Basketball journalist Zach Short covers Tulsa’s victory, where outplaying the Eagles yielded the Golden Hurricane the honor of being city champions.
It is still too early to say whether or not the Tulsa Men’s basketball crew will be a dominant power this season. What can be said, however, is that they played with an unmatched ferocity Tuesday night to beat their crosstown rival, the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, in a captivating 74-67 victory.
The game started slow enough, with both teams struggling to score early. This is not due to poor play though, but rather to a defensive battle as both teams tried to crush their opponents’ spirits as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they ran into foul trouble a bit too quickly, earning their 10th foul with 6:42 left in the first half. The Hurricane was quick to cash in on the fault, shooting 27 free throws, eight more than their opponent, by the time the game was over.
Yet, the Tulsa team had its own struggles in the first half to complement ORU’s foul problem and keep the game nice and tight. The Hurricane struggled with inside scoring, missing a handful of what could have been easy points. And while both teams struggled with turnovers, Tulsa struggled more greatly there as well. ORU ended the game with 11 turnovers, while Tulsa ended with a whopping 16. Despite these struggles, Tulsa held on to the lead going into the half, being up 32-28.
The second half started with a little cause for concern for Tulsa fans, as the Eagles came out of the locker room and grabbed the lead quickly. They even seemed to have a tighter grasp on their foul problem, not prompting a whistle for the first four minutes out of the gate. Despite their adapted approach, the fouls did come back to haunt them, as their starting center earned his fourth with eight minutes left in the game.
That foul was the turning point for the Hurricane. They scored a quick five points right after his cautionary exit and held on to a lead for the rest of the game. If that quick little spurt was not enough to convince Tulsa fans that they were about to see their team win, Brandon Rachal made believers of them just a few minutes later with a demoralizing dunk followed by an icy triple to get the crowd excited.
After the viciousness exacted upon the Eagles from Rachal, the team just seem to fall apart. They still played mostly well, but they only appeared to care about every other possession. It looked as though they had accepted defeat as inevitable. The game spiraled out of control for the city’s other big university, and even while the score remained tight, faith in Eagles only waned as time trickled down.
In the end, the Hurricane’s valiant effort paid off. They outrebounded the Eagles 43 to 35 and played with a bit more zeal than their rival. Critics may chalk it up to a home court advantage, but it is still difficult to deny that the Tulsa team seemed to care more about the outcome of the game and were willing to give it their all to secure the confidence-boosting win. The two teams were about equally yoked in overall talent, the Tulsa team just wanted it more. If they can refine their style while still playing with an unmatched enthusiasm, they will be a scary team to face when conference play gets started.