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From 2001: Tulsa provides map for WSU basketball

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Dec. 8, 2001.

Wichita State and Tulsa were once equals and rivals, fierce foes and flagship schools in the Missouri Valley Conference.

But when the Shockers and the Golden Hurricane battle tonight inside Levitt Arena, they may still be rivals, but they're not equals.

While the Shockers have gotten rid of three coaches and endured 10 losing seasons in 12 years in an aging Levitt, the Golden Hurricane has developed rising-star coaches as an NCAA Tournament regular in a new arena.

Despite Tulsa's 11 straight wins over WSU, first-year Hurricane coach John Phillips, an Oklahoma native who knows the history of the rivalry, is convincing his players that their toughest nonconference road game comes tonight.

"I told these guys, it's like nothing you've ever seen before," Phillips said of rowdy crowds inside Levitt. "These guys have the best fans, other than ours, in America."

Still, the Hurricane has blown past its former rival on the road to college hoops success.

Tulsa became a model for mid-major programs after its 1996 departure from the Missouri Valley Conference for the Western Athletic and three Sweet 16 appearances.

"Yeah," WSU coach Mark Turgeon said, "we'd like to model our program after them. It'll take time, but that's the goal."

A Shocker victory would even the series at 58 wins and avenge last season's 78-49 drubbing at Tulsa.

That proved to be WSU's worst defeat a year ago, so humiliating that Shocker guard C.C. McFall talks about revenge, saying Tulsa showed no mercy and bullied an inferior opponent.

"I don't know about that," Turgeon said. "I just know that they whipped us. It wasn't like they were trying to rub it in. They just wore us out."

Tulsa failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but won the NIT en route to a 26-11 record under first-year coach Buzz Peterson, who promptly took the job at Tennessee.

Peterson followed a succession of coaches who have parlayed success at Tulsa into jobs at top Division I schools, including Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Tubby Smith (Kentucky), Steve Robinson (Florida State) and Bill Self (Illinois).

Phillips was born in Tulsa and coached under Self and Peterson.

Phillips has his team off to a fast start, its only setback a 79-75 home defeat to Richardson's Razorbacks.

The five starters average double figures, led by 5-foot-10 guard Dante Swanson's 14.8 points. Swanson can also defend. He was named to the WAC All-Defense team a year ago.

Tulsa boasts a three-guard offense, directed by 5-10 point guard Antonio Reed, who is averaging 11.4 points.

"They're really good," Turgeon said. "They've got a lot of speed at the guard position."

Phillips likes what he has seen on tape of a young Shocker team, which is coming off a win at Kansas State and almost pulled off an upset at then-No. 14 Oklahoma State.

"I see our teams as being very similar," Phillips said. "Mark's got a lot of young kids that are very athletic, and they seem to be doing what he wants. He's got their attention. I've told our guys it's going to be a war."

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