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Tulsa blows by NWOSU 96-65 in exhibition game

Junior Etou led Tulsa with 22 points in its exhibition win over NWOSU.
Junior Etou led Tulsa with 22 points in its exhibition win over NWOSU. (Getty)

Tulsa coach Frank Haith kept talking before the season about how Junior Etou needs to be an “Alpha Male” and step up his game from last year.

It seems like Etou took the talk to heart, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to lead Tulsa to a 96-65 victory over Northwestern Oklahoma State Monday night at the Reynolds Center in the Exhibition season opener in front of an estimated crowd of 1,500.

"He had two dunks tonight. That was two more than he had all last year. It’s amazing, I think part of it, it’s not because he couldn’t dunk, but it’s confidence. It’s like he’s kind of unleashed himself,” Haith said. “This is something he’s got to build on and keep carrying with him because I think he can be a special player.”

The 6-foot-7 Etou, who led Tulsa in scoring at 12.6 points per game last year and 13.4 in conference play, hit 9-of-12 shots from the field on the night and added seven rebounds.

Etou is expected to have an outstanding senior season, so his performance was no surprise. But really, there weren’t a lot of surprises against the Rangers, especially for those who saw the two Blue v. Black scrimmages the last two weeks.

The starting lineup was Etou, DaQuan Jeffries, Jaleel Wheeler, Curran Scott and Sterling Taplin. The first three subs off the bench were, coming in together just three minutes into the game, Martins Igbanu, Corey Henderson and freshman Elijah Joiner.

The next two subs, Geno Artison and freshman Darien Jackson, came in together a minute and a half later. Lawson Korita was the last of the scholarship players to come in.

Although a starting lineup is far from set, it appears that the first eight players into the game will probably be the top eight in the rotation, with Artison and Jackson also getting playing time in mostly a 10-man rotation to start the season. Korita may find it hard to work his way into the rotation. He played only 10 minutes, scoring two points.

Igbanu coming off the bench may have been slightly surprising since he started 17 games last year. But considering he and Etou are the only two post players who will get major minutes, it makes sense. It also could be a way to keep Igbanu out of early foul trouble.

Tulsa scored the first eight points of the game, but Northwestern Oklahoma State was pesky and hung around for quite a while. The Rangers only trailed 44-36 at halftime, and were down only four points at 50-46 just over three minutes into the second half.

But Tulsa went on a 13-0 run from that point, with Scott, Jeffries and Joiner scoring, and then Henderson hit a three-pointer, followed by Igbanu and Etou hitting two-point buckets. The rout was on from there.

The Golden Hurricane finshed the game 36-of-69 from the field for a 52.2 percentage, while hitting 10-of-30 three-pointers. They shot 14-of-17 from the free-throw line and outrebounded the Rangers 47-22.

“Offensively we were really good all night,” Haith said. “I know we took 30 threes, but I don’t think one or two or three of them were bad threes. When you get 21 assists and nine turnovers and 20 offensive rebounds, we’ll take those numbers night in and night out. We’ll win a lot of games doing that.”

The Rangers, who are located in Alva, finished 12-15 last season playing NCAA Division II ball. They were led in scoring against TU by Cody Halvorson, who scored 16 points.

Jeffries, the juco transfer who started out at ORU, finished with 15 points and six rebounds while leading the team in minutes played at 28 minutes. His high school teammate for their first three years at Edmond Santa Fe, Curran Scott, scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Jackson scored seven points in 13 minutes, hitting 3-of-4 from the field, including making his only three-point attempt. Joiner wasn’t connecting on his outside shots, making 1-of-7 from the field and scored four points. However, Joiner played a solid game otherwise with four assists to no turnovers. He played 23 minutes, the second most on the team.

“I thought DaQuan gave us some really good minutes. He was terrific tonight,” Haith said. “A lot of guys -- I thought our two freshmen came in, once they got settled, they were good.”

Henderson scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Igbanu made all four of his shots from the field as well as connecting on both free throws. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

“Corey Henderson played like we need him to play, being assertive offensively,” Haith said. “I think we’ve got good offensive players. I think we’ve got a number of guys who can put it in the hole.”

Taplin scored five points in 20 minutes, taking only four shots, and Wheeler scored four points in 16 minutes.

Haith wasn’t satisfied with his team’s first half defense, allowing the Rangers to hit 9-of-19 three’s (47.4 percent), and 12-of-27 overall (44.4 percent). But the Golden Hurricane allowed only 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) from the field in the second half as they pulled away from the Rangers.

“I thought defensively we struggled in the first half and up to the first few minutes of the second half,” Haith explained. “I thought there were some nervous jitters out there, a little bit, first time playing. But once we got comfortable out there, in the second half, we were really, really good defensively.”

TU plays next at 3 p.m. Saturday against Missouri S&T. Formerly known as Missouri-Rolla, now it is Missouri University of Science and Technology. The Miners compete at the NCAA Division II level and finished 12-14 last season.