will be facing teams competing for births in the Big East tournament, and will need to be up to the task to get back on the winning track.

Notre Dame (13-10 Overall / 7-6 Big East)

The Irish racked up two more big wins against Seton Hall and Syracuse before running into a Connecticut team bent on avenging their loss to Notre Dame on the ninth. Chris Thomas continued his excellent play, scoring 26 points against the Pirates and 25 points against Syracuse. Chris Quinn chipped in with 22 points against the Orangemen. In the third game, the Huskies came out looking for blood and held an overwhelming 59-30 rebounding edge over Notre Dame. The also played superb defense holding the Fighting Irish to 29% shooting from the field, and limiting Chris Thomas to only 13 points. Colin Falls was the only other player in double figures with 10 points for the Irish. Notre Dame will have a chance to get back on the winning track against Providence on the 24th before facing three weaker opponents to end the season. They may have to do it without sophomore power forward Torin Francis, their second leading scorer, who’s out indefinitely with back problems.

Pittsburgh (24-2 Overall / 10-2 Big East)

The Panthers continue to roll toward a Big East conference title recording two wins over Connecticut and West Virginia. The Panthers have been extremely consistent this year largely due to their balanced attack. They had four players in double figures against UConn and have extended their home winning streak to 40. Ben Gordon led the Huskies with 23 points. Pittsburgh has four players who average double figures in scoring, and have another player who averages nine points per game, making them very difficult to defend. After their big win over Connecticut, the Panthers showed no sign of a letdown defeating West Virginia 67-58. Once again, Pittsburgh had four players in double figures, with senior shooting guard Julius Page and junior forward Chevon Troutman leading the way with 15 points apiece. Sophomore point guard Carl Krauser had a great all around game with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Providence (18-5 Overall / 9-3 Big East)

Highly ranked number seventeen Providence College has won four conference games in a row now beating Boston College and Miami in their last two outing. Ryan Gomes continues to come up big for the Friars, lodging a double-double versus BC with 20 points and 11 rebounds before adding 11 points and 9 rebounds against Miami. Gomes is one of the top players in several categories in the Big East, including third in scoring (19.3), second in rebounding (9.8), first in free throw percentage (88.3), and fourth in field goal shooting (52.9). Although Gomes is clearly their go-to guy, the Friars feature excellent balance on both offense and defense, and will be a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers (15-9 Overall / 6-7 Big East)

Rutgers won two games in a row by large margins before coming down to earth in a rout by Boston College. The Scarlet Knights swamped Virginia Tech, 85-52, then throttled provisional Division I opponent Northern Colorado 102-52. Rutgers received fine performances from Herve Lamizana with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Tech. In that game junior guard Ricky Shields went over the 1000-point mark for his career. Against Northern Colorado, Rutgers had five players in double figures and coasted to a fifty-point win. All good things must come to an end however, and in an important conference game for both teams, Boston College demolished Rutgers 76-44. Rutgers, down by only five at halftime, was hit by a 38-12 run by BC in the second half and lost by 32 points. At one point, Rutgers was 0-11 from 3-point land. The Scarlet Knights had only two players in double figures, Herve Lamizana with 13 pts and 8 rebounds, and Quincy Douby with 10. The Scarlet Knights have been in several close games this season including their last loss, a 2-point loss to Syracuse. Herve Lamizana, Ricky Shields, and two freshmen, Quincy Douby and Marquise Webb continue to lead Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have a shot at the NCAA tournament if they can run the table the rest of the way and have a good showing in the Big East tournament. This is a distinct possibility as they have a favorable schedule with no big guns in the way.

St. John’s (6-17 Overall / 1-11 Big East)

St. John’s posted their first conference win over Georgetown sandwiched in between two losses, a blowout loss to West Virginia and a close one-point loss to Virginia Tech. Daryll “Showtime” Hill led the Red Storm over the Hoyas with 22 points, with Kyle Cuffe contributing 15 points and 9 rebounds to the cause. St. John’s delighted the home crowd at Madison Square Garden with the win. Prior to that, the Mountaineers routed St. Johns by 36 points. Patrick Beilien led the Mountaineers with 19 points, and Joe Herber added 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Against Virginia Tech, Hill scored 27 points, but he also committed 10 turnovers, and the Hokies overcame an 8-point half-time deficit to win a close game 54-53. Bryant Matthews had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Zabian Dowdell had 12 points in the victory.

