Tulsa, OK – The Memphis Tigers look to take one step closer to their record-setting seventh Conference USA Tournament championship as they take on Danny Manning's Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the semifinals on Friday.
The survivor of this matchup will take on the winner of the Southern Miss and Texas-El Paso matchup for an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Golden Hurricane kept their season alive as they defeated East Carolina, 79-72, on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Scottie Haralson stepped up to post 22 points, while James Woodard chimed in with 17 points. Tulsa tallied 54 second-half points and used a late 10-0 run to advance past the Pirates. The Golden Hurricane have won three of their last four games heading into the semifinals.
Tulsa doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but it is a solid team across the board. Woodard paces the group with 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per tilt while Pat Swilling, Jr's 10.8 ppg and 41.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc plays a vital role. Haralson adds 10.8 ppg, but he converts just 36.2 percent of his shots from the floor.
Memphis owns a 22-13 all-time series lead over Tulsa. The Tigers easily coasted to a 94-64 victory in the only regular-season meeting between the schools as D.J. Stephens paced Memphis with 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in the bout. The Tigers will have to get past Tulsa for the second time this season and 15th in 16 meetings dating back to 2005-2006. They've won by an average of 16.0 points over the Golden Hurricane during that stretch.
Josh Pastner's Tigers displayed what makes them so difficult to prepare for as they shot past Tulane to an 81-68 win in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The depth of Memphis has been its key. Chris Crawford drained six shots from beyond the arc while Joe Jackson scored 15 points and Adonis Thomas chipped in 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Memphis, which shot 55.4 percent for the game.
Memphis, which is ranked 20th in the polls, has only lost one game since Dec. 15, and that setback came at the Cintas Center to a tough Xavier Musketeers unit. Jackson (13.8 ppg, 4.9 apg) is clearly the leader of the Tigers this season, but they have plenty of scoring options down the line. Thomas (11.3 ppg) was once projected to be an NBA lottery pick. Although his numbers aren't overwhelming, he is definitely starting to impress scouts once again with his athleticism and scoring ability. Thomas is not the only capable forward for the Tigers, as Tarik Black, Shaq Goodwin and D.J. Stephens are all solid role players. Memphis is the league's third-best team in forcing opponents' miscues. The Tigers are forcing their foes to turn the ball over 15.6 times per contest. Memphis has not lost a C-USA Tournament game since 2010 and its most recent loss before that came in 2005.