Tulsa gets big C-USA test at Memphis
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 5:50 AM
Statistics resoundingly support the Memphis Tigers' status as the gold standard in Conference USA basketball.
Since the University of Tulsa joined C-USA in 2005, Memphis has played 73 league games on its home floor at the FedEx Forum. The Tigers prevailed 70 times. One of those three defeats occurred exactly two years ago - on Feb. 2, 2011, when the Golden Hurricane won 68-65.
On Saturday, in a 1 p.m. Conference USA clash televised by CBS Sports Network, the Hurricane and Tigers clash again in Memphis' downtown arena (also the home of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies).
Of the Tigers, Tulsa freshman guard James Woodard said, "They like to play fast and we like to play fast. It should be fun. A dogfight."
Statistically, Memphis, TU and Southern Miss are the league's best defensive teams. When Southern Miss visited the Hurricane last week, the result was "a dogfight" - an extremely physical contest and a 62-59 Golden Eagle win.
Tulsa-Memphis may closely resemble Southern Miss-Tulsa. A prominent storyline for TU: whether forwards Kauri Black, Zeldric King and Brandon Swannegan can avoid foul trouble.
Chasing what would be its eighth Conference USA regular-season title, Memphis has an 11-game win streak - its longest in four seasons with Josh Pastner as the head coach. The Tigers are 17-3 overall, 6-0 in league play and share the conference lead with Southern Miss. On Wednesday, as Joe Jackson scored a career-high 26 points, the Tigers won at East Carolina.
TU is 12-9 overall and 4-3 in C-USA.
"Saturday, 1 o'clock - it's (Tulsa's) biggest game," Pastner said. "Their World Series. Their Super Bowl. That's the facts, because we're only playing them one time this year unless we play them in the conference tournament."
The 2012-13 Hurricane has not played before a home crowd of larger than 5,689. In only two previous games did the Golden Hurricane play before a legitimately good-sized audience. At Wichita State, there were 10,389 spectators - and a 26-point Tulsa defeat. At Creighton, there were 15,102 spectators - and a 17-point Tulsa defeat. Expected at Memphis is a crowd of more than 16,000.
"We played at Wichita State. This is a bigger Wichita State," TU coach Danny Manning said. "We've been to Creighton. We played Florida State in a big arena. This is no different. The bottom line is that you just have to go out and play."
Said Hurricane freshman guard Shaq Harrison: "I think the big crowd will energize me, but I haven't experienced it yet. We'll see on Saturday."
Woodard says Tulsa's bottom-line goal is simple: "Don't get rattled. Stay poised. Stay under control."
While Manning is a first-year Conference USA coach, he is familiar with the Memphis basketball culture. As a Kansas assistant, he was involved in three Jayhawk victories over the Tigers - in 2008, 75-68 in overtime for the national title; in 2009, 57-55 at St. Louis; and in 2010, 81-68 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
In a 34-game Tulsa-Memphis series that dates to 1964, the Hurricane won the first 11 meetings. Since 1974, the Tigers are 21-2 in the series.
"Memphis always has talented, athletic players," Manning said. "This is a good test for our guys."
Original Print Headline: Memphis poses big test for Tulsa
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
James Woodard: TU freshman guard envisions a fast-paced game at Memphis Saturday