Five questions about TU basketball
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
1/05/11 at 6:37 AM
Last season, Tulsa was the preseason favorite in C-USA. How is it handling being the hunter instead of the hunted?
There may be not as much pressure on the Golden Hurricane this year from outside sources, but don't think the team isn't placing pressure on itself.
"We may be the hunters, but we are still Tulsa, and a lot of teams in the conference may still have the passion to beat us," TU junior D.J. Magley said. "We may not be picked to finish first or second, but every team will still be after us. We have to have that hard edge and the mentality to get things done."
Justin Hurtt has had five consecutive games with 20 points or more, which hasn't been done at TU since Gary Collier did it to finish the 1993-94 season. How special a scorer is Hurtt?
Hurtt's productivity has been amazing at times because he has made baskets at critical times for Tulsa while opposing defenses know he's going to get the basketball.
"It's almost like you are dependent on the 21, 22 a game that he is getting," TU coach Doug Wojcik said. "It's something that we need. It's neat to see how he's getting it. He's getting it from the 3-point line, he's getting it driving to the basket, he's getting it from the free-throw line.
"What I think he's doing a great job of is he's making people better with his great passing off of the dribble. He's such a threat that people are game-planning for Justin Hurtt, and he's making other players better."
Jordan Clarkson will be a game-time decision for the UTEP game. What happens when he gets back? Does Bryson Pope remain the point guard?
Yes, Wojcik said. The coach moved Pope to the point out of necessity and now has found a spot for him. With Shane Heirman out (torn ligaments in finger) after a practice injury, the point guard position remains razor thin.
"With every game, I get a little more experience under my belt and more comfortable," Pope said.
What happens when Clarkson comes back?
"First off, don't forget about Justin Hurtt," Wojcik said. "Since (Clarkson's) injury and really since mid-December, (Hurtt) has played a lot of 1. Now you have a combination of the three. I just see it as Bryce as the starter and see myself and the staff as having Jordan as the 2 and take him off the ball with Bryson's emergence."
Tulsa will open C-USA play in a hostile environment at UTEP. But hasn't TU played its best games away from home this year?
Yes. UTEP coach Tim Floyd said during a Tuesday conference call that he was impressed with the Hurricane's 80-71 loss to UNLV at the 76 Classic and the 82-79 game at Wichita State this season.
"I really think we'll play well (at UTEP). We just have to get a W," Wojcik said, before quickly bringing up a 69-67 loss at Arkansas-Little Rock. "A big part (of winning on the road) is being able to score at multiple positions. Having two perimeter players with Scottie (Haralson) and Justin and an inside player in Steven (Idlet) helps. When you have those threats, you get used to the floor and surroundings. You have a good chance to score the basketball."
Can Tulsa make the postseason this year?
It will be a tough chore. But remember, Houston advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year as C-USA's representative by getting very hot during one week in March. There's no reason why Tulsa can't build momentum and peak late in the season. But things will have to fall into place. There cannot be any more critical injuries, and the close games have to swing Tulsa's direction.
For Hurricane fans, there probably will be nights when they will be amazed and dazzled by this team. There also will be nights when they probably will want to pull their hair out.
Everyone will know a lot more at this time next month.
Justin Hurtt dribbles around a TCU defender last week at the Reynolds Center. Hurtt has had five straight games with 20 points or more. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World