Danny Manning faces his toughest test as a head coach to date as his Tulsa Golden Hurricane head to Omaha for a non-conference bout with the 17th-ranked Creighton Bluejays at the CenturyLink Center.
Tulsa dropped to 6-4 on the season on Saturday when it suffered a 72-65 setback at Arkansas-Little Rock. Manning guided the team to victories in its first three outings but the Golden Hurricane are 3-4 since with no true road wins on the resume.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays are nearly perfect with a 10-1 record. Since being upset by Boise State to close out its November slate, Creighton has reeled off wins over Saint Joseph's (80-51), Nebraska (64-42), Akron (77-61), and most recently, California (74-64). With the exception of the Broncos, the Bluejays have defeated all of their opponents by double-digit margins.
Tulsa leads the all-time series with Creighton by a 43-33 margin, but the Jays are 22-15 all-time as the home team. The Golden Hurricane had won 14-of-16 contests before Creighton downed them in the two most recent encounters, both of which took place in Tulsa. McDermott is 5-0 against the current members of the Conference USA.
The Golden Hurricane trailed for the majority of their recent loss to UALR, but they cut a wide deficit down to four points with a 10-1 run in the second half. Tulsa could not make it a one possession game and ended the contest with 18 turnovers and 12 missed free throws. The Golden Hurricane, who are averaging 68.8 ppg, had a pair of strong showings from rookies in the defeat.
Forward D'Andre Wright netted a team-high 15 points and guard James Woodard recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. With Rashad Smith still out with an injured foot, Woodard leads the active Tulsa players in scoring with 13.6 ppg and is adding 5.7 rebounds. Wright is adding 9.1 ppg.
The Bluejays jumped out to an 8-0 advantage at Cal and never looked back thanks to a remarkable defensive effort. The Golden Bears went just 27-of-78 from the floor including a 3-of-17 mark from 3-point range. Although Creighton showed a weakness by allowing 19 offensive rebounds to Cal, it played well overall and outscored its foe, 16-7, at the free-throw line.
Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott lived up to the hype his last time out as he poured in 34 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 at the free-throw line. McDermott, who is the nation's leading returning scorer and only returning First Team All-American, is supplying his team with 23.7 points and 6.9 boards per game. The Bluejays also have reigning Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year Gregory Echenique (10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and a very efficient point guard in Grant Gibbs (7.3 ppg, 6.3 apg), who has dished out 30 assists to just two turnovers in his past four games.