WEST COAST CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK
The key player in determining this season’s West Coast Conference champion has never played in a college game as of Dec. 15.
That player is BYU freshman Matt Carlino, a transfer from UCLA who becomes eligible to play Dec. 17.
F Noah Hartsock has developed into the Cougars’ star, and he’s surrounded by a variety of versatile players. The Cougars lack defensive quickness, but a bigger shortcoming is point-guard play with the departure of Jimmer Fredette.
If Carlino is as good as some think he is, and if he can be transitioned into the lineup fairly quickly, the Cougars can challenge Gonzaga for the conference title in their first season in the WCC.
At this point, however, no one knows whether Carlino is even good enough to be a starter. And if he’s anything less than a significant boost to BYU, Gonzaga will remain the favorite, even though the Bulldogs have not played as well as expected.
The Bulldogs, who are seeking their 12th straight regular-season WCC championship, have been challenging themselves with what is by far the toughest nonconference schedule in the conference, but a road loss to Illinois, which was unranked at the time, and a home loss to unranked Michigan State suggest Gonzaga may not be the national player that was anticipated – not yet, at least.
With two freshmen – Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. – in the starting backcourt as of Dec. 15, the Bulldogs could still develop into strong team, as they did a year ago.
Robert Sacre has played well, but junior Elias Harris remains inconsistent. They need both to play to their potential to weather the challenges of BYU, St. Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara, all of whom figure to be in the title chase.
And if you’re looking for a sleeper, check out Loyola Marymount, which has been up and down, but has a win over nationally ranked St. Louis. That was without its best player, Drew Viney, who has since returned, so the Lions could be a force.
St. Mary’s was expected to be the team most likely to knock off Gonzaga because it lost only one starter from a team that tied for last year’s WCC regular-season title. The Gaels are 6-1, but it is a misleading 6-1, because their schedule has not been very challenging, and the team has not played that well. Gaels F Rob Jones is putting up the kind of numbers that could make him conference player of the year, but the loss of last season’s WCC player of the year, point guard Mickey McConnell, seems to be hurting the team more than expected.
And injury to Mitchell Young hasn’t helped, but that’s not the reason for the slow start.
You figure that coach Randy Bennett will get things straightened out by conference time, although finishing in the top two will be a chore.
Santa Clara has posted some impressive wins and has overcome the preseason loss of Marc Trasolini rather nicely. Kevin Foster continues to put up big numbers, but it is the improved production of point guard Evan Roquemore that makes the Broncos a contender. Though they were picked fifth, the Broncos looked better than both St. Mary’s (picked second) and San Francisco (picked fourth.
At least, that’s the way it seemed until the Broncos lost by 38 points at Washington State on Dec. 11, an inexplicably poor performance, even considering Pullman, Wash., is a tough place to play. The best guess is that game was an aberration, but you wonder whether a team capable of being beaten so badly can challenge for a title.
The San Francisco Dons have been winning without being particularly impressive, although the ability to win close games is something that will come in handy. The Dons continue to do it with balance, not stars, and clutch play at crunch time.
Their success rests in large part on the status of Michael Williams, an all-conference guard who has been held out the past three games as of Dec. 16 because of academic issues.
Pepperdine has played significantly better than expected, and credit must go to first-year coach Marty Wilson, who has the team playing much better defense than it did under Tom Asbury.
The Waves figure to be in a battle for the sixth spot with San Diego, which is starting two freshmen guards (Johnny Dee and 5-6 Christopher Anderson) with some success. The Toreros have played their best basketball in early December and seem to be getting better.
Portland, a very inexperienced team, seems destined for the WCC basement unless freshmen Kevin Bailey and C Thomas van der Mars continue to improve at a rapid rate.
At this point, it looks like BYU and Gonzaga will be competing for the title, with St. Mary’s trying to hold on to the third spot ahead of Santa Clara, San Francisco and Loyola Marymount.
–If you were to pick an all-conference team based on nonconference play through Dec. 16, the frontcourt would consist of forwards Noah Hartsock of BYU, Rob Jones of St. Mary’s and center Robert Sacre of Gonzaga. The choices for the backcourt would be more difficult, but it would probably be the two Santa Clara guards – Evan Roquemore and Kevin Foster, who clearly form the WCC’s best backcourt at the moment.
