John Klein: TU sliding headlong into C-USA tournament
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Thursday, March 07, 2013
3/07/13 at 7:59 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
Hurricane misses magic in loss to SMU
TU basketball notebook: Seniors honored
Tulsa's early successes gave the Golden Hurricane a chance to be one of the big surprises of the college basketball season.
However, in recent weeks, TU has been on a downward slide that shows no signs of slowing.
"We have to be more consistent," said TU's Scottie Haralson. "We have to be more poised."
Tulsa took another step back on Wednesday, losing 71-65 to SMU and putting the Hurricane in serious danger of continuing its slide right into the Conference USA Tournament.
It was Tulsa's sixth loss in its last nine games.
"That was very disappointing," said Tulsa coach Danny Manning.
This may have been the worst.
It was just the fifth conference victory of the season for lowly SMU.
"This was by far the best we've played this year," said SMU coach Larry Brown. "We've been in a lot of games like this and been unable to close it out."
The Mustangs closed it out against Tulsa. The Hurricane got to within one point with just over a minute remaining. However, Tulsa came apart in the final minute as the Mustangs ran away and actually won with ease.
Teams on an upward swing do not lose to the Mustangs, especially in March.
"There's a lot of parity in this league," said Manning.
Tulsa has been struggling with a young team that has been devastated by injuries all season. As a result, the Golden Hurricane has been unable to put together an extended run.
"It is all of the above," said Manning.
The result of the constant lineup changes has sent TU in the wrong direction throughout February and now into March.
"We've still got to go out and find a way to get the job done," said Manning.
Tulsa had beaten the Mustangs 48-47 in Dallas on Jan. 5.
The Hurricane went on to win four of its first six games in Conference USA.
However, Tulsa started to come apart on Jan. 26 in a loss to Southern Miss and hasn't recovered, yet.
As a result, TU continues to slip in the C-USA standings and almost assuredly will not get a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament when it opens at Tulsa's BOK Center on March 13.
"We've been playing through injuries all season," said Haralson. "I don't want to put that out there as an excuse.
"We've got to learn to put 40 minutes together. We've been playing in spurts."
Tulsa looked sloppy and played little defense against SMU.
The Mustangs got easy shots. Cannen Cunningham owned the interior for SMU, hitting 8-of-11 and scoring 17.
Anytime SMU needed a bucket, it simply threw it inside and got an easy look. The Mustangs had 40 points in the paint.
"We got it inside pretty good," said Brown. "Our strength is to get it inside."
Despite such optimism as recently as a month ago, Tulsa seems to be sinking to a low that many expected.
Tulsa has dropped to 15-14, and even a trip to Rice, the worst team in the league, is no gimme on Saturday.
"We've got to dial it in even though they are at the bottom of the league," said Haralson.
Yes, Tulsa will need to play at peak form and try to reverse this recent trend.
"It is very important," said Manning. "We want to finish with a win and move into the conference tournament with some momentum."
That's something Tulsa had for much of the early part of the season.
The expectations for Tulsa were so low that just about any successes earlier this season were celebrated.
The Golden Hurricane lost what were arguably its three best players during the offseason, further raising the challenges for Manning.
Yet, until recent weeks, TU found itself perhaps among the most surprising teams in this region. Tulsa won games, was competitive in a handful of other contests and clearly was in the pack right after the top two teams in the league.
However, this latest stretch has been a sobering reminder of the long road to get TU back in college basketball's spotlight.
"He's (Danny) going to be a phenomenal coach," said Brown.
It would take a virtual miracle, such as what happened for seventh-seeded Houston in the 2010 C-USA Tournament at the BOK Center, for TU to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, Manning has been a part of miracles before.
Original Print Headline: TU sliding headlong into C-USA tourney
7 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3