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March 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, March 10th

Valpo returns to tourney: Valpo coach Homer Drew never thought he’d coach another NCAA Tournament game. He was comfortably retired until his son Scott took the Baylor job, and Homer returned to the sidelines. It wasn’t a smooth transition, however, as the Crusaders struggled to an early 4-9 start. But Valpo started to play better in conference play and found itself in the championship game against IUPUI Tuesday night. Joaquim Gomes career-high 23 points led Valpo back from 10 points down in the game to a 75-70 victory. It is likely the Crusaders will get a 16-seed from the Tournament committee, but Homer Drew doesn’t care about that, he’s just proud to be back in the Tournament.

Illinois-Chicago gets bid on the road: There are few things tougher in college basketball than winning a conference tournament championship game on another team’s home court, but that’s exactly what Illinois-Chicago did Tuesday night. The Flames, who were the preseason favorite to win the conference but watched UWM take the title, placed four players in double-figures to sang the 65-62 victory. A team with nine seniors on its roster, the Flames were able to weather a furious UWM second-half rally. Senior Cedrick Banks led the Flames in scoring with 14 points.

Louisiana-Lafayette earns bid: A third bid to the NCAA Tournament was handed out Tuesday night to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin Cajuns upended New Orleans, 67-58, to earn their first Tournament bid since 2000. They were led by Antoine Landry’s 16 points. At 20-8, Louisiana-Lafayette is considered a serious threat to upset some higher-seeded teams in the Tournament. This is a team that has narrow losses on the road to Xavier and Arizona.

Princeton wins final game: There wasn’t much at stake for Princeton in its final regular season game, as it had already wrapped up the Ivy League championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. But the Tigers performed admirably nonetheless. Playing on the road against a tough Penn team, the Tigers prevailed in overtime, 76-70. Princeton was led by Judson Wallace, who scored 24 points. The win was the team’s ninth in a row.

Okafor seeking second opinion: UConn center Emeka Okafor couldn’t have picked a worse time to come down with a bothersome back injury. The star player is listed as questionable for the team’s first round Big East Tournament game Thursday. He is scheduled to get an out-of-state opinion on the back today. Okafor has been bothered by back spasms all year long, but those pains peaked in Connecticut’s last game against Syracuse, in which Okafor shot just twice in 32 minutes.

Akron to announce new coach: Following the swift firing of Dan Hipsher, who’s Akron Zips finished 13-15 this season, the University is ready to hire assistant coach Keith Dambrot. Dambrot once coached Lebron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s high school. According to ESPN, the announcement should come at 2 p.m. Eastern today.

BYU center reprimanded: BYU’s Rafael Araujo was reprimanded Tuesday by the Mountain West conference for hitting an opponent in the Cougars’ win at UNLV last week. He was cited for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy but is eligible to play in the team’s first-round Mountain West Tournament game.

San Francisco fires coach: Phil Mathews was fired Tuesday by San Francisco after leading the team for nine years. Mathews went 138-123 in his tenure at the school, including six winning seasons. But he only managed one NCAA Tournament berth in that time. Of course, let’s not forget that he competed in the same conference as Gonzaga, and thus there were limited opportunities to get to the NCAA Tournament.

Tonight’s Menu

• Three major conference tournaments kick off today with the Atlantic-10, the Big East and CUSA all starting tournament play.

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