The culmination of the AAC basketball season took place last week with the 2021 Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship in Fort Worth, Texas. All of the AAC teams competed in it, and Tulsa’s game was last Thursday.
Tulsa won the tip-off and quickly grabbed an early 2-0 lead with a jumper by Brandon Rachal just 13 seconds into the game. Over the next few minutes, the Golden Hurricane increased their lead to 8-2. Tulane came back and overtook Tulsa’s lead about five minutes into the first half. The lead went back and forth over the next eight minutes until Tulsa took a two-point lead with a jumper by Austin Richie. After this, Tulsa increased their lead to as much as seven points. At the end of the half, they had a 41-37 lead.
Once the second half began, Tulsa momentarily possessed a seven-point lead, but Tulane then began to cut into that lead and brought Tulsa’s lead down to two points with just under four minutes into the second half. Just under 90 seconds later, Tulane would take the lead from Tulsa. Until there were five minutes remaining in the game, the score went back and forth. However just past the 15-minute mark, Tulane took the lead for the final time. They went on to win the game by a score of 77-70.
Despite losing the game, Brandon Rachal earned his 11th career double-double with 21 points and a career-best 14 rebounds, Elijah Joiner had a big game with 16 points and a career-high 12 points and Keyshawn Embry-Simpson scored 12 points, with 11 of those points coming in the first half.
After losing this game, the Golden Hurricane’s season is now finished. They ended the season with a 11-12 overall record including a 7-9 conference record.
After the conclusion of the regular season, Tulsa had several players earn AAC accolades. Darrien Jackson was named the AAC’s sixth man of the year and Brandon Rachal was named to the AAC second team. During the regular season, Darrien Jackson came off the bench in 20 out of 22 games. He scored in double figures eight times with a career high of 13 points scored against the University of Central Florida on March 2. He also led Tulsa in steals and rebounds 11 times and in assists five times.
Brandon Rachal led Tulsa in total points, total rebounds, total blocks and total steals. He achieved six double-doubles, a season high 25 points against Cincinnati on January 2, led Tulsa in scoring and rebounding 11 times each and led Tulsa in blocking ten times. Rachal was also named the Naismith Trophy Player of the Week and the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week after he averaged 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in wins against the then number five Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Going forward from here, Tulsa will look to correct their mistakes from this season over the next eight months of offseason before beginning next season’s games in November. If Tulsa can play better basketball in the second half of the season next year, they have a better chance of going to the NCAA Tournament in 2022.