Originally published on Dec. 21, 2003
Tulsa coach John Phillips was counting on the one weakness of Wichita State's best player, Jamar Howard.
"He didn't get in foul trouble," Phillips said in mock bewilderment. "He was supposed to get in foul trouble. That's what everybody told me . . ."
Well, that's what Howard is usually battling. But not Saturday night, at least not early. Howard didn't pick up one foul in the first half. He went on to have his best game of the season, and his timing to do that was pretty good.
Howard's season-high 23 points and eight rebounds led WSU to a 66-58 victory over Tulsa on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd on Koch Arena Dedication Night.
He helped the Shockers break a 13-game losing streak to Tulsa, dating back to the 1992-93 season, three years before the Golden Hurricane left the Missouri Valley Conference for the WAC.
"Jamar was awesome tonight," WSU guard Randy Burns said. "I don't know what we'd do without him."
Sometimes the Shockers (7-2) are close to finding out. Like last weekend at Southwest Missouri State, when he was limited to a season-low 13 minutes because of foul trouble.
So WSU coach Mark Turgeon gave Howard this one thought before the game: Don't foul, and you'll play all night.
No problem, Howard said. He did pick up four quick fouls in the second half, but he still led the team with 33 minutes played.
"I don't think I took away from my aggressiveness," Howard said. "It's just keeping the guy in front of me and not playing too close. I usually play too close and crowd him, and I don't need to do that all the time, I learned."
The Shockers needed him on a night in which they made just 2 of 19 three-po inters. Howard made 6 of 11 shots and 11 of 15 free throws.
"The guys looked tired to me," Turgeon said. "They all looked tired to me, except Jamar. Jamar was at another level all night. You could just see it - offensive rebounds, turning and scoring off the block, running on the break, defending - he was just really good."
Down 12-7 early in the first half, WSU went on an 11-0 run, highlighted with a fast break finished off with a Burns-to-Howard alley-oop. The run put the Shockers up 18-12, a lead they clung to the rest of the first half.
Just a split-second before the halftime buzzer, Howard jumped up from a pack and tipped in a missed shot by Fridge Holman to put the Shockers up by five.
"It's not like on the scouting report we didn't mention some of the things he does really well, but he did them anyway," Phillips said. " . . . Like jump over the rim and tip the ball in right before half. You've just got to get a body on him; he plays so hard. He's just one of those kids who can score. You look in the scoreboard afterward and say 'How'd he score that many points?' Well, he plays hard."
Turgeon was glad to see to Howard lead the Shockers in shots taken, having recently criticized his guards for taking too many shots instead of trying to find their leading scorer.
"That's our whole thing, get him the ball on the block," Turgeon said. "It was hard tonight because they were sagging (defensively)."
Tulsa (3-4) came back to tie the score at 34 with a 9-0 run - two Brian Caldwell baskets, a Guilherme Teichmann layup and a Jarius Glenn follow with a free throw - with 16:23 remaining.
But the Shockers answered with a 9-0 run themselves, with five points from Aaron Hogg, and led the rest of the night. Burns scored 14 points, 13 in the second half, while Jason Carter led Tulsa with 16 points.
"We weren't great," Turgeon said. "We just kind of sucked it up tonight and willed a victory."