Tulsa Trying To Return To Winning Ways

FAYETTEVILLE -- Wright State was the wrong season-opening opponent for Tulsa.

The Golden Hurricane, winners of two postseason NIT titles since 1981, lost 72-66 in the first round of the Preseason NIT in overtime to the Raiders, an embarrassing home setback even for a team coming off a 9-20 season.

Tulsa represented Arkansas' lone road win last season, an 81-74 decision Dec. 30, and the Hurricane would surely like to return the favor against the Razorbacks (4-0) Tuesday in Bud Walton Arena for a 7:05 p.m. tip-off on Fox Sports Southwest.

Tulsa (1-1) is proud of its basketball history since former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson started a successful tradition back in 1980-81 with its first tournament title.

Called the "Cradle of Coaches" as the stepping stone for Richardson, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, Kansas coach Bill Self and Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson, Tulsa has had 13 20-win seasons since 1981 and last season was its first losing campaign since 1987-88.

The Hurricane was expected to be improved this year with a veteran frontcourt returning, but Tulsa is breaking in new faces at the point guard position after losing leading scorer Jason Parker, who averaged 16.9 points and a team-leading 2.9 assists per game in 2003-04.

TU built a 23-point first-half lead against Northwestern State five days after losing to Wright State, but the Hurricane committed 22 turnovers and shot a lowly 17 of 50 from the field while winning a sloppy 63-54 contest.

True freshman Deion James and redshirt freshman Brett McDade have played point guard for Tulsa so far, but junior Seneca Collins has shouldered much of the ball-handling load and it shows with his 10 turnovers in two games.

Collins is averaging 16.5 points and 5 rebounds for Tulsa; forwards Jarius Glenn and Anthony Price are also scoring in double figures.

Glenn, a 6-6, 220-pound senior, scored 27 and grabbed 13 boards against Arkansas last year and is leading the Hurricane with 18.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game this season.

"He's a tough matchup," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "He really scores well around the basket for them. They really go inside. Our big guys are going to get tested in this game. They slow it down a little bit, so we have to get used to grinding it out and getting stops and really rebounding. Those things are going to be important."

Price, a 6-8, 225-pound junior, is averaging 12.0 points and 3.5 rebounds.

Inexperienced sophomores Brian Cardwell and Charles Ramsdell, both 6-10, are averaging less than eight minutes per game and Tulsa hasn't yet shown itself to be a deep team with five players averaging between 27 and 36 minutes and three between 13 and 18.

Tulsa's depth and young backcourt will be tested by Arkansas, which has shown an ability to wear teams down with its fullcourt defense and is forcing more than 18 turnovers per game. The Razorbacks scored 27 points off 22 Gardner-Webb turnovers in their 79-63 win Saturday.

Tulsa coach John Phillips -- a four-year assistant for the Hurricane before becoming the only coach other than Richardson to win 50 games in his first two years (advancing to the NCAA second round in 2002 and ‘03) -- believes the scrappy defense his guards faced against Northwestern State will prepare his team for Arkansas.

The Hurricane will have had more than a week to get ready for the Razorbacks.

"The good thing to come out of the first two ball games is that we've seen almost everything," Phillips said. "We've seen all different ways to play basketball, so the preparation part of it as far as getting your team exposure, especially our guards, to give them a look at different types of ways of playing the game was good.

"We have a stretch here where we can go back to the practice court and work on some things, show them some film and relate it to what we're talking about in practice."

Tulsa is shooting 39 percent for the season, holding its opponents to 36 and is breaking even on the glass with 79 rebounds for and 79 against through two games.

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