Tulsa Stands In Way Of Illini Championship

The Fighting Illini basketball team, fresh off an overtime win over Kent State, takes on Tulsa for the championship of the South Padre Island Tournament Saturday night. Coached by Tom Izzo disciple Doug Wojcik, Tulsa plays tough defense and has excellent talent. Chester Frazier's playing status may determine Illinois' chances of success.

Tulsa whipped favored Texas A & M Friday evening, holding them to 31% shooting from the field. Tulsa went on a 25-4 run to begin the second half to put the game away. Junior guard Ben Uzoh paved the way with 16 points, and 7-0 junior Jerome Jordan added 13 points and 7 rebounds.

From the Golden Flashes to the Golden Hurricane, Illinois is trying to complete a golden weekend. The big question for Illinois will be whether emotional leader Chester Frazier is able to play. Hurt in Thursday's practice and possessing a big bump on the back of his knee, Frazier showed his great heart by playing 42 minutes against Kent State. How quickly he can recover from the abuse he gave himself last night will determine whether he can play two days in a row.

If Frazier can't go, Uzoh could have a field day. The 6'-3", 190 pounder can penetrate for shots or assists, and he can hit the three. He has already surpassed 1000 career points with nearly two full years to play. He is the quarterback who makes his team go.

Another big threat for Tulsa is Jordan. The Jamaican is slender like Mike Tisdale, but his shoulders are higher, making his effective length greater than Tisdale. And he has some hops to go with it. Jerome can hit jump hooks with either hand and will be difficult to stop. In addition, he has great timing on blocks. He totaled 174 blocked shots last season, and he is off to a big start in that department again this year.

Senior Ray Reese joins Uzoh in the backcourt. He uses his 6'-5" size and athleticism to good effect both offensively and defensively. He scored 13 points last evening. Junior Bishop Wheatley (6'-6") doesn't score much, but he's another big wing who is a lock-down defender. Whomever he guards, possibly Mike Davis, will struggle against his defensive prowess.

Other key Golden Hurricane players include 6'-7" freshman Joe Richard; 6'-2" sophomore guard Glenn Andrews, who averages 10 points a game; 6'-4" sophomore guard Justin Hurtt; and 6'-10" freshman Steven Idlet.

Tulsa's only loss on the young season was at Oklahoma State. They enjoyed a 20 win campaign last season, finishing second in their season-ending tournament. They are battle-tested and confident, and they will give Illinois everything they want tonight.

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