Basketball journalist Hannah Robbins covers the Golden Hurricane’s thrilling 54-51 win over the No. 23 Wichita State Shockers on Saturday.
Going into the game Saturday, Feb. 1, against the Wichita State Shockers, Tulsa had the momentum of a five game winning streak but the question remained: could the team come together and upset another ranked team in two weeks? Led by Elijah Joiner’s 22 points and Martins Igbanu’s 10, the team showed that they could hit it where it counts. Tulsa proved they could overcome any deficit that they were faced with as they ascended through the conference rankings in front of a 97 percent filled home arena.
The Golden Hurricane started off with missed opportunities, losing the tip off and watching as the Shockers scored back to back. Horne interrupted when he hit his first three, putting Tulsa on the board, but Wichita State returned the favor with Jaime Echenique’s three-pointer. A pair of layups by Igbanu and Echenique lessened Tulsa’s deficit by five.
Continued poor defense and another three by the Shockers put Tulsa down by seven, but a three by Lawson Korita and a layup by Horne put Tulsa back in the game. The Golden Hurricane and the Shockers went back and forth, with Wichita State keeping a slim lead deep in the half. A three by Joiner gave Tulsa the first lead of the game, but a jumper by Echenique took it away. Joiner tried again, but fouls on Tulsa let the Shockers hit key free throws, putting Tulsa down by six at the half.
After back and forth and failed shots at the top of the half, Tulsa was able to put the first points on the board with a pair of free throws by Korita. Joiner capitalized on this with another three, bringing Tulsa back near the lead, but Wichita State responded in kind. The Golden Hurricane stayed within two of the lead as the teams traded points back and forth, but a three by Wichita State put the Golden Hurricane down by six.
Tulsa seemed to wake up, with a jumper by Joiner, three free throws and a layup by Joiner giving Tulsa the lead again with eight minutes left. The teams went point for point, with Igbanu giving the Golden Hurricane a slight lead. The teams were tied after a jumper by the Shockers when Darien Jackson hit a free throw with a minute and a half left. A layup by Wichita State was met by a pair of free throws by Igbanu tying the game with 45 seconds left. After a few missed plays, Tulsa had possession of the ball with 3.3 seconds left. The ball was passed to Joiner. He rushed down the court and threw a three with 0.1 seconds left that was nothing but net, giving Tulsa the win, 54-51.
After this game and the team’s upset against No. 20 Memphis last week, the largest upset by an unranked team in 27 years and Tulsa’s largest ever, the Golden Hurricane is in a great place going toward the end of the season. The team is now first in the conference when they were projected to end the season tenth last year. If they keep hitting fifty percent threes and key shots like tonight, there’s a strong possibility this will be Tulsa’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016, where they lost in the First Four, or 2014, where they were knocked out in the Round of 64. This team has hit their stride at the perfect time, and I’m excited to see how they do the rest of the season.