GAME NOTES: Two of the Conference USA's top teams will collide when the Tulsa Golden Hurricane battle the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at the Thomas Assembly Center.
Danny Manning's Golden Hurricane completed a 94-63 rout of North Texas on Saturday, marking their third win in four outings. They easily coasted past the Mean Green by holding a 43-26 edge in the rebounding battle and connecting on 57.1 percent of their field goal tries in the contest. Tulsa's recent surge has put it just one game below .500 overall and 5-2 in-conference. The Golden Hurricane have stepped up their play on the offensive end to net 77.4 ppg in league games, but they had been held under 70 points in three consecutive outings before the outburst versus UNT. Tulsa has allowed only 59.5 ppg over its last four games.
LaTech is just a half-game ahead of the Golden Hurricane in the C-USA standings with a 6-2 league record. The Bulldogs dispatched Texas-San Antonio, 87-72, in their last appearance and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Coach Michael White's team has been very impressive through its first tour of the conference, outscoring its opposition by a C-USA best 14.9 ppg. The Bulldogs are among the national leaders in several categories and rank fifth nationally in scoring offense (84.7), 13th in rebounding (40.8) and 11th in assists (16.5).
Tulsa and LaTech played twice a year from 2001-2005 as conference rivals in the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs hold a 6-4 edge in the all-time series thanks their 70-62 decision over Tulsa in Ruston in the most recent meeting on Jan. 3, 2004.
Sophomore guard James Woodard tallied 18 points and eight rebounds for Tulsa in its lopsided win on Saturday. D'Andre Wright also scored 18 points while Rashad Smith provided 17 points and six boards off the bench. Woodard has managed to reach double figures in the scoring column every game since the start of December and averages a team-highs of 14.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg. Smith has converted 52.9 percent of his shots from the floor for 12.7 ppg. Shaquille Harrison is the Golden Hurricane's primary ball handler, third-leading scorer and steals leader with 1.7 per tilt. The 6-foot-9 Wright is contributing only 8.3 ppg, but his scoring average will most likely rise as he earns more minutes.
LaTech was outscored by 10 points over the final 20 minutes of its win over UTSA, but still finished the contest with a 42-28 advantage in points in the paint. Chris Anderson registered a double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way while Kenyon McNeail added 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench for the Bulldogs. The team also received 11 points from both Jaron Johnson and Cordarius Johnson. Alex Hamilton scored 10 points, while Kenneth Smith filled up the stat sheet with eight points, nine assists and four steals. Smith appears to be the C-USA's top floor general as he is leading the conference with 7.5 apg. Although LaTech is still missing its leading scorer Raheem Appleby (16.1 ppg), Hamilton and Anderson have had no trouble picking up the slack while he has been out recovering.
Tulsa is just 1-6 in true road games this season. The Bulldogs have lost only once at home and won their other nine games at the Thomas Assembly Center by double-digit margins. LaTech may have trouble pulling away from the Golden Hurricane, but it should be able to come out on top.
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