—The top freshmen in the WCC so far have been the two Gonzaga guards – Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. – with Pangos being the best of them all. However, 6-11 BYU freshman Nate Austin has been a major factor in recent games, as of Dec. 13, and could turn out to be the WCC freshman of the year if his production continues to increase at the current rate.
Three others would make up an early six-man WCC all-freshmen team – Portland center Thomas van der Mars and San Diego guards Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson. Pepperdine’s Jordan Baker, Santa Clara’s Yannick Atanga and Loyola Marymount’s C.J. Blackwell are three other freshman who are starting to make an impact, with the latter two showing a particular talent in rebounding.
The 6-10 van der Mars may be the most intriguing, because he will get a lot of playing time for the young Pilots and could improve in a hurry.
The junior college transfer who has made the biggest impact is Pepperdine sophomore Nikolas Skouen, although he does not seem to be a game-changer yet.
— The WCC was 4-4 against the Pac-12 in games as of Dec. 16 after each conference won a blowout on the weekend of Dec. 10-11. BYU dominated a weak Utah team 61-42 on Dec. 10, but the next day, Santa Clara, which figured to give Washington State a challenge, was routed by the Cougars 93-55.
—Losing to Michigan State in most seasons is not cause for alarm, and Gonzaga’s 74-67 loss to the Spartans on Dec. 10 does not mean the Bulldogs should panic. But it was a disappointing result for several reasons: First, Michigan State was unranked at the time and had no significant wins before beating Gonzaga. Second, the game was played on Gonzaga’s home court, the McCarthey Center, where the Bulldogs had a 92-6 record and have a sizable advantage. Third, Gonzaga’s frontcourt of Robert Sacre and Elias Harris was outplayed by Michigan State’s frontcourt. Finally, Gonzaga committed 20 turnovers, too many, especially at home, for a team that prides itself on taking care of the ball.
—San Francisco needs all-conference guard Michael Williams, but, as of Dec. 14, it’s unclear when he will return. The Dec. 10 victory over Pacific was the third straight game in which Williams remained on the bench, and coach Rex Walters has put him there because Williams has been struggling academically. Williams is academically eligible, but Walters feels he fell too far behind in his studies early in the fall.
“He’s a good kid,” Walters told the San Francisco Chronicle Dec. 10. “He’s been working really hard the last week and a half, but he put himself in a situation where he had to work really hard for a week and a half – and I don’t like that. It’s student-athlete. If they had told me when I got the job, ‘You’re going to coach athlete-students,’ then maybe I would have played him. But it’s student-athlete, and you’ve got to take care of business.”
—Loyola Marymount’s Drew Viney, the WCC’s No. 2 scorer last season and the Lions’ best player, did not play in the Dec. 10 game against Idaho State because of soreness in his foot as a result of his preseason foot surgery. Viney made his season debut in the Dec. 2 game against Columbia, but he has played in only one of the three games since then because of foot issues. His absence against Idaho State on Dec. 10 came six days after he played 26 minutes against North Texas. It remains to be seen whether the foot will bother Viney throughout the season.
—San Diego freshman Johnny Dee tied a school record by hitting eight three-point shots in the Toreros’ 77-63 victory over Maine on Dec. 10. A number of his bombs came off assists from fellow freshman guard Christopher Anderson, who made his second straight start in the game. Anderson had started against San Diego State because the Toreros went with a three-guard lineup with F Chris Manresa out with a back injury. Against Maine, Anderson started because G Darian Norris was out with an illness. In the latter game, the 5-6 Anderson contributed 11 points (on 4-or-5 shooting), six assists and five rebounds. In the Dec. 13 game against UC Santa Barbara Anderson and Dee again started, even though no teammates were sidelined.
—St. Mary’s F Rob Jones has been the most productive player in the WCC through Dec. 13, although he’s doing it against suspect competition. As of Dec. 14, he leads the conference in scoring (18.0), rebounding (11.3) and field-goal percentage (62.5). He’s second in blocks (1.4), and tied for fourth in three-point percentage (50.0, 10-for-20). He was named WCC player of the month in November, and he has had a double double in all seven games the Gaels have played. If the vote were taken on Dec. 14, he would be the conference player of the year.
