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March 3, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, March 3rd

Simply Perfect: No. 2 St. Joseph’s did it. The Hawks erased St. Bonaventure 82-50 and finished the regular season a perfect 27-0. Senior guard Jameer Nelson finished with 25 points to lead St. Joseph’s, despite watching his teammates mop up the game during the final eight minutes. In the closing minutes, the St. Joseph’s faithful chanted “We want Stanford.” If both teams play in the NCAA Tournament as they have during the regular season, perfect will have to beat perfect to get to the ultimate goal – the NCAA Tournament championship.

Schwab Stabilizes: A day after open-heart surgery to remove a pulmonary embolism, Marquette assistant coach Trey Schwab was upgraded to critical but stable condition. Schwab received a double-lung transplant in February. He has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease with no cure that replaces the lungs’ air exchange sacs with scar tissue.

Charlotte’s Drive to the Tournament Arrested?: Charlotte sophomore forward Curtis Withers was arrested Sunday and charged with driving while impaired. Withers is the 49ers’ leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The school has not announced whether or not it will suspend Withers, who has 14 double doubles this season.

Basketball on the High Seas: With the blessing of the Defense Department, North Carolina, Michigan State, Air Force and Navy will play a doubleheader on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier next season. ESPN would broadcast the games that would bring some of the nation’s best programs to the nation’s armed forces.

Bad Taste Remains at Georgia: The University of Georgia agreed with the NCAA’s findings of four violations for academic fraud and improper benefits that emerged last season and led to the firing of former coach Jim Harrick. The university issued a 52-page response to the NCAA, including a request not to place further sanctions against the school, especially in the form of scholarship limitations or a postseason ban.

Second Opinion: LSU senior forward Jaime Lloreda visited a Miami doctor for a second opinion on his injured ankle, and the news appears to be bad for the Tigers. Coach John Brady announced after practice that the recurring bursitis in Lloreda’s left ankle will keep him out of the Tigers’ remaining games. Lloreda has been one of the best players in the entire nation this season, averaging 16.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Without Lloreda, LSU will depend on a host of freshmen to carry this team through the SEC tournament and probably the NCAA Tournament.

Storm Brewing in Oklahoma: Police in Norman, Okla., reportedly found marijuana, a firearm and drug paraphernalia in the home of senior center Jabahri Brown. The police did not arrest or charge Brown but are in the process of proposing charges at the district attorney’s office. The Sooners have lost four consecutive games and must beat Texas A&M and Baylor at home to finish the season if Oklahoma wants to even get a sniff at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Beasts of the Big East: No. 6 Pittsburgh visited No. 13 Providence with a share of first place in the Big East on the line. And the Panthers annihilated the Friars 88-61 as junior forward Chevon Troutman had his best game of the season for Pitt with 23 points and seven rebounds. Pitt’s defense quieted Providence’s superstar, junior forward Ryan Gomes, who only scored 11 points. Freshman forward Chris Taft and sophomore guard Carl Krauser each scored more than 20 points as Pitt moved into a tie with No. 8 Connecticut for first place. More importantly, Pitt bounced back from a low-scoring loss at home to Syracuse and showed that the Panthers may be worthy of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking of Syracuse…: The No. 24 Syracuse Orangemen continued their road success at West Virginia, winning 65-52. The Orangemen shut down West Virginia in the second half, holding the Mountaineers to 23 points. For the game, West Virginia shot only 37 percent. More importantly, the Mountaineers could not stop junior forward Hakim Warrick, who scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Besides having the best name on the team, junior center D’Or Fischer led the team with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Syracuse looks more and more like a lock for the NCAA Tournament, as the Orangemen are playing suffocating defense down the stretch. What’s that you say? Defense wins championships? Yeah, yeah. Syracuse knows a little something about winning championships.

Keeping Pace: No. 5 Mississippi State matched Pitt’s success by cruising to a 105-91 victory at home against Auburn. Junior guard Winsome Frazier drained six three pointers, finishing with 26 points to lead the Bulldogs to yet another SEC victory. Auburn played without its star, junior forward Marco Killingsworth, who missed the game because of a suspension for taking a swing during the Tigers’ game at Tennessee Saturday. Junior forward Brandon Robinson led Auburn with a season-high 24 points. The Bulldogs can claim the SEC regular season title with a win at Alabama Saturday, which would also avenge one of Mississippi State’s only two losses.

Badgers Deny Spartans: Michigan State needed to beat No. 14 Wisconsin to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. The school had a banner ready to hang in the rafters and confetti ready to explode to celebrate a Spartan win. But Wisconsin crashed the party, stealing a 68-64 overtime victory. Both teams were led by their stars. Sophomore center Paul Davis led all scores with 25 points for Michigan State, but he ended the game on the bench with cramps. His absence allowed Wisconsin to take the upper hand in overtime after the Spartans’ junior guard Chris Hill missed two free throws at the end of regulation that would have given Michigan State the lead. Juniors Mike Wilkinson and Devin Harris led the Badgers with 18 points apiece.

