MEN’S BASKETBALL: Tulsa takes down Cougars, 86-80
The Cougars are’ getting’ too old for’ growth spurts, but they may need one to defeat Tulsa this year.
UH was abused in the paint by a taller and stronger Golden Hurricane squad, which shot a scorching 67.5 percent from the field to earn an 86-80 victory over the Cougars on’ Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion.
But Tulsa wasn’t sinking difficult shots. Instead, the Golden Hurricane used its size advantage at the forward position to draw fouls (29-of-34 free-throw shooting) and create open looks at the basket.
To counter’ its lack of length, UH (8-7, 1-1 Conference USA) used double teams on several occasions. This strategy didn’t work well, as Tulsa’s big men (12-3, 2-0 C-USA) repeatedly made the extra pass to’ the open player who was slashing to the hoop.
Despite the disappointing result, head coach Tom Penders’ said he was’ thrilled with his team’s effort.
‘I thought we made a major step toward becoming a contender. This is league play,’ Penders said. ‘All the kids who played basically laid it on the line and came through a lot of adversity.’
Part of that adversity was a dismal shooting night, as the Cougars shot 37.5 percent (27-of-72). UH also put together another lackluster performance from the free-throw line, where it made’ only 18 of 26 attempts.
The Cougars’ scrapped’ to stay in the game, as they scored 27 points off 20 Tulsa turnovers and 19 second-chance points.
Controversial officiating also created disorder, as the raucous crowd of 3,115 often disagreed with the referees. One Cougar fan was ejected during the second half for harassing an official.
After the game, Penders applauded his team’s ability to block out the hysterical audience.
‘The kids really showed tremendous poise under pressure in the heat of battle,’ Penders said. ‘I believe they really (stayed together).’
UH trimmed its deficit to 79-77 when Desmond Wade nailed a trey with 2:15 left, but Jerome Jordan quickly answered with a layup that put the Golden Hurricane ahead 81-77.
Aubrey Coleman pulled the Cougars within 81-80 when he connected on a 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining.
Tulsa answered’ by sinking two free throws, stretching its lead to 83-80 with less than a minute left.
On UH’s next possession, Coleman misfired on a 3-point attempt from the top of the key. After the missed shot, the Cougars immediately fouled Tulsa’s Bishop Wheatley. He sank both free throws with 31.5 seconds remaining to give his team an 85-80 advantage.
Soon after, the Golden Hurricane was celebrating’ its first road victory of the season.
Tulsa took a 77-66 lead on Ben Uzoh’s jumper with 5:31 remaining in the game, but the Cougars were not done.
UH went on a 7-0 run, capped by a Nick Haywood 3-pointer, to climb within 77-73 with 4:30 left. During this stretch, the Cougars utilized a swarming full-court press to force Tulsa into several turnovers.
The beginning of the second half illustrated just how closely UH matches up’ to Tulsa, as the teams traded the lead four times during the first 3:10 after halftime.
But it wasn’t long before the Golden Hurricane, which held a 46-44 advantage with 16:30 remaining, proved why most college basketball analysts predicted it to win C-USA this season.
Tulsa scored 12 of the game’s next 16 points, taking a 58-48 lead on a Steven Idlet jumper with 12:23 left to play.
Aubrey Coleman, who had a game-high 25 points and seven steals, cut the Cougars’ deficit to 62-58 when he nailed a free throw with 9:28 remaining.
UH, which has lost four of’ its last five games, will continue conference play when it welcomes UTEP to Hofheinz Pavilion at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Penders hopes his team will again display that it can compete with the elite squads in C-USA.
‘We’ve got to move on to UTEP,’ Penders said. ‘We’ve got four or five teams in this league that deserve serious NCAA (Tournament) consideration, and they’re one of them.’