Big 12 Conference Notebook
by Zach Ewing
It was finals week in universities across the country, meaning a dull week for students and college basketball fans. Despite the lack of games throughout the week, Saturday and Sunday gave us some great stories.
Big 12 comes up a little short
The Atlantic Coast Conference is by and large considered to be the best conference in America this year, with seven teams ranked and four in the top ten in the country. But Texas and Oklahoma went east Saturday to try to earn some respect for the Big 12 in the best-conference argument. While Texas visited Wake Forest, Kelvin Sampson took his unexplainably unranked OU team to Madison Square Garden to take on Duke.
For a while, it looked like the Midwest teams would make their statement. Oklahoma led the Dookies by 10 at the break and had Coach K’s team on the run. Earlier, Texas had Wake on the ropes in Winston-Salem. But Chris Paul led the Demon Deacons back into the lead and then Kenton Paulino missed a poorly set up shot at the buzzer and Texas lost 89-88.
Back in New York, J.J. Redick was catching fire and Oklahoma was slowing down. A few minutes after a 10-2 run brought the Blue Devils close, Redick hit a three-pointer to give Duke a lead. He hit another three to put his team up 70-61 and the Sooners couldn’t recover.
So despite going to the East Coast and hoping to earn some respect for the Big 12, OU and Texas came back 0-for-2. But they did so while giving two top-ten teams more than they wanted or needed and did so in hostile environments. Texas was on the road and Madison Square Garden is like a second home to the Dookies. Back in the Midwest, the results likely would have been different. So in the end, the Longhorns and Sooners proved they could play with top competition. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad weekend after all.
Coach Knight stymied by his old school
Don’t tell The General, but it really was his alma mater that was on the court with his Red Raiders on Thursday night. And Ohio State really did beat the Red Raiders. Early in the week, Bob Knight of Texas Tech berated reporters during the Big 12’s conference call for asking questions about Knight’s relationship with Ohio State, from his graduation to the Buckeyes’ coaching search last summer that was rumored to include Knight. A bad week for the great coach ended when Ohio State scored the last six point of the game in Dallas to win 77-71.
K-State and A&M stay unbeaten
Two of the more unlikely undefeated teams in the country have to be the ones playing in Manhattan, Kan., and College Station, Texas. The Wildcats continued their 7-0 run to start the season this week by holding off Texas-San Antonio, 73-69. K-State hasn’t been overly impressive, but it has done what it needs to do to win games, doing so most recently against Washington State and at Wyoming.
The Aggies, meanwhile, also stayed light in the loss column by smoking Louisiana-Monroe and Chicago State this week. A&M, at 8-0, is off to its best start since its 1959-’60 team went 10-0. Of course, the Aggies haven’t played anyone with half a pulse. They play Penn State in early January, but will be severely tested when Big 12 play starts.
A freshman leads to KU’s survival
With Wayne Simien banged up and the rest of Kansas’ star-studded line-up struggling with unheralded South Carolina at Allen Fieldhouse, it was freshman point guard Russell Robinson who came up with four crucial points down the stretch to hold off the Gamecocks 64-60. It was another freshman, however, who committed the most ridiculous Jayhawk error in a first half full of them. Center C.J. Giles rebounded a missed South Carolina free throw but then went right back up and put it in the hoop for two Gamecocks’ points. Coach Bill Self took Giles out and didn’t put him back in again.
Big 12 Player of the Week
P.J. Tucker, Texas
The sophomore jack-of-all-trades is becoming Texas’ go-to guy, something the Longhorns didn’t have last season. He kept Texas-Arlington at bay Wednesday with 17 points and 10 rebounds and then excelled in a close loss at Wake Forest, scoring 27 and pulling down 14 rebounds.
Big 12 Rookie of the Week
Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders lost both of their games this week, but don’t blame this freshman guard. Zeno had 20 points and 7 rebounds, including five in a row to tie the game at 71 against Ohio State before the Buckeyes scored six points in a row to end the game. He then added 11 in the Raiders’ blowout loss to Iowa.
Around the Big 12
Baylor Bears (3-3)
Some individual performances for the Bears provide a bright spot, but that probably wasn’t enough to give the players a good week. Southern Methodist clobbered Baylor 77-43 on Thursday in Dallas behind 26 points and 9 rebounds from Bryan Hopkins. Tommy Swanson led the Bears with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and pulled down 7 boards, and the Bears got some actual scholarship-player help from LSU transfer Tim Bush, who had 15 points in his first game at Baylor. But no one else had more than five points and the Mustangs out-rebounded Baylor 34-22 in the rout.
