TU sports journalist Zach Short covers TU’s victory on Halloween night and what the game indicates about the team’s future.
After an alarming first half, the Golden Hurricane took the game by storm to rout the Rockhurst Hawks in a 76-56 victory at Thursday’s exhibition game. Tulsa was off to a rocky start, missing all of their three-point attempts in the first half and going into halftime down 30-27. However, after a little bit of back and forth between the two teams to start the second half, the Hurricane stole the game away, outscoring the Hawks by 23 points in the final period to raise the hopes of fans for the coming season. The team even began to look like they were enjoying themselves after a while, throwing in a few dunks and even an incredible backward alley-oop.
Better yet, Tulsa even had its team chemistry appear to be at its best, with the most points from a single player being just 16 from Brandon Rachal. Ten different players scored before the game was over, and seven of those managed multiple goals from the field. The spread of points is good news, considering all players have proven their ability to score and will make Tulsa more difficult to slow offensively. Perhaps the only downside is that without a clear front runner for scoring (Martins Igbanu had 14 and Darien Jackson had 12) there may not be anyone who can take control in tight situations and lead the team to close wins. This can be alarming given the impact of such Reggie Miller-esque moments (eight points in nine seconds) when games come down to intense final moments. However, this may be just a worst case scenario method of thinking, as a full team throughout the whole game is easily more valuable in the long run and may even prevent such troublesome times.
Unfortunately, the potential lack of the standout superstar type is not the biggest concern for the Hurricane, as the defense very obviously struggled quite a bit throughout the whole game. Moments that excited the crowds, the slam dunks and the merciless daggers from three-point land, often had their energy stripped of them and the crowd brought to an immediate hush when the Hawks consistently were able to retaliate quickly.
Back-door cuts that led to effortless dunks could instantly turn the most engaged grin into a pained suck of air through gritted teeth when the defense was unable to convert. Worse yet, moments such as these were not infrequent. There was a whole handful of times the crowd seemed ready to enter a frenzy when the defense allowed Rockhurst to kill the mood.
Perhaps the lack of defense is why the crowd never really got too involved in the game. Even after the Hawks found themselves getting throttled, Tulsa fans never hardly raised their volume at all. The loudest the crowd ever got was during the halftime judging of Halloween costumes, electing a Frozone doing backflips to be the recipient of the $500 prize. Even such moments as the kiss cam and the dance cam seemed to stir the crowd more than the game ever did. Tulsa finally stepped on the as after a first half tease, but the crowd had apparently already elected to disinterest themselves.
While Tulsa may have the tools to forge a successful season, they definitely have their fair share of work to do. The offense will have to be able to get moving much faster to keep astride good offensive teams (and maybe to step on the throat of other teams early so the defense can relax), the defense will have to improve should any more wins be desired, and someone will have to find a way to get a crowd going for Tulsa basketball. Just one of these factors could be the difference between good and great for this team, but a complete failure in any one of these could conversely be the ultimate demise of all the team’s aspirations. No one should be too disappointed with the win though. It was a 20-point soul-crusher delivered to Rockhurst and, despite a few areas perhaps worth tweaking, the team still looked great.