—BYU knows what it’s like to play against the nation’s leading scorer, because the Cougars did it every day in practice last season when Jimmer Fredette was on the team. And Fredette helped the Cougars prepare for their Dec. 7 game against Weber State by joining practice and playing the part of Damian Lillard, the Weber star who entered the game against BYU as the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 28.3 ppg. Aided by the practice session against Fredette, the Cougars limited Lillard to a season-low 15 points in BYU’s surprisingly one-sided 94-66 victory over Weber. The Wildcats came into the game with a 5-1 record, and some thought they were the best college team in Utah, a belief BYU dispelled.
—San Diego nearly got the benefit of a weird and pivotal technical foul against UC Santa Barbara. With 0.6 seconds left, and UCSB leading by two, the UCSB fans began tossing tortillas on the floor in what has been a tradition. The officials first signaled a technical foul, which would have given the Toreros a chance to tie in a game in which San Diego was a heavy underdog. But the referees later changed their minds and only issued a warning. Orlando Johnson made two free throws for the Gauchos to set the final score 65-61.
KEY MATCHUP: St. Mary’s at Baylor, Dec. 22 – The Gaels, supposedly the second best team in the conference, have not played any top-notch teams yet and have not been as efficient as expected. They need to show some toughness on the road against Baylor, which clobbered the Gaels in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Can St. Mary’s F Rob Jones hold his own against one of the best frontcourts in the country, led by Perry Jones II?
UNEXPECTED SUCCESS: Although the surprising addition of Mike Hart to the Gonzaga starting lineup has added energy and a defensive-mindset, the most surprising player through mid-December has been BYU F Noah Hartsock, whose improvement has made the Cougars a strong contender. He was expected to increase his numbers a bit after averaging 8.6 points and 5.9 rebounds a year ago, but Brandon Davies was the one expected to be the Cougars go-to player with the departure of Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery. Instead it has been Hartsock, who has emerged from relative obscurity to be an early candidate for WCC player of the year. He is second in the conference in scoring at 17.3 a game, as of Dec. 14, and is averaging 6.9 boards. But the 6-8 Hartsock has been just as big a factor on defense, leading the conference in blocks at 2.6 a game and blocking at least three shots in each of his last five games as of Dec. 14.
CONFERENCE GAMES TO WATCH:
Baylor at BYU
Debut of BYU point guard Matt Carlino, a transfer from UCLA.
Gonzaga at Arizona
Bulldogs continue their tough nonconference schedule at a difficult venue.
Loyola Marymount at Florida State
Can the surprising Lions, with Drew Viney back, compete on the road with an ACC team?
Portland at Utah
If the Pilots are ever going to get a road win against a Pac-12 team, this is it.
Pepperdine at Washington State
Pullman, Wash., is a tough place to play, but the Waves have already won three road games.
CHECKING AROUND THE LEAGUE
—Nate Austin, a 6-11 freshman back from his LDS mission, has been surprisingly productive lately, and is challenging Brandon Davies for playing time. Austin had his third straight productive game off the bench against Weber State on Dec. 7, collecting 15 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes compared with 11 points and nine rebounds by Davies in his 22 minutes. That ended a three-game stretch in which Austin averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes. Much of his production has come late in blowouts, but he now enters games early in the first half and his playing time is increasing.
Austin had only three points and five rebounds against Utah on Dec. 10, but he still played 18 minutes, only seven minutes fewer than Davies, who had nine points and just three points.
—Craig Cusick scored a career-high 10 points in the Dec. 10 game against Utah, a school he used to attend. Cusick began his college career at Utah, but when he returned from his two-year Mormon mission, he transferred to BYU, a move that caused some amount of consternation among Utes fans.
—Anson Winder’s hold on the starting point guard spot seemed in jeopardy after the Dec. 10 game against Utah, and it wasn’t just because Matt Carlino will become eligible to play Dec. 17.
Winder, a true freshman, started for the sixth straight time against the Utes, but he went 0-for-5 from the floor with two turnovers and no assists. He played just 12 minutes, while Craig Cusick, who had been the Cougars’ starting point guard earlier in the season, played 28 minutes and nearly the entire second half. Cusick had 10 points, six assists and two turnovers while hitting 2 of 4 three-point shots.
