GAME NOTES: The sixth-seeded Marshall Thundering Herd and the third-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane square off this afternoon in a quarterfinal-round matchup in the 2012 Conference USA Tournament.
Marshall advanced to today's game by breezing by its first-round opponent, SMU, on Wednesday, 74-56, upping its overall record to 19-12. The Herd continue to build upon the momentum they gained towards the end of the regular-season, as they have now won six of their past eight games overall.
Tulsa earned a bye in the first round as one of the top four seeds for the third time in four years, and for the fourth time in seven seasons under head coach Doug Wojcik. The Golden Hurricane have a 17-13 overall record and a 10-6 mark in conference play, although lost some momentum at the end of the regular-season by dropping back-to-back games to UAB and Memphis heading into the tournament.
Tulsa has doubled-up Marshall in the all-time series, 8-4, which includes a 79-70 win on Feb. 4 in the only other meeting between the two teams this season.
Marshall made easy work of SMU in its 18-point, first-round victory by shooting a healthy 47.4 percent from the field while holding the Mustangs to 33.3 percent efficiency. DeAndre Kane scored 18 points, Damier Pitts netted 16, Shaquille Johnson chipped in 15, and Dennis Tinnon grabbed 15 rebounds in the win. The quality defensive performance on Wednesday was a good sign for a team that allows a league-worst 45.1 percent shooting to its opponents. The Herd is one of C-USA's better scoring teams at 69.5 ppg and they are the top- ranked team on the glass, sporting a rebounding margin of +7.7. Kane has been the catalyst for the squad, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring with 15.8 ppg while also tallying 5.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, and 1.4 spg. Filling out Marshall's supporting cast is Pitts (14.4 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Tinnon (9.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg).
Though Tulsa possesses a rather modest offense by C-USA standards (66.4 ppg), it was aided by the league's best three-point shooting attack, as it drains 38 percent of its long-range shots. The Golden Hurricane were also solid on the boards this season, ranking second in rebounding margin at +6.0. Tulsa's driving force this season has been sophomore Jordan Clarkson, who ranks second in the conference in scoring at 16.6 ppg while posting solid percentages from the field (.440), beyond the three-point line (.378), and the foul line (.784), becoming the fourth Tulsa player in the last four years to earn First Team All-Conference honors. Scottie Haralson (11.0 ppg) has been effective as Clarkson's running mate at the guard position, leading the conference in three-pointers (214), while Steven Idlet (10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Kodi Maduka (7.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg) have been a quality duo in the paint.
These matchup pits two teams that play physical but also have the ability to knock down their shots. Marshall has been hot and could catch Tulsa off guard, but the Golden Hurricane will prevail behind yet another stellar performance from Clarkson.