Getting a Handle on the Hurricane...


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This past week's postponement forced BYU to sit on its loss to Arizona State a little longer than anticipated, but the Cougars are finally back on the hardwoods Tuesday at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are 8-4 on the season, with three of the losses to high-profile teams Oklahoma State, Illinois and Oklahoma--the other setback was a disappointing loss at Ohio.

The Hurricane have won 28 consecutive non-conference home games at the Reynolds Center, and their overall Reynolds Center win streak of 18 games is the 8th longest current streak nationally (the loss to Oklahoma was played in Tulsa at the BOK Center, and while registered as a "home" loss in the Tulsa stats and for RPI purposes, the NCAA considers it a "neutral" court defeat).

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Between final exams, the Christmas holidays and the Western Oregon postponement, BYU will have played just one game between December 13th and December 30th.

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The Golden Hurricane rank in the Top 30 in scoring defense in the most recent NCAA stats, and Doug Wojcik's teams have made their name on the defensive side of the floor, holding 102 of 110 opponents under 50% shooting from the field. BYU, on the other hand, was ranked second nationally in field goal percentage in the latest stats, at 52% for the season. The Cougars are also in the top 25 in scoring offense, so Tuesday's matchup is an intriguing one.

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A BYU road win at Tulsa would be huge, as the Hurricane are considered to have a solid shot at earning an NCAA Tournament bid this season, and since it's been almost three years since the Hurricane have lost a non-conference home game. Tulsa is expected to contend with Memphis in Conference USA, and has a marquee win over 10-1 Texas A&M, along with a quality win over Missouri State.

The Hurricane are led by the inside-outside combo of seven-foot shot-blocking machine Jerome Jordan (12 pts, 8 reb, 3 blocked shots per game), and guard Ben Uzoh (16 pts, 4 reb, 3.5 assists per game).

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The Tulsa game is a homecoming for BYU freshman Noah Hartsock, who played his high school ball not far from Tulsa, in nearby Bartlesville, OK. One of Hartsock's high school teammates, Sam Mitchell, is a senior forward for the Hurricane.

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The Tulsa game is the first of a significant two-game swing for the Cougars, who return home to host Top 10 foe Wake Forest next Saturday, in what is being promoted as a "White Out" for the BYU fans in attendance. The game is expected to be a sellout, and a huge crowd can only help BYU's chances of pulling off one of the biggest wins in the program's history.

If the Demon Deacons maintain their #6 national ranking (as of this writing), they will be the highest-ranked non-conference opponent ever to play at the Marriott Center. Since the building's opening in 1971, BYU has hosted a Top 10 non-conference opponent only one other time, beating 7th ranked Washington, 84-75, on December 22nd, 1985.

BYU has hosted Top 10 conference foes in the Marriott Center on a handful of occasions, losing to #10 Arizona in 1975, losing to #5 New Mexico in 1978, beating #9 Utah in 1981, beating #8 UTEP in 1984, losing to #9 Utah in 1991, losing to #10 Utah in 1996, losing to #9 Utah in 1997, losing to #3 Utah in 1998, and losing to #8 Utah in 1999.

So, since the Marriott Center opened its doors, BYU is 3-7 in home games versus Top 10 teams.

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Taking a quick look ahead at Wake Forest, the 11-0 Deacs are ranked in the top 20 nationally in a bunch of meaningful categories, including scoring offense (10), scoring margin (7), FG percentage (3--right behind BYU), FG percentage defense (13), rebound margin (5), blocked shots per game (20), and steals per game (15).

BYU will be hard-pressed to hang with one of the best teams in the country, as all five Wake Forest starters average double-figure scoring and shoot better than 50% from the floor. The Deacs start 6'9", 6'9" and 7'0" across the front, while point guard Jeff Teague leads the team in scoring, 3-point shooting, assists and steals.

The Cougars will have a 53-game homecourt win streak going for them, plus some elevation to perhaps help tire the sea-level Deacs, but this one could come down to BYU keeping Wake off the glass, keeping turnovers at or below the season average, and Jimmer Fredette playing Teague to a standoff. Fredette (15 pts in 22 minutes) just happened to be BYU's best player in last year's loss at Wake Forest--a game in which the Cougars shot 36% from the field, 32% from the arc, and 50% from the free throw line. Teague, meantime, was unstoppable, scoring 26 points, with 3 assists, two blocked shots and 5 steals--and he's only gotten better.

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Wake Forest has played only two true road games this season: wins at Richmond (86-79) and East Carolina (95-54, featuring a 54-17 second half). The Demon Deacons host Radford on Tuesday before heading west for the weekend.

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