Junior Etou's career-high 31 points wasn't enough for Tulsa Wednesday night as the Golden Hurricane fell 69-66 against the East Carolina Pirates at Minges Coliseum in front of 3,537 fans.
Tulsa fell to 11-8 overall and 5-2 in the American Athletic Conference, while East Carolina improved to 10-11 and 2-6 in league play. The loss snapped Tulsa's four-game winning streak.
Trailing by double-digits for nearly 10 minutes of the second half, Tulsa used a late surge and pulled to within one point, 67-66, when Jaleel Wheeler hit a traditional three-point play with 1:03 left on the game clock. The Hurricane missed a three-pointer with 0:35 to play that would have given Tulsa its first lead of the second half, but instead the Pirates went down the court and hit two free throws.
Tulsa had a three-point attempt to tie the game with 0:07 left that missed as East Carolina held on for the three-point victory.
"We didn't deserve to win tonight the way we played. By far, we took a step backwards tonight. We had no toughness guarding the ball. They crushed us on the glass. Our effort wasn't there. It's really disappointing how we played tonight," said Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith.
Etou added 12 rebounds to get his fourth double-double of the season, while Corey Henderson scored 12 points, with 10 of those coming in the final 6:57. Kentrell Barkley led the Pirates with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
ECU held a 49-39 advantage on the boards, while Tulsa shot just 31-percent from the field and 26-percent from three-point range for the game.
"Junior, obviously, had a game and played great. Other than Junior, there was not another guy I can point to that played at the level their capable of playing, from an effort standpoint, and that's really disappointing," said Haith.
The Pirates took a double-digit lead, 39-29, at the 16:14 mark of the second half and kept a comfortable lead until the last few minutes when Henderson put Tulsa to within four points at 64-60 with 2:47 to play. After ECU went back ahead by seven points, Etou's trey at 1:20 on the clock and Wheeler's three-point play at 1:02 cut Tulsa's deficit to one point.
Leading by five points at halftime, East Carolina came out in the second half and out-scored Tulsa 10-5 to take a 39-29 lead with 16:14 to play, for its first double-digit lead of the game. The Pirates took its largest lead at 56-43 with 8:14 remaining
To start the game, Tulsa jumped out to a 10-4 lead at 14:37 after scoring six straight points. But, the Hurricane was stuck on 10 points for over five minutes as the Pirates went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-10 lead at the 10:58 mark.
Etou's jumper at 9:29 snapped Tulsa's scoring drought to tie the score at 12. The score was tied again at 16, 20 and 22-22 before ECU out-scored Tulsa in the final two minutes 7-2 to take a 29-24 halftime lead.
Both teams shot under 30-percent in the first 20 minutes, as Tulsa knocked down just 6-of-30 field goals for 20-percent. The Pirates shot 27.3 percent and 14-percent from three-point range. ECU held a 30-to-22 edge in rebounding and blocked four Tulsa shots.
Etou led all scorers in the first half with 13 points, as Barkley had nine points for the Pirates.
Tulsa returns to the Reynolds Center Saturday for a 12:30 tip-off against the UCF Knights for the first of a three-game homestand. Tulsa will the two league-leaders after facing the Knights, as the Hurricane hosts #19-ranked and 7-0 Cincinnati next Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 4 will host the 8-1 SMU Mustangs.