Editor-in-Chief Justin Guglielmetti discusses the Tulsa men’s basketball team and their 74-52 victory over South Carolina State University.
Coming off a season-opening win against Alcorn State, the Golden Hurricane men’s basketball team welcomed the South Carolina State Bulldogs into the Reynolds Center on Saturday and came away with another commanding victory at 74-52.
DaQuan Jeffries was the star of the show for TU, putting up 18 points, nine rebounds and a block in 25 minutes on 8-11 shooting. Sterling Taplin had an excellent night as a distributor, dishing a career-high 10 assists (against zero turnovers!) in just 22 minutes, while Curran Scott scored 11 to lead led an active bench mob.
The teams remained tight for the first twelve minutes, with SC State’s pressure defense bothering Tulsa’s ball-handlers and open shots for both teams refusing to fall. But a Scott three-pointer assisted from Taplin began a 9-0 run that would ultimately help the Golden Hurricane pull away. When Bulldogs sharpshooter guard Jahmari Etienne went down with an apparent leg cramp near the end of the first half, all the air went out his teammates’ sails. Though TU went into the locker room up 36-25, the lead felt closer to 20.
Etienne returned before the end of the first half but was visibly hampered in the second, and the burden fell on forward Damni Applewhite to keep the Bulldogs in the game. Applewhite was impressive, flashing a nice turnaround and midrange jumper, but his efforts were in vain as SC State never got within 12 of Tulsa. Applewhite led all scorers with 21 points on 9-14 shooting while Etienne poured in four three-pointers and 14 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
After the game, Tulsa coach Frank Haith had high praise for his team, saying “I thought our guys were really good defensively all game. Offensively, we shared the ball with 19 assists, 10 of them by Tap, and we shot the ball well. We didn’t settle for contested threes early in the clock even though they were playing a variety of defenses and I thought our guys showed poise in the second half with really good execution.”
Haith used a deep rotation in this one, using eight players for at least 18 minutes each. As the season progresses and the team hits a more difficult schedule, expect that number to be thinned; now is the time for figuring out how the players on this new roster mesh together.
The Golden Hurricane’s biggest problems seem to be their lack of size and outside shooting. 6’5” Jeffries jumped center, and though his winning the tip was symbolic of the team’s propensity to play above their size and relative talent level, things are going to get difficult when they face the likes of Tacko Fall, UCF’s 7’6” center.
This isn’t a new issue for TU, which hasn’t had a consistent big man since the graduation of Brandon Swannegan and D’Andre Wright. But things could be looking even more dire in 2019, with 6’8” Junior Etou’s minutes likely to be replaced by Zeke Moore (a natural two-guard). As for Martins Igbanu, he hasn’t shown the passing development to be a consistent force in the post, and the team’s general lack of three-point threats make it easy for the opposition to double him. Still, it’s early in the season, and the Golden Hurricane has two decisive wins under their belt. It’s not time to worry about anything yet.