Duke (23-4) vs Tulsa (19-8)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: ESPN2 / Tip: 7:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Conference USA Nickname: Golden Hurricane Colors: Gold & Blue Head Coach: Doug Wojcik (5th season) Career Record at Tulsa: 100-61
Projected Starters: 33 Joe Richard (6-6, 235, So.) – 5.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg 12 Bishop Wheatley (6-6, 225, Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg 23 Jerome Jordan (7-0, 255, Sr.) – 15.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.6 bpg 15 Justin Hurtt (6-4, 205, Jr.) – 13.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg 1 Ben Uzoh (6-3, 205, Sr.) - 16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.4 apg Key Reserves: 11 Steven Idlet (6-10, 240, So.) – 7.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg 13 Donte Medder (6-1, 200, Fr.) – 5.0 ppg, 1.1 apg 2 Reggie Johnson (6-6, 210, Fr.) – 4.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Story Lines For Tulsa:
How They Got Here:
The Golden Hurricane enter the game in desperate need of a victory after dropping three straight and four of their last five contests. Tulsa's biggest name victories have been a 21 point win over Oklahoma State, a 25 point decision over Colorado, and a 14 point win over Tulane. Against ranked opponents the Golden Hurricane has little experience, losing the only such contest to then No. 25 UAB, 65-55.
Meanwhile the Blue Devils enter the game having won six consecutive games including contests against arch rival North Carolina, Maryland, and more recently Virginia Tech which created a bit of separation between the Blue Devils and the rest of the ACC in the race for the regular season championship.
Saturday's game will be the third meeting between the two programs. Duke holds a 2-0 lead in the all-time series, winning both games in the 1990s. The first was a 72-67 decision in the 1996 Preseason NIT semifinals, while the second was a 41 point win in the second round of 1999 NCAA Tournament.
Duke enters the game relatively healthy aside from the usual bumps and bruises sustained over a long season. Similarly, the Golden Hurricane have their top eight players listed without injury.
Hoping To Break A Trend
In five of the last six games the Golden Hurricane has finished the first half trailing. That's a dangerous position to be in against the Blue Devils, especially in games played at Cameron. Tulsa trailed by nine against Marshall, four against Southern Miss, 14 against Memphis, and 17 against UTEP. The Golden Hurricane rallied to win the Marshall game despite trailing by as many as 15. Likewise the team came back to defeat Southern Miss after falling behind by as many as nine points. In those games the team managed an average of 25.6 points per half in the opening stanza, but came back with an average of 43.8 in the second.
Defense Is The Standard:
Six opponents have failed to score more than 50 points against the Golden Hurricane this season. A good portion of that success, however, came in during the non-conference portion of the schedule. In the first three games the Hurricane held the opposition to under 50 points and approximately 35 percent shooting from the field. Since Doug Wojcik became the Tulsa head coach in 2005, Tulsa has held 20 opponents to under 50 points and another six opponents have scored just 50 points against the Hurricane . Tulsa has held the opposition to 55 points or less in 40 games under Wojcik.
A major factor in the opposition failing to hit half of the century mark or thereabouts is the commitment to challenging shots by the Tulsa defense. Under the direction of Wojcik, 147 of 161 opponents have failed to shoot above 50 percent from the field. In fact it wasn't until his third year as a head coach that an opponent did manage to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. Last season Tulsa held 33 of 36 opponents to under 50-percent from the field, including 10 of those opponents under 35-percent. In 2009-2010, Tulsa held its first five opponents to less than 50-percent, but that streak was snapped when Missouri State shot 52-percent . . . this year, Tulsa has held 23 of its 27 opponents to under 50-percent from the field, as only Missouri State, Nevada, Memphis and UTEP (at home), all losses, shot 50-percent or better from the field.
Hitting The Boards Hard:
Much of Duke's success has come via their ability to control the boards on both ends of the floor. It's a similar story for the Golden Hurricane. Through 27 games Tulsa has a +7.7 rebounding margin per game - enjoying a 39.0 rebounds per game average against a cumulative opponents' average of 31.3. The team has out-rebounded opponents by 10 or more seven times this season, and have three games with a +20 margin. The tHurricane also had an 18-rebound edge over Oklahoma State, 15 over Tulane, 13 over Missouri State and 12 more than Memphis. Tulsa has been out-rebounded in just five games, Nebraska and Nevada, both by six boards, three rebounds by Oral Roberts, one rebound against Rice and had a season-high deficit of nine at UTEP.
Hitting The Backcourt Stride:
Junior scoring guard Justin Hurtt has hit the double figure mark in 19 of the 27 games this year including in 15 of the team's first 18 games. That leaves five of his last nine games without double figures. He hit a career high against Central Florida with 22 points. His previous career best was 21 points, which he achieved four times. Hurtt had 19 double-digit scoring games as a sophomore in his last 53 games dating back to last season, he has scored in double-figures 36 times.
Similarly, senior Ben Uzoh has been consistent throughout the year - and over his career. He recently moved into third place in the school's all-time scoring list. He did it against Marshall by scoring 22. Uzoh has now totaled 1,851 career points in 133 contests for a 13.9 scoring average. He is just the fourth player in school history to surpass 1,800 career points on the season, Uzoh has scored 434 points in 27 contests for a 16.1 average. In the last three games, senior Ben Uzoh has eclipsed the 20-point barrier each time coming against three of the other top-5 teams in Conference USA. Over that time he has averaged 21.3 points, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, while shooting 53-percent from the field in the last three games.
Watch Out For...
Senior big man Jerome Jordan.
Recently the seven foot native of Jamaica became Conference USA's career leader in blocked shots with 315. He's also moved into second on the school's all-time rebounding list with 899 career boards. He also reached the 1,000-point plateau against UALR and surpassed the 700-rebound plateau a game later against South Alabama. Jordan is the second current Hurricane player to have scored 1,000 points in a career, joining fellow senior Ben Uzoh. Jordan is just the eighth player in school history to reach 700 boards and only the second to surpass 800 career rebounds.
For his efforts, Jordan was one of 50 candidates named to the Naismith 2009-10 preseason watch list, as announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. He was also considered the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year.
This will be an interesting matchup in the middle and a sort of measuring stick for Duke's Brian Zoubek. The 7'1 senior has been very good over the last month in helping Duke to a six game winning streak. However in those games Zoubek has enjoyed a substantial size advantage against his opponent. This game will give him a test against another true seven footer - one who has been productive in a number of areas from scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. On the perimeter Duke has a decided advantage, but will be looking for more contribution in the scoring column after getting just four points against Va Tech. Look for Duke to attempt to establish offense from the Plumlees and freshman guard Andre Dawkins. Tulsa will make it a game for a while, but Duke should cruise to a comfortable win.