Kelsee Grovey scored a career-high 26 points in leading Tulsa to an American Athletic Conference 74-52 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats Wednesday afternoon in front of 817 fans at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
Tulsa equaled its overall record to 6-6 and began 1-0 in its first year as an American Athletic Conference member, while Cincinnati dropped to 3-10 on the season and 0-2 in league play.
The Hurricane forced Cincinnati into 32 turnovers, while corralling 18 steals and scoring 33 points off of those Bearcat turnovers. In addition to Grovey's career-best scoring output, Mariah Turner added 15 points, Teanna Reid scored a career-high with 14 points and Ashley Clark added 10 points for the Hurricane. Cincinnati had three double-figure scorers, led by Ana Owens' 14 points and 11 points each from Marley Hill and Makenzie Cann.
“I really thought the effort of our entire team was really good. When they came back on us in the second half our kids fought through that and put together another run. I am just excited about how much fight our kids showed tonight,” said Tulsa Head Coach Matilda Mossman.
“I think it was the aggressiveness our players played with in forcing the 32 turnovers. I am not excited about the 21 we had, but that is the passion and emotion we have to play with to be successful,” added Mossman.
Ahead by six points at halftime, 29-23, Tulsa scored the first basket of the second half on a Turner jumper. Cincinnati then closed the gap to two points when the Bearcats went on a 10-4 run to make the score 35-33 on a Hill layup at the 16:08 mark. Cincinnati took its first lead since the 6:08 mark of the first half when Cann canned a three-pointer to put the Bearcats ahead 41-39 with 13:23 remaining in the game.
Owens' layup at the 12:38 mark put Cincinnati ahead 43-39, but the Hurricane answered with a 12-0 run to take a 51-43 lead with 10:03 on the game clock, a stretch that saw Grovey connect on a layup off a steal and a three-pointer for five of Tulsa's 12 points.
Reid's free throw at the 8:04 mark gave the Hurricane its first double-digit lead of the game at 56-46. She then connected on a three-pointer to put Tulsa ahead by 12 points at 60-48 with 6:59 on the clock, which began another 10-0 run that put the Hurricane ahead by 19 points, 67-48, with 2:54 remaining in the game.
Tulsa took its biggest lead of 24 points when a Grovey layup made the score 74-50 with less than a minute to play.
In amassing her 24 points, Grovey connected on 10-of-13 shots from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point range, and knocked down 4-of-6 free throws. She also had four assists and three steals.
“That's the Kelsee Grovey we've seen all along and for her to shoot a great percentage like she did gives her confidence. When she's shooting like that it gives the rest of our team confidence,” said Mossman.
Tulsa jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first 4:21 of the game, but Cincinnati rattled off the next 12 points to take a 12-9 lead on a Cann three-pointer at the 13:01 mark. The score changed hands five more times as Reid's three-pointer with 5:03 left on the first-half clock put Tulsa ahead 18-16.
The Hurricane held the lead for the rest of the first-half, scoring the final four points for a 29-23 halftime lead. Cincinnati shot 47-percent from the field, while Tulsa connected on just 40-percent in the first 20 minutes, but took 15 more shots then the Bearcats (30-15). UC had 20 first-half turnovers that led to 17 Tulsa points.
Grovey had 13 first-half points, while Hill led Cincinnati with nine points at the intermission.
Tulsa goes on the road later this week for the first of two straight American Athletic Conference road games. The Hurricane plays at UCF on Saturday, and then plays defending National Champion UConn next Wednesday, January 7.
Tulsa returns to the Reynolds Center on Saturday, Jan. 10 to host the Memphis Tigers in a 2:00 p.m. game.