Last week, the Golden Hurricane played two games at the Reynolds Center. The first game was on Wednesday, Feb. 3 against the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs. The second game was on Saturday, Feb. 6 against the University of Central Florida (UCF) Bulls.
In the first game, SMU got ahead early, but twice in the first half TU tied the game only for the Mustangs to immediately regain the lead. In the second half, Tulsa had a strong comeback at the end of the game. With just under three and a half minutes remaining in the game, Tulsa trailed by twelve points. Rey Idowu made a jumper to bring the Golden Hurricane to within ten points with three minutes remaining. Following this Brandon Rachal made several shots and Tulsa came within six points. SMU scored a free throw and then Curtis Heywood II and Austin Richie made shots which brought Tulsa within three. With four seconds left, Austin Richie was fouled on a three-point shot attempt. He was only able to convert one of his three free throws which gave SMU a narrow 65-63 win over the Golden Hurricane. Despite Tulsa being unable to complete the comeback, Curtis Heywood II had a career high 18 points in the game followed by Brandon Rachal with 15 points and Elijah Joiner with 10 points. After the game, Tulsa coach Frank Haith said, “Obviously, it was a tough loss. We didn’t play the way we needed to play at the start of this ballgame. We dug ourselves too big a hole. But we competed, got back in the game.”
In the second game, once again, Tulsa found itself at an early deficit as UCF gained a 9-0 lead three minutes into the first half. While two made three-point shots brought the Golden Hurricane within three points of UCF, this was the closest Tulsa would get until the end of the second half. However, for the second straight game, Tulsa had a strong comeback in the second half. A layup by Darrian Jackson with just over three minutes left brought Tulsa within three points and another layup by Darrian Jackson with just over two and a half minutes left brought Tulsa to within one point of UCF; however, this is as close as the Golden Hurricane would get as UCF ultimately won the game 65-58. Elijah Joiner led the way for the Golden Hurricane’s scoring with fourteen points while Darien Jackson and Keyshawn Embrey-Simpson followed with twelve points and ten points, respectively. After the conclusion of the game, Frank Haith discussed Tulsa’s lack of confidence and how that affected the game. “We’re not a confident bunch right now. We’re really struggling with our confidence. I thought we had some really unforced turnovers that hurt us. I thought UCF was too comfortable early making some threes and that’s what happens. You get some confidence and you’re going to end up making some tough ones. We didn’t defend the three-point line very well.”
At the conclusion of this week of American Athletic Conference (AAC) basketball, TU dropped to fifth place in the AAC trailing the league leader Houston by four games. Tulsa’s only game next week is a rescheduled game against Tulane and will be played at the Reynolds Center on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 4:00 p.m.