Saturday, Baylor rebounded with a 75-62 win against Southern University. Aaron Bruce had 24 points and Swanson had 19. Scott Drew’s team overcame 36 points from Southern’s Chris Alexander, 23 turnovers and a blown 20-5 lead by going on an 18-4 run early in the second half to retake control.
This week: Wednesday vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore
Colorado Buffaloes (4-2)
The Buffs’ first game of the week was an 89-83 win against in-state rival Colorado State. Colorado led by 11 points at the half and watched CSU come back to tie the game. After pulling back ahead, CU hit 11-of-12 free throws in the game’s final minute to seal the victory despite giving up 57 second-half points. Marcus Hall led Colorado with 22 points and hit all eight of his freebies. Richard Roby had 17 points and Chris Copeland has 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Colorado almost suffered the national upset of the week on Tuesday when they hosted Missouri-Kansas City. The Kangaroos led the Buffaloes 34-29 at the half, but CU woke up enough after the break to shoot 58 percent and win 79-68. Roby had 23 points and 6 rebounds and Jayson Obazuaye added 16 points.
This week: Thursday vs. Radford
Iowa State Cyclones (6-2)
After a tough stretch last week in which the Cyclones took out Virginia and lost a close one to Iowa, Wayne Morgan’s team is playing only one game the next two weeks. That game came Sunday against Wagner, and it was a 62-50 ISU win.
John Neal kept Iowa State ahead of Wagner despite poor play from most of the team’s stars in the first half by scoring 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range. In the second half, the usual suspects took over. Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock both got going in the second half, as did center Jared Homan, who scored all eight of his points after the break. A 22-7 run put ISU in control for good.
This week: no games
Kansas Jayhawks (7-0)
It was almost a nightmare Saturday night at Allen Fieldhouse. South Carolina took an 11-0 lead and hit a three at the first-half buzzer to go up 33-25 on the Jayhawks. Wayne Simien seemed to be the only Kansas player in high gear, but he hurt his thumb midway through the second half. He returned, but will need an MRI on Monday to determine how much damage was done. KU finally took the lead at 54-52 with 5:03 to play, and then took it for good on a Simien lay-up to make the score 59-58. Then Russell Robinson scored his four big points and Keith Langford made a free throw to keep the Gamecocks at bay. Simien finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Aaron Miles had 8 assists, but Bill Self wasn’t happy with his team afterward.
This week: Wednesday vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Kansas State Wildcats (8-0)
Two more wins means the excitement for the Big 12 season grows in Manhattan. In a 73-69 victory against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, the Wildcats had the game in control after an 18-8 run put them up 47-29. But they let the Roadrunners, the defending Southland Conference champ, back in the game. With a three-pointer with 10.3 seconds left, UTSA pulled within three. Fortunately for KSU, Fred Peete hit a free throw to seal the win. Peete finished with 22 points to lead K-State, which has won six of its eight games by less than ten points.
Jeremiah Massey made sure the Wildcats didn’t have to worry about a comeback in their Tuesday game. He went for 32 points, including 16-of-17 shooting from the free-throw line as KSU beat Northern Illinois 81-66. Kansas State shot 52 percent as a team and forced 21 Northern Illinois turnovers. Besides Massey, Justin Williams also had 13 points and 6 rebounds, and Cartier Martin threw in his second double-digit effort of the week.
This week: no games
Missouri Tigers (6-4)
If Texas vs. Wake Forest was the best game of the week, Missouri-Indiana comes in a close second. In a sloppy game, the Tigers came back from 17 points down to beat the Hoosiers 56-53 on Sunday. MU shot just 23 percent from the floor in the first half and after scoring the first bucket of the second, Indiana went on a 16-1 run to take a 33-16 lead. But the Tigers turned things around by getting to the free-throw line – a lot.
Right after the IU run, Mizzou responded with a 16-2 run of its own to cut the lead to three. The Hoosiers hung on to the lead until a Marshall Brown three-pointer tied it at 49. Four free throws from Linas Kleiza in the final minute gave Missouri the lead, and Bracey Wright, who broke his nose earlier in the game, turned the ball over on IU’s last possession. Kleiza led the Tigers’ charge to the line and finished with 18 points. After the dismal first half, MU shot 10-of-12 from the floor in the second, and gained some momentum heading into a very tough game Wednesday.
This week: Wednesday vs. Illinois in St. Louis
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-4)
Joe McCray sparked Barry Collier’s team to a 71-49 victory against North Carolina A&T on Saturday. With the score tied 28-28, the Huskers went on a 35-10 run that included six three-pointers from McCray, who finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds. That put Nebraska up 63-38, and it coasted to victory from there. NC A&T shot just 36 percent from the field and made 19 turnovers.
