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March 2, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, March 2nd

Alone at the Top: Oklahoma State moved into sole possession of first place of the Big 12 with a 76-67 win over Texas. A tightly contested first half saw Texas escape with a 35-33 lead but a 17-3 run to open the second half swung the momentum fully in the Cowboys favor. The Longhorns wouldn’t go away and cut the lead to two with just over a minute to play. Oklahoma State then scored the final seven points of the game, including an emphatic dunk from Joey Graham just before the buzzer. Graham led all scorers with 20 points as the Cowboys clinched their first league championship since 1990-91. Jason Klotz scored 19 points a losing effort for Texas.

At the Top, for Now: Connecticut coasted to a 89-67 win over Seton Hall and moved into a half-game lead for first place in the Big East. Emeka Okafor dazzled the crowd with 25 points and 15 rebounds on his de facto Senior Night. Okafor, a junior, was honored with the other departing seniors since he will graduate in June and more than likely jump to the NBA this offseason. Ben Gordon also added 23 points for the Huskies. Andre Sweet had twelve points and 15 rebounds but his Pirates couldn’t stop UConn who shot 52% from the field.

Unbeaten No More: Northern Iowa squashed Southern Illinois’ chance at a perfect Missouri Valley Conference season with a 68-52 win at home. The Panthers led the entire game and built a twelve point lead at halftime. The Salukis closed to within five in the second half before a UNI 17-4 run put the game away. Matt Schneiderman and David Gruber each had 16 points for Northern Iowa while no Saluki scored more than ten. Northern Iowa gets the number two seed in the MVC tournament after finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the MVC with Creighton and Wichita State. Wichita State gets the third seed despite dropping a 75-61 game to Creighton last night. Mike Grimes scored 16 points for the Bluejays who snapped a three game losing streak. The MVC tournament starts Friday in St. Louis.

Back on Track in the MAC: Western Michigan bounced back from a loss to Toledo on Saturday with a 70-58 win at Bowling Green last night. Ben Reed scored 24 points for the Broncos who had already clinched first place the MAC’s Western Division. Despite a 22-4 record and wins over UAB, Arizona State and USC, the Bronco’s RPI of 56 puts them squarely on the bubble of the NCAA tournament.

Midnight Tip Off: In front of 22,718 fans, BYU defeated in-state rival Utah 70-57 at home. The win gave BYU the second seed in the Mountain West tournament which starts next week. Mike Hall scored 21 points and Mark Bigelow had 19 points for the Cougars who avenged an earlier loss at Utah when they blew a 17-point lead. In other MWC action, Air Force clinched the conference title with a 61-49 win over San Diego State and UNLV clinched at worst the fourth seed in the tournament with a 78-75 win at New Mexico.

More Troubles for Schwab: Complications from prior double-lung transplant surgery sent Marquette assistant coach Trey Schwab back to the operating room. He is listed in critical condition after a blood cot was discovered and removed through open heart surgery. Schwab was hired in 2001 shortly before being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and works with team travel and on-campus recruiting.

Another Across the Seas: Gregg Doyel of sportsline.com reports that Penn State’s leading scorer and rebounder Jan Jagla will forgo his senior season and sign with a team in Europe. Jagla had been in the top ten in the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding but saw his playing time and production decrease as the season progressed. Unlike Christian Drejer of Florida and Maris Laska of Providence, Jagla will finish the season with the Nittany Lions.

No Surprises in the West Coast: For the fourth straight year, Gonzaga has swept the major WCC awards. Blake Stepp won his second straight player of the year award to follow in the line of Dan Dickau and Casey Calvary. Mark Few also won his fourth coach of the year honor, one for every year as coach of the Bulldogs.

Two More for Nee: Duquesne head coach David Nee received a contract extension that will keep him with the Dukes through the 2007-08 season. The Dukes are 11-14 this season which marks the most wins since Nee arrived in 2001.

Tonight’s Menu:

• St. Joseph’s puts their perfect mark on the line for the last time in the regular season tonight at home against St. Bonaventure. Earlier this season, the Hawks beat the Bonnies by 51 points on the road.

• The best match-up of the night features No. 3 Pittsburgh on the road at No. 14 Providence. The winner will move into a first place tie in the Big East with UConn with one game left in the regular season.

• Michigan State continues their ascension back into the rankings tonight by hosting No. 17 Wisconsin. Illinois, a half-game back of Michigan State, travels to Purdue in a game the Boilermakers desperately need to improve their NCAA profile.

• In other match-ups involving ranked teams, No. 16 North Carolina hosts Clemson in an attempt to secure at least a .500 record in ACC play. No. 11 Wake Forest puts a six game winning streak on the line at Virginia. No. 7 Mississippi State hosts Auburn in the only SEC game of the night.

• Championship Week gets under way as three conferences start their tournaments. The quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley and Big South conferences as well as the first round of the Horizon League tournament all start tonight on campus sites.

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