—Redshirt freshman point guard Matt Carlino is eligible to play in the Dec. 17 game against Baylor after sitting out a year following his transfer from UCLA last December. Carlino never played a game for the Bruins. He missed the first several games after sustaining a concussion in preseason, but he was cleared to play and was available for four UCLA games and did not see action in any of them before deciding to transfer last Dec. 10. St. Mary’s was one of the schools he was considering transferring to, but ultimately decided on BYU.
Carlino was a standout in high school and he made a verbal commitment to Indiana following his sophomore season. He graduated following his junior year of high school ball, but after the coaching change and the upheaval and Indiana, he ended up going to UCLA. His only playing time there was nine minutes of action in a blowout exhibition victory over Westmont on Nov. 4, 2010, a game in which he sustained a concussion.
—The Bulldogs dropped out of the top 25 for the first time this season when the AP and ESPN/USA Today released their polls on Dec. 12. Gonzaga was ranked 23rd in both polls in the preseason and climbed as high as No. 19 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the coaches poll before slipping to No. 23 and No. 22, respectively, on Dec. 5. The Dec. 10 home loss to Michigan State knocked the Bulldogs out of the top 25.
—Big-time teams seldom agree to play Gonzaga at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, because the Bulldogs are so difficult to beat there. But Michigan State became the first team to have won a national title in the past 50 years to play the Bulldogs’ on their home court. The Spartans were prepared for the tough environment after playing North Carolina on a ship in front of the President and facing Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Spartans controlled the Bulldogs, holding off every Gonzaga surge and dominating the frontcourt, which is supposed to be Gonzaga’s strength.
—Junior college transfer Guy Landry-Edi becomes eligible to play in the Dec. 17 game against Arizona. How much he will play, if at all, remains to be seen. Landry-Edi was ineligible for the first eight games of the season because he played in a league in France in which professionals played.
—Freshman F C.J. Blackwell is becoming a bigger factor for the Lions as the season goes on, and he had his first double double of his career when he had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the overtime victory over Idaho State on Dec. 19. Although undersized at 6-5, Blackwell has demonstrated that he can be an excellent rebounder, and his importance becomes significant with the ongoing uncertainty about Drew Viney, who may miss games periodically because of soreness in his foot.
—F Ashley Hamilton started the first three games of the season but has missed the past seven games as of Dec. 14 with a foot injury and is not expected to return until late December.
—Sophomore Quincy Lawson was not expected to be a major factor this season after playing in just 15 games last season and averaging 6.7 minutes and 1.5 points in those. But he started nine of the Lions’ first 10 games this season (only Anthony Ireland has started all 10), and he had his best game in the Dec. 10 victory over Idaho State, scoring 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and blocked two shots.
—As he did last season, coach Max Good frequently changes his starting lineup. Already nine players have made starts, and that does not include Drew Viney, who figures to be a starter if he gets completely healthy.
—The Lions’ 73-70 victory on Dec. 10 was their second overtime victory over Idaho State this season. The first one was in Pocatello, Idaho, and the latter was the last of six straight home games for LMU.
—Loyola Marymount is 6-4 as of Dec. 14, the first time in five years the Lions have had a winning record through 10 games.
—Pepperdine’s 48-40 victory over Northern Arizona on Dec. 7 was the Waves’ third true road win of the season, their most road wins in a season since 2007-2008. Last season, the Waves were 2-13 in road games, and they did not get their second road win until Feb. 5. They showed signs of improved play of the road late last season, though. Their last three regular-season games were a three-point road loss to Loyola Marymount, a one-point overtime road loss to San Francisco (which went 10-4 in conference play) and a three-point road loss to Santa Clara,(which went on to win the ColloegeInsider.com postseason tournament).
—Pepperdine’s 5-3 record heading into their Dec. 10 game against Cal State Northridge represented the Waves best record after eight games since the 2004-2005 season, when Pepperdine started out 7-1. That Pepperdine team went just 6-8 in conference play, though. The Waves dropped to 5-4 with a three-point loss to Northridge.
