Saturday, January 30, 2010

Looking back at Iowa and ahead to Sioux Falls

While talking to Tulsa head coach Nate Tibbetts earlier today, I asked him if Tulsa's 111-87 win over Iowa on Friday night was a measuring stick type of win for him and his team. When you beat the best team in the league (only the sixth time all year they had been beaten) and hand them their worst loss of the season, it's an appopriate time to see exactly where your team is, correct?

"From a player's standpoint, I think it showed once again that we can play with anyone in the league, including the premier teams," Tibbetts told me. "We have to come out, compete, and give ourselves a chance to win. When we do that, our team is moving in the right direction."

Tulsa will try to keep moving in the right direction against a Sioux Falls team that they have beaten three out of four meetings this season, including a 2-0 mark at the Tulsa Convention Center. Those two road losses to open 2010 are just part of a 1-10 road record amassed by the Skyforce this season.

Keeping Sioux Falls struggling on the road will mean that the 66ers will have to try to contain forward Reggie Williams, who comes to Tulsa as the D-League's fifth-leading scorer at 25.8 points per game. Williams has been tough on Tulsa this season, scoring 31 points in each of the two games in Tulsa and exploding for 43 points in an overtime loss to Tulsa at Sioux Falls.

DeVon Hardin is back in the lineup for the 66ers after an injury and will make a difference down low against Williams and D-League shot blocking sensation Greg Stiemsma.

"We have to bring DeVon along slowly," Tibbetts said. "His presence in the paint is huge for us."

Speaking of the paint, Latavious Williams is becoming more and more of a force on the glass. His 18-point, 18-rebound effort in Thursday night's loss had the league buzzing, and he added nine more boards in Friday night's win.

"He's worked hard in practice all year, but he has really ramped it up lately," Tibbetts told me. "It's good to see him have that success because he's worked hard for it. It's all about learning how to be a pro basketball player, and Tay is learning more and more every day."

One more note about Sunday's game ... it is Tulsa's last one at home for a while and marks the beginning of a stretch when the 66ers will only play twice in Tulsa in February (single games against Maine and Springfield). Home court has to be an advantage for Tulsa on Sunday, even if the ice and snow keep the majority of fans from making the game.

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