Despite home-court advantage, the Golden Hurricane suffered a devastating loss to Murray State on Monday night, in which the team fell 83-62 in round two of the NIT, wrapping the season with an overall record of 23-11.
So, what went wrong?
Tulsa only shot 32.8 percent from the field, while the Racers shot 50 percent from the field and 56 percent off three-pointers alone. Murray State knocked down 14-of-25 threes, while TU only sank 2-of-22. “Anytime you play a team that makes 14 three's, it is going to make it hard for you,” said TU head coach Frank Haith. “We needed to make shots.”
[NOTE: MSU's 14 three-pointers tied the opponent Reynolds Center record and overall school record, set by Air Force in 1999. Drake and Southern Illinois set the opponent record years prior to Murray State and Air Force.]
The Racers had four players in double-digits: Cameron Payne (20 points), T.J. Sapp (17 points), Jeffery Moss (17 points), and Jarvis Williams (15 points). The Golden Hurricane also had four players in double figures, but TU's highest scorer, (Shaq Harrison), only tallied as many points as Murray State's fourth double-digit man.
The Golden Hurricane missed eight layups in the first half. When you're playing against a team that's executing on both ends of the floor, you can't afford to miss easy baskets.
Stopping Key Players
The 15-2 run in the first half, followed by a 28-point advantage late in the second showed that Tulsa couldn't contain the Racers mainstays, especially Cameron Payne. Payne recorded 20 points, and probably would've had more if he wouldn't have fouled out with eight minutes left of play. “Cameron Payne is as good of a point guard as we've seen all year. He's terrific. I thought he controlled the game. If he wasn't scoring, he was setting his teammates up. He played with such great poise,” stated Haith. “I thought in the first half, their offense was good and we just couldn't stop them.”
Tulsa usually has its defense to fall back on when the team's offense is ineffective, but not this time. “We didn't defend as well as we have been defending,” Haith explained.
Although the Golden Hurricane's defense could've been better, it's still hard to contain a team that's getting shots to fall from deep behind the arc.
What Else Could Have Helped Tulsa Win
If James Woodard and Harrison, two of the AAC's leading scorers, would have been hot they would have went tit for tat with Murray State's long range game. “I feel like honestly we played hard the last six games… I felt like our energy was there, our focus was there, it's just teams hit shots and we didn't,” said Harrison. “Overall it was a great season for us. We're going to continue to grow as a team.”
Haith says his team will be working to become better shooters and skill players. TU will also be working on its physicality, size, and mind set. “We have to really put in a lot of work to get better. We have to spend some hours, some time. These guys have to do it on their own too.”
The Upside To Next Season
The team will be returning all of its starters, and with the help of Haith the Golden Hurricane will be a solid unit next season.
Haith On His First Year At Tulsa
“This has been a great experience for me. It's been a great experience for my family and our staff. I want to thank the TU nation, our fan base for embracing our staff and our families. It's been a great experience for us, and we look forward to being here a long time and creating great memories.”