—Pepperdine’s 49-40 victory over Northern Arizona demonstrates the Waves’ improvement on the defensive end. It’s almost unfathomable that Pepperdine could have won a game last season scoring just 49 points. Only twice last season did Pepperdine score fewer points than that and they lost both games decisively. Although it may be too early to draw definite conclusions, the numbers suggest the Waves are playing much better defensively. Their scoring is way down, from 69.4 ppg last season to 61.4 ppg through nine games this season. But opponents are averaging just 62.4 ppg after scoring 74.0 ppg a year ago. Opposing teams’ shooting percentage has dropped from 46 percent to 41.4 percent. Northern Arizona shot just 28.8 percent, and that was on the Lunberjacks’ home court, where they had won nine in row before the loss to Pepperdine.
—Freshman G Jordan Baker made his second straight start in the Dec. 7 victory over Northern Arizona, although he was not productive in either, scoring three points in 12 minutes in Dec. 3 victory over Hawaii, and going scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in 10 minutes against Northern Arizona. The Waves won both games, though.
Baker made his third straight start against Cal State Northridge on Dec. 10, scoring five points in 11 minutes, but the Waves lost that one.
—Junior College transfer Nikolas Skouen started the first six games, but has come off the bench since then. His playing time is about the same, however, and he seems more productive, scoring 12 and eight points in his first two games off the bench before being limited to six in the third.
—Portland athletic director Larry Williams left the school to become athletic director at Marquette on Dec. 5. Williams is the person who hired Eric Reveno as the Pilots basketball coach in 2006, and Reveno helped make Portland a contender when many people thought that was impossible. How Williams’ departure will affect the basketball team remains to be seen, although the short-term impact will be negligible.
—Coach Eric Reveno shook up his lineup in the Dec. 7 game against Boise State, indicating he’s going with a youth movement and looking to next season.
He took his two best players –- all-conference guard Nemanja Mitrovic and sophomore point guard Tim Douglas -– out of the starting lineup and used a starting five that featured two true freshmen –- C Thomas van der Mars and G Kevin Bailey. In his first college start, Bailey went 2-for-8 from the field and committed four fouls. Sophomore Tanner Riley also made his first collegiate start in that game, and he did not fair very well either, going 1-for-4 from the floor and scoring four points.
Bailey and Riley made their second start in the next game, a lopsided home loss to Ohio on Dec. 10, and again both played pretty well, sharing team high-scoring honors with 13 points apiece. Again Douglas and Mitrovic came off the bench, the latter scoring just four points in 15 minutes.
—Sophomore C Riley Barker, who had started five of the Pilots’ first seven games, missed his third straight game in the Dec. 10 contest against Ohio because of a knee injury. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to return.
—Portland trailed Ohio by just a point a minute into the second half, but over the next six minutes, it committed five turnovers and went 0-for-4 from the field to take itself out of the game.
—San Diego State came into the Dec. 7 game against San Diego having just beaten Cal, which was ranked in preseason and is one of the favorites in the Pac-12, while San Diego was coming off an embarrassing 20-point loss to previously winless UC Irvine. A rout was expected. But the Toreros bolted to a 14-2 lead on San Diego State, and the Toreros were still within five points with two minutes left before fading to a 12-point loss.
After blowing by Maine, San Diego played perhaps its best game of the season in its next game, Dec. 13, against heavily favored UC Santa Barbara, although it lost again, this time by a 65-61 score. San Diego has played better in its losses than it has in its victories
—San Diego coach Bill Grier used an extremely small lineup to start the game against San Diego State, with success. Three of Grier’s were not taller than 6 feet — 5-6 Chris Anderson, 6-foot Johnny Dee and 6-foot Darian Norris. They helped the Toreros take an early 14-2 lead. San Diego outrebounded San Diego State 14-4 through the first few minutes of the game.
Those three guards started against against UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 13, and again the Toreros played well in a loss, so Grier probably with stay with that lineup.
—Although San Diego was surprisingly competitive in its 74-62 loss to San Diego State on Dec. 7, it was still the Aztecs’ largest margin of victory on the Toreros’ home court in 36 years in this cross-town rivalry.
—Chris Manresa returned for the game against San Diego State after missing the previous game with a back injury. He came off the bench for the first time this season, but still had a double double with 14 points and 10 boards. He also came off the bench in the Dec. 13 game against UC Santa Barbara.
—Redshirt freshman Ben Vozzolla is no longer on the San Diego roster and apparently plans to transfer.
—San Francisco has added a game to its schedule. It will play Morgan State at home on Jan. 3. Morgan State is coached by former Cal coach Todd Bozeman. The game breaks up what would have been a seven-day gap between conference games against Loyola Marymount and BYU.
