Tulsa tripped up by ORU in Mayor's Cup
In an old-style offensive shootout reminiscent of the mid 1970's Mayor's Cup games between TU and ORU, it was the reigning Sweet 16 Golden Eagles that employed their firepower to the fullest.
ORU superstar Max Abmas lived up to his reputation, and got a few breaks as a result , scoring 38 points to lead ORU to a 87-80 victory Monday night in front of a crowd of 5,239 at ORU's Mabee Center.
Jeriah Horne had 30 points and 8 rebounds to lead a remarkable TU comeback where the Golden Hurricane rallied from a 15-point first half deficit to take the lead in the second half.
But ORU held Horne scoreless in the last four minutes, hit two key three-pointers down the stretch and got a timely officiating break, which all combined to help ORU prevail.
Tulsa (4-3) was able to overcome ORU's first half lead early in the second half, and the two teams then took turns exchanging leads. Two consecutive three-pointers by Sam Griffin, the last with 2:43 remaining, put TU up 75-73.
But ORU's DeShang Weaver drained a three with 2:27 remaining to give ORU the lead for good at 76-75. Another Golden Eagles' three-pointer followed with 1:39 left to increase the ORU lead to 79-75.
A long two-pointer by Keyshawn Embery-Simpson with 1:07 left cut the margin to 79-77, setting up a key possession where ORU caught a major break.
While dribbling, Abmas lost the ball out of bounds while being closely guarded. But a hangnail foul was called on TU with 46.3 seconds left.
"The bang bang plays, we didn't get any breaks," Haith said. "There were some tough ones. Some really tough ones."
"He (Abmas) just booted it out of bounds. That was tough."
So instead of TU having the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, Abmas drained his first two of eight consecutive free throws he made to end the game for ORU.
With no chance for TU to take the lead on the next possession, ORU could be more aggressive on defense, and a drive by Darien Jackson was blocked with 35 seconds remaining. More Abmas free throws followed, and game, set, and match.
"He shot 15 free throws, and we shot 9 (as a team)," Haith said. "It's tough."
Abmas hit 13 of 15 free throws, including his final 11. He hit 7 of 13 three's, and 9 of 16 from the field, while dishing 6 assists to only 1 turnover. He also had 2 steals.
The leading scorer in the nation last season at 24.5 points per game, Abmas was electric, making highly contested threes. And with TU having to concentrate so much on Abmas, that opened up their offense, making 19 of 41 (46.3 percent) on three's, and 26 of 55 (47.3 percent) overall. ORU hit 7 of 14 (50 percent) on two-pointers.
Horne was blistering the nets, hitting 5 of 8 three's (62.5 percent) and 11 of 19 field goals (57.9 percent). TU made 12 of 24 (50 percent) three-pointers, and 31 of 65 (47.7 percent) overall from the field.
Playing only eight players, and often playing small against ORU's quick lineup, TU was able to withstand an early aerial display of bombs that had Tulsa's heads spinning for much of the first half, with ORU leading 33-18 with under 8 minutes to play in the half.
But Tulsa closed the margin to 45-40 at halftime, and a layup by Horne at the 15:38 mark in the second half put TU up 47-46. From that point, there were several lead changes, as each team answered the other until ORU had the final responses.
“We fought hard. In the first half they made all those three’s, and we were only down five and we missed some bunnies and then missed some in the second half," Haith said. "We’ve got to make those baskets. Every point matters in a game like this. That was disappointing.
“We scored 36 points in the paint, but we never got in the one-on-one and only shot nine free throws. We have to find a way to get fouled and be better there.”
Tulsa's rotation were starters Horne, Griffin, Anthony Pritchard, Rey Idowu and Tim Dalger, with Jackson, Curtis Haywood and Embery-Simpson coming off the bench.
"We had a lot of guys do some really good things," Haith said.
Noteworthy was Haywood making both three-point attempts, finishing with 7 points and 4 steals. Pritchard had another strong game with 6 points to go with 5 assists and no turnovers. Jackson had 9 points. Embery-Simpson had 8 points (2 of 4 on three's).
ORU (4-3), coming off a one-point overtime loss at home to OSU, did a terrific job of clamping down on Griffin, who didn't score until the second half. Even with the two late three's, he only finished with 8 points.
Former TU commit Trey Phipps scored all 7 of his points in the second half for ORU, going 2 of 5 for the game on three's in just over 20 minutes.
For Abmas, the experience of winning tough NCAA Tournament games to get to the Sweet 16 last year is a plus.
"It does give us some confidence," Abmas said of ORU's NCAA tourney run last year. "But really, at the end of the day, just the work we put in. Not necessarily basing it on last year, but understanding that, if we want to get back to that point, we've got to be a whole lot better."
Next up for TU is playing at Boise State (3-3) Friday night. The Broncos last game was a 46-39 home loss to CSU Bakersfield. On a neutral court, Boise State lost 67-61 to No. 22 St. Bonaventure, and defeated Temple and Ole Miss.
"We've got to get ready to play a Boise team on the road that is really good," Haith said.