Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking back at Austin and ahead to Erie

With a schedule that features just two home games in the month of February, there's no question that the Tulsa 66ers have to take care of business at home in January. That's exactly what they did last night against Austin, posting a 103-95 decision over the Toros.

Four thoughts about last night's game...

1. Despite being outsized, Tulsa held its own in the paint, barely being outrebounded by Austin 43-40. Coach Nate Tibbetts and his staff has stressed the importance of rebounding all week and you could tell that the players have listened. It's also not such a bad thing to have a smaller lineup as Tulsa's guards were able to grab rebounds and push the ball up the court last night against the Toros.

2. Mustafa Shakur saved the best for last. Struggling through three periods, Shakur had 14 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, including six big free throws in the game's final 62 seconds. Shakur also scored 14 of Tulsa's 27 points in the final period. Despite a relatively forgettable night, Shakur controlled things down the stretch for the 66ers and looked solid when the team needed a leader.

3. Deron Washington made a difference. Tibbetts called him a spark after the game, and the description is a good one as Washington paced Tulsa's aggressive tone in the second half with several drives to the bucket. He just missed on a fourth-quarter reverse dunk that would've sent the crowd into a frenzy.

4. Speaking of the crowd, it was a season-high 4,298 inside the Convention Center last night. You could tell the Tulsa players and coaches appreciated the crowd as they stayed around after the game to exchange high-fives and chat with fans. Tibbetts told me afterwards how much the loud crowd meant to the team.

Four thoughts about Erie, who comes to Tulsa for games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

1. Tulsa has to keep John Bryant away from the basket. Bryant is a 6-foot-11, 300-pound center who has used his size to do plenty of damage in the paint this season. Bryant is averaging 13.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest, good enough for fifth in the league.

“Erie is a well-coached, hard-nosed team and they have a great big guy in John Bryant,” Tibbetts told me. “We have to meet him in the lane early, because once he gets under the basket, you really can’t move him out of there.”

2. Shakur and Dowdell have to keep an eye on Cedric Jackson. Jackson is coming off a 31-point performance in a win over Fort Wayne.

“Jackson is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Tibbetts agreed. “Overall, Erie has a lot of good young players. I think we’re in for a pair of grind-them-out, tough games.”

3. Will the three-guard starting lineup make another appearance? Looks like it's a very real possibility. With a smaller lineup, Tibbetts tweaked his starters before Thursday’s game against Austin, starting three guards. Dowdell and Cecil Brown started alongside Shakur, with Larry Owens and Chris Richard manning the blocks.

“I was very happy with the way our lineup played against Austin,” Tibbetts said. “I thought Larry really set the tone for us in the first half. He was playing the four position instead of his normal three, but he’s a versatile player and that’s one of the things that makes him such a good player.”

Tibbetts told me the new lineup isn't a knock against Moses Ehambe (who had started every game for Tulsa prior to Thursday) or Latavious Williams. It's just a chance to get some guys off the bench some starts.

4. Williams continues to impress when he's in. Six rebounds and a blocked shot in 12 minutes last night? A typical stat line for Williams, who isn't get a ton of playing time, but is making a difference when he's in there.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin,

    I run a BayHawks blog called Blog Talk BayHawk and was hoping to ask you a few questions heading into the weekend series between Erie and Tulsa, but I can't seem to track down a way to contact you through the blog. Send me an e-mail at if you're interested.

    Matt Hubert