Tar Heels Go Silver: For the 50th time in 50 games, No. 15 North Carolina beat Clemson in Chapel Hill, N.C. In the ACC, it’s nearly impossible to entirely own a team, whether on the road or at home, but the Tar Heels have Clemson’s number in Chapel Hill. Last night was no different as sophomore guard Rashad McCants scored 30 points to lead North Carolina to a 69-53 victory. He tied a school record by sinking eight three pointers. Junior forward Sharrod Ford led an anemic Clemson offense with 14 points. Junior guard Jackie Manuel missed the game for the Tar Heels. It’s the second consecutive game that Manuel has missed after spraining an ankle in practice Friday. The Tar Heels are 2-0 without him. An already shallow team, North Carolina will likely end that streak if Manuel misses significant time.

Cavs on the Rise: Is it conceivably possible for another ACC team to join the NCAA discussion? Virginia fans would emphatically answer yes, especially after their Cavs defeated No. 11 Wake Forest 84-82 last night. With the score tied at 82, senior guard Todd Billet was biding time in the closing seconds to find a look at the hoop. He had drained game-winning three pointers in three of the Cavs’ previous four games. But with no open looks, he passed the ball and junior forward Devin Smith sprinted to the hoop, adjusting his shot after getting fouled and draining the layup. A made free throw gave the Cavs a three-point lead, and Virginia held on despite nearly letting Wake Forest tie the game on a shot at the buzzer. Smith and sophomore forward Derrick Byars led Virginia with 15 points, and freshman guard Chris Paul led Wake Forest with 21 points.

Some Early Madness: In the first round of the Big South conference tournament, UNC Asheville upset Winthrop for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs were the No. 6 seed and took down the No. 3 seed Eagles 49-46 behind 13 points from sophomore forward Oliver Holmes and freshman guard K.J. Garland. The Bulldogs will next play No. 2 seed High Point, which pounded VMI 75-43. Senior forward Danny Gathings, who has led High Point all season, delivered 18 points and five rebounds in just 23 minutes to lead the Panthers to the second round.

In the other half of the Big South bracket, top-seeded Liberty beat Charleston Southern 60-54 in a lackluster performance. The Flames were led by freshman forward David Dees with 19 points but will need to turn up the heat against No. 4 seed Coastal Carolina in the conference semifinals. The Chanticleers beat Radford 67-62 as senior guard E.J. Gallup led the team with 21 points. Gallup is the type of senior superstar who could single-handedly carry his team through the conference tournament and into the NCAA Tournament.

OVC Tournament Redux: No. 1 seed Austin Peay ran through the Ohio Valley conference’s regular season and finished a perfect 16-0. But the Governors struggled in the first game of the conference tournament against No. 8 seed Tennessee State. Austin Peay prevailed 75-71 and will play Eastern Kentucky in the second round. The Colonels beat Samford 81-61 as sophomore guard Matt Witt and senior forward Jon Bentley scored 22 points to lead Eastern Kentucky to the easy victory. Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Murray State looked like the team that won eight consecutive games to start the season and pounded No. 7 seed Tennessee Tech 92-75. The Racers will play No. 3 seed Morehead State, which took care of No. 6 seed Jacksonville State as senior guard Ricky Minard went off for 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Horizon Opens Its Tournament: Most mid-major fans are accustomed to Butler as one of the most dangerous teams for unsuspecting major conference teams that take the Bulldogs for granted. But not this year. Butler did qualify for a bye and will have to win four games to dance this year. The Bulldogs won the opening round game against Youngstown State 88-57. Freshman center Jamie Smalligan, sophomore guard Avery Sheets and freshman guard Nick Brooks each scored 21 points for the Bulldogs. Elsewhere, No. 8 seed Loyola upset No. 5 seed Wright State 76-59 behind 19-point performances by junior guard DaJuan Gouard and sophomore guard Terrance Whiters. The highest seeded team to play yesterday in the Horizon tournament was No. 4 seed Detroit against No. 9 Cleveland State. The Titans kept Cleveland State in the cold, holding the Vikings under 32 percent shooting en route to a 62-36 win. Senior guard Jimmy Twyman led Detroit with 13 points.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The premier game of the night features No. 19 Georgia Tech trying to break No. 3 Duke’s 41-game home winning streak. Other important games in the eastern half of the country include No. 9 Kentucky at South Carolina, No. 18 Illinois at Purdue, TCU at No. 22 Memphis, No. 25 Louisville at St. Louis and Maryland at No. 16 NC State. Out west, No. 21 Kansas hosts Nebraska and Missouri plays a huge road game at Texas Tech that could easily determine whether the Tigers are in the NCAA Tournament or out.

• As for bubble games, check out Michigan at Indiana, Georgia at Florida, George Washington at Xavier, Colorado at Iowa State and Tennessee at Vanderbilt.

• The Southern conference tournament kicks off today with Western Carolina against Furman, Citadel against Elon, Wofford against UNC Greensboro and Appalachian State against College of Charleson. The latter team of each pair is the favored team.

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