—As of Dec. 15, San Francisco is 3-0 in the games in which G Michael Williams has been benched by coached by coach Rex Walters for Williams’ academic shortcomings. The Dons could get by without Williams for their Dec. 17 game against Menlo College as well. Dominque O’Connor has taken Williams place in the starting lineup in the three games, and he provides the same kind of speed Williams did. O’Connor has missed virtually all of the past two seasons with knee injuries.
—The Dons’ 8-3 record as of Dec. 16 represents their best start since 2004-2005, when they also started 8-3. If the Dons win their Dec. 17 game against Menlo College as a expected, their 9-3 record would be their best mark through 12 games since they started the 1999-2000 season 12-1 heading into conference play. USF ended the 2000 season with a 19-9 record, going 7-7 in WCC play and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
—F Angelo Caloiaro scored a career-high 29 points in the victory over Pacific on Dec. 10, and it came six days after Caloiaro had gone scoreless without taking a shot in 11 minutes in the Dons’ 52-point win over overmatched Pacific Union. Coloiaro also had 11 rebounds against Pacific for his 11th career double double and his third this season.
—Whether it was because the Broncos were coming off an eight-day layoff for exams or the 24-degree temperature in Pullman, Wash., Santa Clara’s 93-55 loss to Washington State represented the Broncos’ largest margin of defeat in three seasons and was a major step back for the Broncos. Santa Clara had been playing well in the games before its exam break and figured to give the Cougars a challenge. Santa Clara certainly didn’t expect to get blown off the court by 38 points. The Broncos trailed by 20 points with more than three minutes left in the first half and never got any closer.
—Although Santa Clara’s 6-3 start includes some impressive wins (Villanova, New Mexico), the Broncos have also developed a habit for getting blown out in their losses. All three of the losses as of Dec. 14 were by double-digit margins, and two of them were by more than 30 points, both on the road but against unranked teams. The Broncos’ reliance on three-pointers – it has attempted 46 more treys than their opponents – may be the reason for the feast-or-famine results.
—Freshman Yannick Atanga has shown his ability to rebound, leading the team in that category at 6.5 per game as of Dec. 14 despite averaging just 15.5 minutes a game. He had 11 boards in 16 minutes on Dec. 3 against Cal State Northridge and had 10 rebounds in 18 minutes in the Dec. 11 loss to Washington State. He’s not much of an offensive threat although he had a season-high nine points against Washington State.
—Freshman Denzel Johnson made his first career start in the Dec. 13 game against Pacifica College. Kevin Foster came off the bench for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, but still played 28 minutes and tied for team high in points with 14.
—Santa Clara’s schedule is a bit confusing, because it played Pacifica on Dec. 13 and plays Pacific on Dec. 17.
—St. Mary’s is having trouble figuring out its playing rotation at the center position, partly because of some off gaps in the schedule, partly because of the injuries to Mitchell Young and Tim Williams, and partly because coach Randy Bennett just has not figured it out yet. Kyle Rowley has started the past four games, including the Dec. 13 game against Jackson State. But Young figures to regain that spot when he’s completely healthy. Kenyon Walker II started some games last season, and figures to get playing time, and Bennett would like to continue to give redshirt freshman Brad Waldow minutes. And that does not include Williams, who started most of the games last season but is out with a knee injury.
“We haven’t sorted that out yet, really at the (center) sport,” Bennett told the Oakland Tribune. “We haven’t identified exactly who has what roles.”
—Mitchell Young returned to action on Dec. 13 against Jackson State after missing three games with a groin injury. He was not in the starting lineup for that game and played just 10 minutes, scoring two points and collecting four rebounds.
—C-F Tim Williams, who started 26 games last season, has yet to play this season, as of Dec. 14, because of a knee injury. He is improving and expects to return to action in the near future.
—F Clint Steindl, who lost his starting job late last season because of a shooting slump, started this season coming off the bench. But he has regained his shooting touch, and the Dec. 13 game against Jackson State was his second straight start. He made 6 of 10 three-pointers against Jackson State and is hitting 51.4 percent of his treys for the season. Outside shooting is his chief contribution, and if he is not hitting from long range, he does not help the team much.