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Conference USA First Round Recap

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA First Round Recap

Recap by Zach Van Hart

No. 5 Charlotte 78, No. 12 Tulane 48
Five days ago, Charlotte defeated Tulane 79-65 to clinch a share of the regular season title. Wednesday was more of the same, as the Niners sprinted to a 12-2 lead and never looked back, eventually winning 78-48. “It’s always tough to play a team you’ve just beaten,” said Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz. The 30-point win though still appeared pretty easy. Demon Brown came out firing away, scoring nine points during the first eight minutes and finished with fifteen, one of five Niner players to score in double figures. Charlotte pushed its first half lead to as many as nineteen and went into the locker room ahead 35-22.

After the Green Wave cut the lead to seventeen with sixteen minutes remaining, the Niners went on a tear. They out-scored Tulane 24-4 during a nine-minute stretch, ballooning the score to 68-31. By then, it was way past garbage time. Eddie Basden, the 49ers unsung hero all season and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, played another solid all-around game, going for fourteen points, three rebounds and two assists. Tulane simply could not find the range, shooting 16-of-59 from the field. Vincent Camper led the Wave with nine points. Charlotte now advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals, where it will face No. 4 seed UAB at 1 p.m.

No. 8 Marquette 62, No. 9 TCU 64
Game two of the first round at the C-USA Tournament turned into the Travis Diener show, but it was his counterpart Corey Santee that stole the limelight. The Horned Frogs’ point guard hit a floater from the baseline with 8.1 seconds remaining to give his team a 64-62 win against Marquette. While Diener was busying tying his career high with 31 points, TCU capitalized on a solid team effort and a late surge. After leading for much of the game, the Frogs fell behind 58-51 with 4:45 to play. But they finished the game on a 13-4 run and did not allow Diener to score during the final four-plus minutes of action.

Chudi Chinweze led TCU with thirteen points and was one of four players in purple to score in double digits. Nucleus Smith finished with twelve points, Marcus Shropshire scored eleven and Santee scored ten. Before hitting the game-winner, Santee hit a twirling floater in the lane to give the Horned Frogs a 62-60 lead. Dameon Mason tied it with two free throws, but Santee had the answer. Mason had a chance to force overtime, but missed a contested layup with one second remaining. For Marquette, the loss all but assured a trip to the NIT, while TCU will now face No. 1 DePaul in the quarterfinals Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

No. 6 Louisville 61, No. 11 East Carolina 54
Luke Whitehead and Taquan Dean were non-existent for the first 37 minutes Wednesday during Louisville’s first round game against East Carolina. But it’s the final few minutes that count, and both knocked down a money shot late to seal the Cards 61-54 win. “We lost to a good team,” said ECU head coach Bill Herrion. Dean only scored six points, but hit a three-pointer with 2:22 remaining, giving his team a seven-point lead. After ECU got it back to five and with the shot clock running down, Whitehead hit a contested jumper from the baseline with 55 seconds remaining, icing the win. They were Whitehead’s only two points of the game.

The first 20 minutes was an ugly affair, as both teams went through scoreless streaks of more than five and a half minutes and neither team hit double digits in field goals (East Carolina – eight, Louisville – nine). Louisville jumped out to an early 8-3 lead and appeared primed to blow the Pirates out, as the crowd noise made U.S. Bank feel like Louisville-north. But the Cards would not score for the next 5:45, setting the tone for the rest of the half. The second half was a different story though, as both teams battled back and forth, resulting in two ties and six lead changes during the final 20 minutes. Francisco Garcia led the Cardinals with 22 points, while Mike Cook led ECU with fourteen.

No. 7 Saint Louis 52, No. 10 Southern Miss 46
With his ailing father on his mind, Reggie Bryant hit the big shot Saint Louis needed. The junior guard, rejoining his team after leaving for a few days to visit his father, who suffered a stroke last week, nailed a three-pointer in the corner with two minutes remaining and the shot clock about to expire. The shot broke a 44-all tie, created the first lead larger than two by either team in eight minutes, and proved to be the game-winner as the Billikens held on for a 52-46 win. Bryant finished with thirteen points in the game.

It didn’t start out so hot for Bryant, as he scored his first points of the game with 1:35 to go before halftime. It was another ugly first half at the C-USA Tournament, with Southern Miss going into the locker room with a 23-19 lead. Saint Louis opened up the second half with a 16-2 run though, grabbing a 35-25 lead. But Southern Miss came right back with a 12-2 run of its own, tying the game at 38. From there, the teams battled tooth-and-nail, until Bryant’s shot gave SLU the breathing room it needed. Jasper Johnson led Southern Miss with fifteen points. The Billikens now advance to face Memphis in the final quarterfinal game Thursday.

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