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Thursday, December 16, 2004
College Hoops Extra: Week 2

By Mark Simon
Special to

Opening Tip

For the first time in a long time, Duke has put the ball in the hands of someone other than Chris Duhon, and it has been rewarded with very solid team play.

The Blue Devils have put their faith in Daniel Ewing, who has responded with significant improvements to his game. Ewing is shooting and scoring at a much better rate than his predecessor, and his ballhandling has been reasonably similar. In turn, the Blue Devils are scoring more and head into the ACC season more confident than last season in their offensive approach.

Ewing Doing: First 8 games comparison

Ewing '04-'05 Duhon '03-'04 Ewing '03-'04
PPG 17.8 7.5 11.5
FG% 50.5% 46.2% 43.8%
APG 4.5 5.5 1.6
Duke PPG 85.2 74.6 74.6

Rocking the Rim

There's no 'I' in team, but two of the most unselfish teams in the Top 25 both start with that letter.

Illinois is no surprise, but Iowa might be. The Hawkeyes have had an eye-popping amount of success because of their willingness to look for the best available shot, whether it be the layup or the wide-open 3-pointer. In 11 games last season, the Hawkeyes had only one in which they shot better than 50 percent. This season, they already have six such contests.

Indicative of their unselfish play is that nearly 65 percent of their baskets have come via the assist, among the highest rates of any Top 25 squad.

The I's Have It: Iowa stats comparison

First 11 games '03-'04 First 11 games '04-'05
PPG 83.1 71.9
3-point FG% 42.0 32.1
APG 18.6 16.1
A/TO Ratio 1.26 0.99

Matchup note of the week

Gonzaga is 3-9 all-time against teams ranked in the top five, but that's a little misleading. The Bulldogs will try to pick up their second win of that caliber this month next Tuesday when it faces an Oklahoma State squad that has won 9 of its last 10 games against ranked foes.

Gonzaga actually won two of the last three meetings against Top 5s (on neutral floors) and the play of Adam Morrison has been a big key why. Morrison is averaging 19.9 ppg, but has dialed up some of his best performances against the biggest teams.

Big Game Guy: Morrison's stats against Top 5 foes
Date Opponent FG Shooting Game Stats
12/18/04 Georgia Tech 11-18 24 pts, 5 rebs
11/27/04 Illinois 11-21 26 pts, 11 rebs
12/13/03 Missouri 6-9 17 pts, 6 rebs

28-47 (59.6%) 22.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg

In the Bonus

We talk about the "can't-miss prospect" often, but the one who has best lived up to that billing so far is Ohio University freshman Leon Williams.

The 6-foot-8 freshman forward has drawn comparisons to Bobcats star forwards Gary Trent and Brandon Hunter, mainly because he never misses. It's early in the season, but Williams is the nation's leader in field goal percentage, having made 30 of his first 42 shots (71.4%), despite (by his estimate) only having dunked twice. He is averaging a team best 12.8 ppg and 9.7 rebounds.

"The thing that separates him from other players is the poise in his shot selection," said Ohio head coach Tim O'Shea."He hasn't taken a bad shot. I haven't even said to him 'That's a bad shot' in a practice. I think the numbers will hold up through the season because he's such a great finisher around the basket."

Williams, a Baltimore native who grew three inches in the time between his committing to the school and his arrival on campus, has made the adjustment to the collegiate game nicely -- other than the one game that his mom, Brenda Warner came to see, where foul trouble limited him to 20 minutes and four points.

His dad, Leon, is well aware of his son's success, but perhaps his mom will find out over this Christmas break that her son is among the best at something on the floor, at least for the moment.

"She knows that I'm an OK player," Williams said with a laugh. "My dad has tried to explain it to her, but she doesn't watch sports much. If I tell her, she'll probably say, 'Leon, you're number one -- in my eyes.' "

Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's college basketball coverage and "Baseball Tonight."