TU eyes momentum going into C-USA tourney
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 4:51 AM
In 2010, the University of Tulsa basketball program hosted the Conference USA Tournament at the BOK Center.
TU was 6-1 in January league games that season, but the momentum dissipated - and tournament ticket sales were adversely affected - when the Golden Hurricane followed the 6-1 start with five losses in nine league games. TU wound up losing to UTEP in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
The Hurricane now has a little momentum, having defeated UTEP and Houston in succession, and is presented with an opportunity to do what the 2010 Hurricane failed to do - generate steam in advance of the C-USA Tournament.
Tulsa again hosts the league's championship event, set for March 13-16 at the BOK Center.
"Hopefully, we can get on a roll," said Hurricane coach Danny Manning, whose team hosts East Carolina in Wednesday's 7 p.m. conference contest at the Reynolds Center.
If the Pirates hadn't squandered an 11-point lead with five minutes remaining in their clash with Southern Miss, East Carolina would be tied with Tulsa in the standings. Instead, because Southern Miss rallied for an 86-82 overtime victory, East Carolina brings to TU records of 14-10 overall and 5-6 in the conference. At 14-11 and 6-5, the Hurricane occupies fifth place.
TU opened the 2012-13 season with three wins (over LSU-Shreveport at home, and over Northern Kentucky and San Diego in an University of San Diego-hosted tournament). TU since has ridden a roller coaster. There were four two-game winning streaks, two two-game losing streaks and one three-game losing streak.
With a victory on Wednesday, the Hurricane would savor its first three-game winning streak since mid-November.
After Wednesday, four dates remain on Tulsa's regular-season schedule. After visiting Central Florida (7-4 league record) on Saturday, the Hurricane hosts Tulane (5-6) on March 2, hosts SMU (3-8) on March 6 and visits Rice (1-10) on March 9.
In each of its final four seasons with Doug Wojcik as the head coach, TU recorded at least 10 C-USA victories. The 2012-13 Hurricane has been profoundly affected by injuries this season, but a 10- or 11-win finish in conference is available for the taking.
"Our mentality all year has been this - whoever is able to play, let's go play," Manning said. "Expectations don't change because of injuries. We've always said that. It would be great to be completely healthy, but we also know that injuries are part of the game.
"We just have to make sure that we do everything possible to take advantage of playing at home. It's not going to be easy, but it's better than playing on the road."
While East Carolina is driven by a talented forward - 6-foot-8 Maurice Kemp, the Conference USA scoring leader with an 18-point average - the Hurricane is defined by balance. Seven Tulsa players have finished with game-high scoring totals this season.
Freshman guard James Woodard has 22 starts this season, and freshman forward D'Andre Wright has eight. As Manning monitors their minutes, with each player still recovering from an injury, Wright and Woodard were used as reserves during TU's 101-92, triple-overtime triumph over Houston.
"With D'Andre, I don't know if you want to add any more minutes to that type of injury (stress-type injury in the lower left leg)," Manning said. "I like having a little firepower coming off of the bench. But ultimately, if it's your night, it's your night. Doesn't matter whether you start or come in off the bench. We don't rely on one guy to have a big game every night. We've developed some balance."
East Carolina (14-10, 5-6 C-USA)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Kemp ||6-8|| 18.0 ||7.8|
|F ||Sampson ||6-8|| 9.9 ||9.1|
|F|| Armstrong ||6-8|| 9.4 ||5.1|
|G ||Paul ||6-1|| 13.2|| 2.3|
|G ||Campbell ||6-3|| 4.9 ||1.4|
Tulsa (14-11, 6-5 C-USA)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Black ||6-8|| 7.5 ||4.7|
|G ||Peete|| 6-4 ||3.2 ||2.8|
|G ||Haralson ||6-4 ||9.6|| 3.6|
|G ||Swilling ||6-2|| 10.2|| 2.2|
|G ||Harrison ||6-3 ||6.2 ||3.6|
East Carolina at Tulsa
7 p.m. Wednesday
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397