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March 8, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Monday, March 8th

Southern Illinois bounced: It was exactly what every bubble team in the nation didn’t want to see – a loss by the Southern Illinois Salukis in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The sure-fire NCAA tournament bound Salukis were upended by the Southwest Missouri State Bears, 80-74, Sunday afternoon. The Bears were led by Merrill Andrews, who scored 16 points in the huge win. SMS coach Barry Hinson has never coached in an NCAA Tournament game as an assistant or as a head coach. He’ll get that chance if the Bears can knock off Northern Iowa tonight, the only other team in the conference to defeat Southern Illinois this season.

Gonzaga survives: Bubble teams collectively held their breath as Gonzaga struggled mightily late Sunday night. The Zags needed a Ronny Turiaf put-back basket with five seconds left to steal a 63-62 semifinal win against Santa Clara. The Broncos did exactly what most teams will do to the Zags in the NCAA Tournament – played them physically. Turiaf was bullied to just 3-of-13 shooting. Led by Doran Perkins’ 26 points, Santa Clara nearly pulled off the upset on its home floor. The win for Gonzaga was its 19th straight.

Illinois outright Big Ten champs: First-year Illini coach did what no other Illini coach has done in 52 years Sunday – won an outright Big Ten championship. It wasn’t easy, however. The Illini sputtered in the second half of its game against Ohio State and survived with a 64-63 win. Dee Brown led the Illini with 18 points. The win was Illinois’ 10th in a row, and even in a down Big Ten, an impressive feat. Few fans in Champaign, Illinois, are clamoring for the departed Bill Self anymore.

Kansas nips Mizzou: Speaking of Bill Self, the charismatic coach of the Kansas Jayhawks led his team to a narrow 84-82 win on the road Sunday. The Jayhawks’ David Padgett hit a turnaround jumper with two seconds left to nip the Missouri Tigers. It was the final game for the Jayhawks in the Hearnes Center, the 32-year old home building of the Tigers. The Hearnes Center is in its last season. The loss by the Tigers may have bursted their NCAA Tournament bubble, as Missouri now stands just 15-11 overall.

Kentucky routs Florida: In a season filled with distractions, the Florida Gators have been unable to get a big win on the road. Sunday was no different. The Kentucky Wildcats dominated the Gators, 82-62, at Rupp Arena. Gerald Fitch scored 21 points in the win for the Wildcats. Erik Daniels chipped in 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Kentucky used a huge 17-0 second half run to put the Gators away.

Big win for Syracuse: The defending national champions have spent all season trying to gain some consistency. But finally, as the season winds down, the Syracuse Orangemen are playing their best basketball. On Sunday, Jim Boeheim’s crew defeated Connecticut, 67-56. The win assured Syracuse of a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. Syracuse received a surprising effort from big man Craig Forth, who poured in 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. It was Syracuse’s fifth straight win.

Arizona dominates rival: The Arizona Wildcats ended an up-and-down regular season Sunday with a 106-81 rout of Arizona State. It was the Wildcats 18th win in 19 tries against its in-state rival. Hasaan Adams and Salim Stoudamire had 21 points apiece to lead Arizona. Arizona’s once promising season degenerated to just a 19-8 record, and just 11-7 in a weak Pac 10. Next up is the Pac-10 tournament, where Lute Olson hopes his team maintains the intensity it showed in its rout of Arizona State.

Maryland gets key win: Sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Maryland Terrapins needed a home victory over the Virginia Cavaliers Sunday. And they got just that. Trailing by double-digits, the Terrapins post-season life was at stake, but they rallied to take a 70-61 victory. The win pushed the Terrapins record to 16-11, and 7-9 in ACC play. Most pundits believe that may be enough for Gary Williams’ crew to get an invite. Williams’ certainly thought so, jumping into a wild celebration upon clinching the win Sunday. Meanwhile, the loss for Virginia put the Cavaliers on the outside looking in for a tournament berth, according to most experts.

Tonight’s Menu

• The MAC Tournament gets rolling with five games today. Meanwhile, the Missouri Valley Championship will be decided between Southwest Missouri State and Northern Iowa.

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