Record: 10-5, 3-0 AAC
Head Coach: Frank Haith
The Golden Hurricanes come into this game on a five game winning streak and as the only 3-0 team in the American. Despite having almost everybody returning from a NCAA Tournament team last season, Tulsa got off to a bit of a slow start under new Head Coach Frank Haith, winning just five of their first ten, but have now rattled off five in a row, including three wins in conference. The three conference wins came against UCF, Houston, and most recently, against a solid Temple team that has beaten UConn and Kansas.
Part of their 5-5 start was due to their challenging non-conference schedule that included a loss to then No. 9 Wichita State, then No. 16 Oklahoma, and now ranked No. 24 Oklahoma State. The two best non-conference wins for Coach Haith's squad have been against Auburn, who is now 9-6, and Creighton, which was a quality win at the time but have now fallen to 0-4 in the Big East.
Like most teams in the American, Tulsa has played very good defense, holding teams to just 38.9% shooting from the field. They have only allowed 61.7 PPG which ranks 77th in the nation, and are 32nd in Kenpom's adjusted defensive efficiency.
Tulsa has gone seven-deep for most of the season with every member of that rotation averaging at least 3.0 RPG. The rebounding by everyone on the court has led to the Golden Hurricanes being ranked 36th in defensive rebounding at 26.9 per game.
#3 Shaquille Harrison, Junior, Guard (6-4, 182): Does everything for the Golden Hurricanes, averaging 15.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.7 SPG. Harrison is leading the team in points, assists, steals, free-throw makes and attempts, and field goal percentage as he is shooting an impressive 50.6% from the field. Haith wanted Harrison to become more of a three-point threat as he is only 5-23 on the year, but he has been just fine not incorporating that into his game. The 6-4 junior is able to create opportunities for him and teammates off the dribble, and is very good at getting to the free throw line, where he is shooting 72.3%. Harrison has scored in double figures in Tulsa's last nine games, including averaging 21.3 PPG in conference play.
#10 James Woodard, Junior, Guard (6-3, 189): Leads the team in minutes while averaging 14.8 PPG and 4.7 RPG. Along with Harrison, Woodard was one of two players to start all 34 games last season, and has the ability to do it all: shoot, rebound, and defend. He is the team's main three-point threat as he is 35-100 on the season, making at least one three-pointer in all but three games. Woodard has scored in double figures in all but three games this season, and has been in double figures in every game of Tulsa's five game winning streak. He has barely come off the floor in conference play, averaging 37.7 MPG, while averaging 15 PPG, but only shooting 5-23 from three.
#15 Marquel Curtis, Junior, Guard (6-3, 205): The third guard for Tulsa, Curtis is averaging 8.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG, while shooting 49.5% from the field, and 10-26 from three. After redshirting last season due to missing the final 25 games with an ankle injury, Curtis has been a nice surprise for Haith and has beaten out Rashad Ray for the final starting spot. He has scored in double figures in six games this season, including a season high of 17 points on 6-10 shooting, 2-3 from three, in their win over Creighton. In AAC play, Curtis is averaging 4.7 PPG on 5-14 shooting.
#1 Rashad Smith, Junior, Forward (6-7, 205): The leading rebounder for Tulsa, averaging 6.7 per game while averaging 7.9 PPG on 45.4% shooting from the field. Smith crashes the offensive glass effectively which results in easy hoops for him, but Haith feels that he can do other things away from the hoop by putting the ball on the floor and stretching opposing team's defenses. He has scored in double figures four times this season, including a 16 point performance against Houston on 7-11 shooting. Smith is starting to really hit his stride, averaging 10.3 PPG on 14-26 shooting and 8.7 RPG in 34 MPG in conference play.
#40 D'Andre Wright, Junior, Forward (6-9, 245): One of the team's few true big men; Wright is averaging 7.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG. While big men generally shoot a good percentage, the 6-9 forward has struggled from the field so far this season, shooting only 39.1%. The main issue for Wright in his career and this season has been foul trouble. He has recorded at least four fouls nine different times this season, including one foul out. Haith thinks Wright can play at the next level due to his athleticism and skills around the hoop, but must stop fouling. In conference play, he is just averaging 4 PPG on 2-14 shooting.
#5 Rashad Ray. Junior, Guard (5-10, 172): The sixth man for the Golden Hurricanes, Ray is averaging 6.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.9 APG. He is shooting a brutal 28.7% from the field so far this season, but is shooting 36.4% from three, which is up from 28.6% last season. The 5-10 guard has a very quick first step and is best on the pick-and-roll, while also being a good defender. Ray has not been effective of late, just averaging 5 PPG on 6-29 shooting in Tulsa's winning streak and 4.3 PPG on 4-16 shooting in conference play.
Tulsa is coached by Frank Haith who is in his first season with the team. Before Tulsa, Haith coached at Missouri where he went 76-28, including a 30-5 record in the 2011-12 season. He and the Tigers earned a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Norfolk State in the first round (this was the same year that Lehigh beat Duke). Before Missouri, Haith spent seven seasons at Miami where he went 129-101, only making the NCAA Tournament once. Overall, he has a career record of 215-134.