Jan. 1, 2002
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Shawn Finney, in his second year at the helm of the Green Wave, will make his first coaching appearance against one of his mentors on Wednesday as he leads Tulane University against the No. 6-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Freedom Hall in Kentucky.
Both teams enter Wednesday's games with identical 8-2 records. Tulane suffered its second loss of the year last Saturday to Mississippi State, 77-66, while Kentucky is coming off back-to-back wins over Indiana (66-52) and Louisville (82-62).
The Wildcats are ranked No. 6 according to the Associated Press and No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Finney served for nine years as an assistant coach under Kentucky head man Tubby Smith. After joining Smith's staff at Tulsa in 1991, he remained with Smith through four years at Tulsa, two at Georgia and three at Kentucky. Finney assisted Smith to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 1998 NCAA Championship with the Wildcats.
"It is unfortunate to have to play one of my best friends and mentor in Tubby Smith," Finney said. "But it will be good to go measure ourselves again against that type of competition and see where we are and what we need to do. It will be a tough road game, but we'll go up there and fight hard. We're looking forward to it."
Tulane has been led in recent games by 6-8 forward Brandon Brown. The Houma, La., native is on fire of late, averaging 19.4 points over the last five games. Against Georgia Tech in Tulane's victory, Brown scored a career-high 27 points to go with 14 rebounds. He followed that with 18 points and five rebounds against Mississippi State. He also leads Conference USA with his 65.0 percent shooting from the field.
Joining Brown in double figures for the Wave are three more juniors. Brandon Spann (New Orleans, La.) is second on the team with 14.3 points per game, while leading the Wave in assists, three-pointers, steals and free-throw percentage. Waitari Marsh (Chicago, Ill.) has posted 13.3 points, 4 Waitari Marsh (Chicago, Ill.) has posted 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, while 6-6 Nick Sinville (Shreveport, La.) has 13.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
""We're coming off a tough loss against Mississippi State, but it was a great learning experience for our team," Finney said. "We're going to have to re-group after that loss. I think we can take some things from that game. We fought all the way to the end, learning to deal with the adversity of playing down and not giving up and fighting until the end."
Kentucky is led by a pair of players who originally declared for last year's NBA Draft, but opted to return to school instead. All-American Tayshaun Prince, last year's SEC Player of the Year, leads the 'Cats with 18.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Keith Bogans has 13.7 points per game. Prince also leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game.
Following the Kentucky game, the Green Wave will open its Conference USA slate. The first game of league play for Tulane is Saturday, at DePaul University, which upset No. 10 Missouri last week. The Wave will play its first C-USA home game on Tuesday, Jan. 8, hosting Houston at Fogelman Arena.