Basketball journalist Hannah Robbins discusses Tulsa’s loss against UConn and the team’s inability to put together plays when it mattered.
The Golden Hurricane was planning to add to their six game win streak on Thursday against UConn, but unfortunately the Huskies had one final sucker punch before they left the American Conference: handing Tulsa a loss. While Martins Igbanu scored a career-high 29 points, his successes were unable to transform into a win as the Golden Hurricane made only a single 3-pointer all game.
The Golden Hurricane started off strong by winning the tip off. Then Brandon Rachal hit his free throws to put Tulsa on the board first. The Huskies responded, but another pair of free throws by Joiner put Tulsa up by three. UConn made Tulsa fight for every shot and ended up edging above the Golden Hurricane with a three pointer by Jale Gaffney. After that, both teams began to miss back to back until Rachal hit a two pointer and followed it up with a free throw. Igbanu hit a layup then a jumper to put Tulsa up by five.
The teams went back and forth, with TU keeping their narrow lead. But during the next few minutes of play, threes by UConn were only met with two pointers by Tulsa, narrowing their lead to three toward the end of the half. When Rachal missed the first of his pair of free throws, it signalled the end of Tulsa’s lead. After another pair of free throws by Igbanu, UConn hit seven unanswered points before Igbanu could put up one more jumper to bring the Golden Hurricane up to only a two-point deficit.
At the start of the second half, UConn seemed energized while Tulsa struggled to keep up, only answering four points at the top of the half with a pair of free throws by Igbanu. The Huskies quickly gained a 10-point lead, but Tulsa fought back. Igbanu quickly put up six points, with a layup by Darien Jackson right after and a dunk by Igbanu brough the Golden Hurricane back in the game. Unfortunately, that did not last.
Rachal went down with an ankle injury and left the game at the worst time. James Bouknight singlehandedly gave the Huskies a 10-point lead as Tulsa watched on. Finally, Joiner hit Tulsa’s first 3-pointer of the night and got the team back on the board with eight minutes left, but the team was unable to capitalize on that. The team continued to miss threes and give the Huskies possession without putting points on the board, and in the last eight minutes the team scored only six points, finally being put out of their misery 72-56.
The team was not on their A game against UConn, and since they beat UConn only two weeks ago in overtime, Tulsa should have known they had to fight for every point, but the abysmal accuracy in three pointers and reliance on Igbanu for most of the points made it easy for UConn to outplay Tulsa. Just because the team was on top doesn’t mean they will always be, and that might be a lesson Tulsa needed to learn before the season ended.