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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 12/31/2005

Texas A&M: The Aggies are getting healthier and continue to win, improving to 9-0 with their win over Texas Southern Wednesday. Aggies sophomore Joseph Jones has led the charge leading A&M in scoring and rebounding (16.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG), while junior Acie Law chips in 15 points a night. A&M was with both Jones and Law for the first time in two games after Jones injured his ankle and missed the Savannah St. game Dec. 17 and Law suffered a concussion and missed the last two games before coming back in the win over Auburn. They both seem to be completely healed as Jones and Law combined for 43 of the Aggies 72 points against Auburn, with Jones scoring a game high 24 points and pulling down eight rebounds, and Law shooting 9-17 from the field in scoring 19 points in 38 minutes. A&M has played only one road game thus far and will not play another road game until Jan. 3 when they visit the west coast and Pacific. The Aggies, 8-0 SU, 0-3 ATS, host Northwestern St. on Saturday.

Colorado: Since losing to rival Colorado St. way back before Thanksgiving, the Buffs have reeled off seven wins in a row thanks in large part sophomore guard Richard Roby, who has averaged 19 points PPG in that stretch and who has carried the offensive load for a team that only has two scorers averaging in double figures. The seven-game winning streak for Colorado is the their first winning streak of such a length since the 1996-97 season, and their blowout win over Mercer last Thursday extended their non-conference unbeaten streak to 15 games. The Buffs are a particularly veteran team poised to make a little noise in the Big 12 this season, led by their deadly three-point shooting. The Buffs made 12 in the game against Mercer that raised their total three-point field goals made in the last four games to 41. For the season, the Buffs average almost nine made three’s a game, led by Roby’s 52% clip from downtown. Colorado, 8-1 SU, 7-1 ATS, hosts Dartmouth on Saturday and then host Savannah St. next Tuesday.

Kansas State: The Wildcats 7-2 record includes a win over Colorado St. but also includes losses in the only two road games they have played so far this season, both losses coming by a combined six points. The Wildcats have been woeful from the field this season, shooting only 47% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc, including a 38% shooting performance in their loss at Washington St. Junior Cartier Martin and his 20.1 PPG and eight rebounds lead Kansas St., with sophomore David Hoskins chipping in 14 points a night. Kansas St, 7-2 SU, 4-2 ATS, hosts Belmont on Thursday and North Dakota St. on Monday.

Iowa: With senior guard and leader Jeff Horner still sidelined with a knee injury, the Hawkeyes have been forced to win with a defense that has become their trademark. They have gone 3-1 since Horner went down Dec. 8, and they have held their opponent under 60 points eight times this season. Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford said he expects Horner back when the Hawkeyes host Saint Louis on Friday. The Hawkeyes lost Horner, who is averaging 12 PPG and 6.6 assists a game, late in the second half against Northern Iowa with a partially torn ligament in his left knee. The Hawkeyes went on to lose that game in overtime, and were beaten by Iowa State handily three nights later. But Iowa has allowed only 52 points a game since then, which has helped overcome an offense that has struggled to gel minus Horner's leadership. Freshman Tony Freeman, Horner's replacement, has 19 turnovers and 17 assists in the last four games and is averaging 4.7 PPG in his absence. Senior forward Greg Brunner continues to lead the Hawks, averaging 14.7 PPG and 10 rebounds and has recorded five straight double-doubles. Iowa, 10-3 SU, 2-7 ATS, hosts Saint Louis on Friday and then opens Big Ten play next Thursday when the visit Madison and the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers.

Northwestern: Northwestern has been a confusing up and down thus far, playing five games on the road and winning three of them, also playing five games at home and losing two of those. Senior forward Vedran Vukusic leads the Wildcats attack and is by far their leading scorer at 22. 9 PPG, which also leads the Big Ten conference. Northwestern has clearly relied heavily upon him, as no other Wildcat scorer averages in double figures. The fact that they have relied on Vukusic to score so much is an indication of Northwestern’s terrible shooting from the field. Thru Dec. 27, they have shot only 44% from the field, including a 30% showing in a two-point win over Seton Hall and a 3-22 night from three-point range in a 15-point loss to Virginia. Northwestern, 6-4 SU, 2-5 ATS, hosts Northern Colorado on Jan. 1 and then hosts Purdue in their Big Ten opener next Wednesday.