It was a different story for NU when it played at Marquette on Tuesday. The Golden Eagles got 7 three-pointers and 32 points from Travis Diener, and Marquette controlled play throughout in an 81-62 win. Nebraska couldn’t get closer than eight points the entire second half and was out-rebounded 44-23. McCray dumped in 17 more points, but the Huskers were hurt by the absence of point guard Jason Dourisseau, who didn’t play because of illness.
This week: no games
Oklahoma Sooners (6-2)
There were some bright spots for the Sooners in their collapse against Duke. They played a great first half against a top-ten team on the road and kept the game a lot closer (78-67) than last year when the Blue Devils blew them out in Madison Square Garden. There were also a great individual performance from transfer Taj Gray, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Kevin Bookout had 17 points, but shot only 2-of-10 from the field. Plus, those bright spots don’t make swallowing the loss any easier and the Sooners will be looking to take it out on SMS.
This week: Thursday vs. Southwest Missouri State
Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0)
After a long break for finals, the Cowboys went across the country to play in a holiday tournament in Las Vegas. An early 15-0 run put OSU up 11 on UNLV, but the Runnin’ Rebels were able to stay close throughout in a 79-67 Oklahoma State win. In fact, UNLV was within 71-63 late in the game before Ivan McFarlin sparked a game-ending run with a thunderous dunk. Joey Graham had 20 points and 7 rebounds, and McFarlin and John Lucas both had 17.
Tuesday’s game against Northwestern Oklahoma was supposed to be an exhibition for Eddie Sutton’s team, but NW Oklahoma was thrown into the real deal when a previously scheduled game fell through. Poor guys. What they got was a school-record 15 three-pointers from OSU on just 23 attempts. The first 21 Cowboy points of the second half were scored on threes, and Oklahoma State opened up a lead as big as 60 before winning 92-35. Lucas and Graham both had 21 points.
This week: no games
Texas Longhorns (7-2)
An 85-70 win Wednesday against Texas-Arlington didn’t please coach Rick Barnes. After jumping to a 52-29 halftime lead, his team actually was out-scored in the second half as the Longhorns shot just 37 percent. UTA even cut the lead to 65-52 with about eight minutes to play before P.J. Tucker helped Texas put the game away for good. Tucker led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Texas improved to 50-3 against in-state competition under Barnes.
The Longhorns’ game Saturday was against considerably tougher competition, and although Texas played better, it couldn’t come away with victory. Tucker, a sophomore, had 27 points and 14 rebounds, possibly the best performance of his short career, but Kenton Paulino’s 18-footer at the buzzer clanged the back iron and Wake survived for the 89-88 win. Texas first got the lead at 64-63 and stretched it to 76-72 on a Kenny Taylor put-back dunk, but Chris Paul led Wake back, scoring five straight points, and the Demon Deacons hit just enough free throws down the stretch to hold off Texas. Paul finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
This week: Wednesday vs. Centenary
Texas A&M Aggies (7-0)
Antoine Wright continued his brilliant play against not-so-brilliant competition this week. First, he scroed 21 points and pulled down 9 boards in a 78-36 win against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday. Acie Law added 15 points and 7 assists in a game A&M led 18-4 and didn’t allow any Indians player to reach double figures in scoring. The Aggies also used coach Billy Gillispie’s pressure defense to force a whopping 30 turnovers, which created 30 points and helped hold ULM to their season-low point total.
Wright scored 20 points with 10 rebounds Sunday in a 90-70 win against Chicago State. This game wasn’t quite such a blowout. The Aggies led only 33-32 at the half and then scored 57 points in the second. Wright had 17 of his 20 after intermission. Joseph Jones added 15 points for A&M, which has already surpassed its win total from all of last season. More wins should be on the way, because the parade of patsies to College Station will continue until Big 12 play starts.
This week: Wednesday vs. Grambling
Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3)
It was a bad week for Bobby Knight. First he lost a close game to his alma mater, Ohio State and then he was blown away by a team now coached by Steve Alford, one of his former players at Indiana.
The Buckeyes controlled the first half against Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders fought back from 13 down to take a 56-55 lead. Ohio State responded minutes later with four straight three-pointers. Freshman Martin Zeno tried his best to keep Tech in it. He scored five straight points to tie the game at 71 late, but he and all of his teammates were silent down the stretch. The Buckeyes scored the game’s final six points and won 77-71.
In the game against Alford’s Iowa team on Tuesday, the Red Raiders committed 21 turnovers, 16 in the first half alone, and shot 36 percent from the floor. Iowa, behind Adam Haluska’s shooting, sprinted to a 15-6 lead and it was all downhill from there for Knight and his team. Jarrius Jackson had 16 points and 7 assists and Zeno added 11 points, but Iowa won by a whopping 30 points, 83-53.
This week: no games