Through their first seven games of the season, the Golden Hurricane men’s basketball team has played a 4–3 record. The theme of the results of those games? Defense.
Following their season’s opening loss to Oral Roberts, TU rattled off three consecutive victories, defeating Louisiana Lafayette (64–53), Abilene Christian (65–39) and Auburn (53–35). The team achieved these wins with strong defensive efforts and a balanced scoring attack. A different player led TU in scoring each game.
In their next two games, the Golden Hurricane faced their biggest challenges of the season to this point, losing games to Oklahoma State (73–58) and Wichita State (75–55), who was ranked No. 9 in the country at the time. In each of the games, Tulsa struggled in the first half, and found themselves down by at least fifteen points in each game, and the deficits proved too difficult to overcome.
Tulsa rebounded from these losses with a strong performance against a Creighton team that was ranked No. 23 in the country the week before. The Golden Hurricane started the game better than they had the previous two, jumping out to a seven point halftime lead.
Creighton made a run to start the second half, and the lead narrowed to two. However, TU continued to pressure the Bluejays, eventually pulling away for a 77-64 statement win led by James Woodard and his 23 points. Not only were the 23 points Woodward’s high for the season, but he also passed the 1000 point mark in his career at TU during the game.
The defensive effort of the Golden Hurricane has been the primary factor in the beginning stretch of the season. In each of their three losses, the team has given up over 70 points: 77 to Oral Roberts, 73 to Oklahoma State and 75 to Wichita State.
On the other hand, only Creighton has scored over 55 points in a TU win. And even though Creighton managed to score 64, it marked their second lowest score total of the season.
The Golden Hurricane held both Auburn and Abilene Christian to under 40 points, at 35 and 39 respectively. In these games, TU’s defensive play was impressive: holding teams under 40 points typically only occurs when the two teams have vast skill level differences, such as when the top teams in the country play lesser teams in their non-conference schedules. Tulsa achieved the feat twice, but more impressively, twice in consecutive games. They have used their speed at the guard positions to hassle opponents into causing turnovers.
If the defense has dictated the results of the games, where does that leave the offense? The offense has been less consistent. This inconsistency can largely be attributed to the growing pains with a new system being run by new coach Frank Haith. The offense has seemed stagnant at times in the halfcourt and operates best when the defense is creating turnovers for the guards to get out and push the tempo.
TU uses its speed to its advantage on the break, creating opportunities with more ease when on a fast break than playing half court offense. As the team becomes more accustomed to Haith’s coaching style as the season moves on, the halfcourt offense should be able to flow more freely, making the team’s overall offensive output increase.
Tulsa will finish 2014 with four more no-conference home games before traveling to Orlando to face UCF on Dec. 31.