UTEP: The Miners survived an altercation earlier in the month where leading scorer Jason Williams (14.8 PPG) punched freshman Stefon Jackson during what Miners head coach Doc Sadler called “a very competitive practice,â€쳌 breaking Jackson’s jaw and forcing him into surgery. Williams missed only one game in the form of suspension, a game the Miners won, but Jackson is out six weeks. Jackson was having a terrific start to his college career, as he was the Miners third-leading scorer at 11 points a game before the incident with Williams. The Miners will look to senior John Tofi to pick up Jackson’s scoring load, as Tofi has been steady for the Miners already, nearly averaging a double-double for the year. UTEP, which got 19 points and nine rebounds from Tofi in a win over Mississippi Valley State Tuesday, is at Texas Tech Sunday and at Syracuse next Wednesday.

Houston: The Cougars have enjoyed a 6-3 start and a win over then No. 13 Arizona under head coach Tom Penders, led by a triple-threat of scorers in Oliver Lafayette (19.3 PPG), Jahmar Thorpe (12.8 PPG), and Lanny Smith (9.5 PPG). Lafayette has been the most productive shooting 43% from beyond the arc (33-76). The problem for the Cougars has come on the defensive end, particularly their crippling tendency to send opponents to the free-throw line an extraordinary amount of times. After watching their three previous opponents (UNLV, South Alabama, North Texas) average almost 40 trips to the free-throw line a night, the Cougars held Rhode Island to just 12 attempts on Tuesday. For Houston to remain competitive in Conference USA, staying out of foul trouble and not giving opponents 40 free looks at the basket will be the key. The Cougars, 6-3 SU, 4-3 ATS, host McNeese St. on Saturday and are at Centenary next Tuesday.

SMU: Southern Methodist (5-4) saw a modest two-game win streak come to a halt last Thursday with a 75-69 loss at Wyoming. The Mustangs hurt themselves badly at the free throw line, making just six of 16 attempts in the game, ultimately losing by six. Senior Bryan Hopkins scored 19 points in his second game from returning to the team after missing the first semester of play. Devon Pearson had 10 points and 10 rebounds as well in the losing effort. Southern Methodist has been bolstered by the return of Hopkins, a second team all-conference member who missed the first semester after being declared academically ineligible. Hopkins, owner of 1,380 career points, led the Mustangs in points, assists and steals last season. The 5-4 record for the Mustangs isn’t all that impressive when you consider that SMU's opponents this season have a combined record of 34-51. However, SMU’s offense has been in gear all year no matter who the opponent, as they score over 73 points per game and have scored with a great deal of precision by shooting better than 47 percent from the floor. Four Mustangs average in double figures led by Bryan Hopkins’19 PPG. Derrick Roberts (14.1 PPG), Devon Pearson (12.9), and Dez Willingham (12 PPG) are the other Mustangs contributing significantly. SMU, 5-4 SU, 1-2 ATS, hosts TCU on Friday and then hosts No. 15 Oklahoma next Tuesday.

Loyola Chi: The Ramblers are thin scoring wise, with all five starters averaging in double figures but not one reserve averaging more than five points a night. The Ramblers are also in the midst of a stretch where they play six of seven games on the road (where they are 2-2), including three-straight games against Horizon League teams in seven days starting next Thursday. They are 1-1 so far in that seven game period going into Thursday’s Horizon League opener at Cleveland St. The Ramblers are 8-2 SU and 4-2 ATS.

Memphis: The No. 4 Tigers thought there was a chance they would be without starting point guard Darius Washington going into their clash with No. 8 Gonzaga Tuesday, but Washington, who has already missed two games this season due to injury, did play, scoring 22 points and dishing out 10 assists. It looks as though Washington is healthy enough to significantly contribute in huge games, so there should be no worry about his health as the Tigers head into Conference USA play. Memphis hosts struggling Purdue Friday, then faces another stern test next Monday when they host No. 16 Texas.

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