Tulsa (14-12) at FIU (13-14)
02/22/2014 7:38 AM
02/22/2014 7:59 AM
GAME NOTES: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will attempt to continue their season- long winning streak on Saturday afternoon when they venture to U.S. Century Bank Arena for a Conference USA showdown with the FIU Panthers.
Tulsa has caught fire of late with four straight victories to improve to 14-12 overall and surge up the C-USA standings at 9-3, tied for second place with Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech and just a game behind Texas-El Paso and Middle Tennessee. The Golden Hurricane began their three-game road trip on Thursday by easily dismissing Florida Atlantic, 71-52.
While FIU boasts a similar overall record as Tulsa (13-14), it has not fared as well in league play, going just 5-7. The Panthers are currently losers of two straight and three of four, most recently dropping a heartbreaker versus North Texas at home on Thursday, 65-63.
Tulsa won the only previous meeting between the teams at home back in 2009, 81-49.
The Golden Hurricane separated themselves from FAU in the first half with a 14-0 run and cruised from that point forward to the easy 19-point victory. They shot an impressive 47.5 percent from the field while holding FAU to a mere 31.3 percent, and they held convincing advantages in both the rebounding (42-32) and turnover (13-9) margins. Rashad Smith was the spark plug in the triumph, shooting 9-of-16 from the field for 20 points to go with eight rebounds, while James Woodard was hot on his heels with 19 points.
Tulsa has performed well on both end of the floor this season, shooting 44.4 percent from the field for 73.2 ppg while allowing 68.5 ppg on just 41 percent shooting. Woodard is the team leader in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg) and has drained 48 3-pointers at a 39 percent success rate and has knocked down just shy of 80 percent of his free-throw tries. Smith brings 12.8 ppg and 5.2 rpg to the table, while Shaquille Harrison (9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 1.7 spg) runs a stellar point.
The Panthers appeared to have their most recent contest well in hand leading by 11 points with under three minutes to play, but North Texas ended the game on a furious run, capped off by the game-winning layup as the buzzer. The Panthers shot just 39.7 percent from the field in the epic collapse, including 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. Tymell Murphy did his best to lift the team to victory with a career-high 31 points, shooting 12-of-18 from the field and 6- of-7 from the free-throw line in the process. Rakeem Buckles tallied a double- double with 13 points and 13 rebounds but shot only 6-of-18 from the floor on the evening.
Despite outshooting its opponents from the field this season, 44.7 percent to 43 percent, FIU still owns a -1.8 scoring margin due to its poor showings from 3-point range (.297), the foul line (.665) and in the turnover battle (-1.7). The team's strength clearly comes in the frontcourt. Murphy stuffs the stat sheet with 16.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.4 while shooting a lofty 58.8 percent from the field, and Buckles has also been outstanding with 13.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg and 1.1 spg. Dennis Mavin is the team's top threat from the backcourt with 11.6 ppg, although he shoots only 38 percent from the field.
Despite its talented lineup, FIU has failed to live up to expectations this season, and even though it boasts a solid home record (8-5), Tulsa has been on fire of late and should find a way to squeak this one out down the stretch.
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