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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 02/08/2005

Nebraska: Leading scorer Joe McCray was benched for nearly the entire second half in NU’s 78-65 home loss to Kansas last Saturday. McCray, a freshman guard who averages 14 PPG, was taken out of the game with 18 minutes to go in the second half and stayed on the bench until their were only 2 minutes remaining in the game. He was just 2 of 10 shooting in the game with two turnovers. Head coach Barry Collier stated that there is no issue with McCray he just simply had a bad game. He will be back in the starting line up on Tuesday vs. Iowa State. Also, since returning from injury four games ago, Husker guard Jason Dourisseau is giving his team a nice spark off the bench. In his four games back, Dourisseau is averaging 12 PPG and playing over 20 minutes per game. Collier said that Dourisseau has earned more playing time and he will give it to him.

Wisconsin: Starting forward and leading scorer Alando Tucker took part in his first full scale practice in some time on Monday of this week. Tucker has been bothered by a toe injury and has been very limited in practice. He also missed two full games as of late both wins over Penn State and Northwestern. Tucker did play in last Saturday’s loss @ Minnesota scoring 10 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Tucker did admit being tentative around the hoop rather than going to the rim strong as he usually does. He said that will not happen anymore as his toe finally feels very good. Wisconsin hosts Iowa on Wednesday night.

Northern Iowa: UNI’s leading scorer, Ben Jacobson (17 PPG), was in bad shape for last Saturday’s huge home game vs. Southern Illinois. Jacobson had been fighting the flu since midweek and had trouble keeping any food down for three or four days. That includes game day when he attempted to eat a banana and an energy bar about an hour before the tip-off and couldn’t keep either down. It looked like UNI would be in trouble without their leading scorer vs. one of, if not the, best team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Jacobson somehow played in the game and had a team high 18 points in the Panthers huge 67-61 win over SIU. Jacobson took an I.V. at halftime to replenish his fluids. The lingering affects of the flu should be completely gone by the time Northern Iowa travels to Creighton on Wednesday for another huge game in the MVC.

Michigan State: The Spartans point guard and top outside shooter, Chris Hill, is definitely struggling right now. He was actually replaced in the starting line up last Saturday @ Iowa by freshman Drew Neitzel. Hill, who has always been considered more or a 2-guard rather than a point guard, has shot just 34% from the field in his last nine games. Hill played just 20 minutes in MSU’s 11-point win @ Iowa scoring 7 points. Neitzel played 25 minutes, had 6 points and one assist. Head coach Tom Izzo said that Hill has been pressing and he simply wanted to take some pressure off of him by bringing him off the bench. The Spartans will definitely need Hill to get his confidence back if they want to make a run in the second half of the Big Ten season and into the NCAA tournament.

DePaul: The Blue Demons have squeaked by their last two opponents, both games they expected to win much easier. After inching by TCU 64-62 at home last Tuesday, the Demons went on the road to play a poor St. Louis team last Saturday. The Billikens came into the game with a SU record of just 5-15 but pushed DePaul to the limit. The Blue Demons had to come from behind to beat St. Louis 56-53. Head coach Dave Leitao admitted that his team must play much better in their final seven games which include tilts with Cincinnati and Louisville. He also admitted that his team is simply not as energized in practice as of late which might be due to the fact they are currently at mid term exam time. Leitao said he is trying to balance conserving energy, so his team doesn’t wear out down the stretch, with getting better. One positive note is DePaul now has six days between games before hosting Cincinnati this Saturday.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles received a huge boost when all-everything guard Travis Diener returned to the line up last Saturday vs. Southern Miss. Diener, who had been bothered by a stress fracture in his foot, came off the bench with 13 minutes remaining in the first half and proceeded to score 17 points and dish out 8 assists in 29 minutes of action. Diener got the OK from team doctors on Saturday morning after going through a shooting workout Friday night and suffering no ill effects. It was the first time Diener suited up for a game since January 22nd. Since he has been out of the line up, Marquette was blown out twice by UAB and Louisville and barely beat St. Louis on the road. Saturday’s 81-72 win over USM was very big for Marquette. Diener’s back up, Joe Chapman, tried to return last Saturday after injuring his knee in the Eagles previous game vs. UAB. Chapman played just 16 minutes and was nowhere near 100%. Marquette now travels to TCU on Wednesday and to East Carolina on Saturday.

Missouri: The Tigers have really hit the skids this year. Mizzou got creamed by Texas A&M last Saturday 91-63. In that game, head coach Quin Snyder benched his leading scorer Linas Kleiza for the entire first half and four minutes of the second half. Kleiza, who averages just under 16 PPG, was benched because of a technical foul he received at the end of the Tigers loss to Kansas last week. Kleiza finally entered the game with 16 minutes to go and the Tigers were promptly outscored 45-20 the rest of the way. It doesn’t get any easier for Mizzou who travels to UNLV on Wednesday before hosting Oklahoma on Saturday.

St. Louis: The Billiken’s head coach Brad Soderberg decided to “go youngâ€쳌 in his last game vs. DePaul. Soderberg benched his only two senior starters and leading scorers, Reggie Bryant (14 PPG) and Izik Ohanon (11 PPG), and instead started freshman Luke Meyer, who is averaging just 1 PPG and Vas’Shun Newborne who is averaging just 3 PPG. That gave SLU a starting line up consisting of 3 freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. The changes were made at a team meeting which took place Saturday night. The Billikens game with DePaul was on Sunday. Soderberg said he will stick with the new starting line up for the foreseeable future. The two seniors, Bryant and Ohanon came off the bench and combined for just 10 points. St. Louis is @ South Florida on Wednesday night.

Indiana: The Hoosiers played @ Illinois last Sunday without their leading scorer Bracey Wright (18 PPG). Wright suffered an ankle injury in his previous game vs. Penn State. Head coach Mike Davis said there is a good chance that Wright will miss IU’s next game which is this Saturday at home against Minnesota. The Hoosiers actually performed quite well @ Illinois without Wright in the line up losing 60-47 easily covering the 21 point spread.

Evansville: The Aces lost a game last Saturday they shouldn’t have. This is a team that desperately needed a win at home vs. Drake on Saturday after losing 7 of their previous 8 games. The Aces LED BY 19 points with UNDER 10 minutes to go in the game vs. Drake. They proceeded to blow the lead and lose 76-72 in overtime. This game could be very tough to bounce back from. After the loss Evansville coach Steve Merfeld stated, “I don’t know what to say. That was tough. I don’t know where we go from here.â€쳌 Evansville has now lost 8 of their last 9 games. However on a bright note, the Aces have a full week off to recover as they don’t play until Saturday (@ Indiana State).

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