Seton Hall (17-7 Overall / 7-5 Big East)

The Pirates lost two close games in a row to Notre Dame and Boston College, before winning a close one versus Villanova, 70-68. Against Notre Dame, Kelly Whitney had 18 points and 5 rebounds, and Andre Barrett added 20 points, but it was not enough to overcome a 26-point performance by the Fighting Irish’s outstanding point guard Chris Thomas. Against Boston College, the Pirates battled hard, but came up on the short end of a 67-63 final. In that game, Seton Hall shot only 3-14 from 3-point land, and committed 14 turnovers to lose a close one to Craig Smith (21 pts) and the Eagles. The Pirate finally tasted pay dirt in a close win over the Wildcats, although they almost squandered a 16-point lead with five minutes left in the ballgame. The Pirates had five players in double figures led by Andre Barrett and Whitney with 15 points apiece. Marcus Toney-El added 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Syracuse (18-6 Overall / 8-5 Big East)

The Orangemen have won four out of their last five games, including two close victories in the last two games over Villanova and Georgetown. The Orangemen continue to get outstanding play from junior forward Hakim Warrick and sophomore guard Gerry McNamara and are still in the running in the Big East. The Orangemen have three tough games to go versus Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and West Virginia. They are still missing the services of Billy Edelin, who is still away from the team for personal reasons. Edelin, the Orangemen’s third leading scorer, is sorely missed, although Josh Pace and freshman forward Demetris Nichols have picked up some of the scoring slack. It should be an exciting finish to the Big East season for defending national champion Syracuse.

Villanova (14-12 Overall /6-7 Big East)

The Wildcats have lost three out of their last four games. Despite getting consistent scoring from several players, the Wildcats have not been able to put together enough wins to rise out of the end of the Big East pack this year. Against West Virginia, they won despite shooting only 39.7%, and also won against Virginia Tech led by Allan Ray’s 29 points. In that game, Villanova shot a blistering 64.3%, and won in spite of 24 turnovers. The Wildcats battled valiantly against Seton Hall but could not overcome a 16-point late deficit losing by two points. This season has been a learning experience for the young Wildcats, who have suffered through suspensions and injuries, but have hung in there and stayed competitive. They should be a tough team next year if all their players stay healthy and eligible. The Wildcats have a chance to pull and upset or two in their last couple of games versus Pittsburgh and Connecticut, and don’t be surprised if they go far in the Big East tournament.

Virginia Tech (11-12 Overall / 4-8 Big East)

The Hokies have lost two out of their last three, and barely got by St. John’s in their only victory last week. Bryant Matthews continues to shine brightly for the Hokies. He had 29 points versus Rutgers, 16 in the loss to Villanova, and 12 points in the one-point win over St. John’s. Virginia Tech could play spoiler in its last four Big East games, as they play beatable teams still competing for a better slot in the Big East and/or NCAA tournaments. Like Villanova, the Hokies are a young team featuring six freshmen and sophomores, with only one junior and one senior. Unfortunately, the senior is Bryant Matthews, so someone is going to have to step up to fill the void next year.

West Virginia (14-9 Overall / 6-6 Big East)

The Mountaineers have won two out of their last three games, beating St. John’s and Villanova before falling to Pittsburgh. They are a respectable 14-9 and still hold out hope for a birth in the NCAA tournament. In order to do that, they’ll likely have to run the table in their last four conference games, and have a good showing in the Big East tournament. Tyrone Salley has picked up the scoring pace, leading the Mountaineers the last two games with 20 and 17 points respectively. West Virginia had five players in double figures in the win over St. Johns. They will continue to need a group effort in scoring most every game in order to have a shot at an NCAA bid.

     

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