Memphis Tigers vs Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Basketball Recap
Memphis 93, Tulsa 86
This was supposed to be Tulsa's time. This was supposed to be Tulsa's moment. Instead, the college basketball groundhog looked at his dark shadow again, and as a result, a snake-bitten program must once again play second fiddle to a big-brother brand name.
The Memphis Tigers appear destined to lord themselves over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane for many more years. In a season when the toughs from Tennessee - gutted in more ways than one by the departure of recruit-luring coach John Calipari - posed a relatively depleted roster, their conference rival from the state of Oklahoma had its big chance to rise to emerge on the college hoops scene. Yes, this was Tulsa's window of opportunity, the occasion when Coach Doug Wojcik's club could at least attain league supremacy for one year, and quite possibly leverage that success into a sustained run of excellence.
Saturday night's encounter at the Donald Reynolds Center was obviously important for the Tulsa program in terms of NCAA Tournament positioning, but weirdly enough, it was even more valuable as a very personal showcase. This was the forum in which the "little kid" could, at long last, stand up to the big backyard bully in C-USA and own bragging rights for once. Gaining the upper hand on the court would enable Tulsa to sell itself as the emergent force in the conference, the ascendant power after Memphis's 64-game conference winning streak ended earlier in the year.
This was the portal of promise and potential for Tulsa. Instead, the Golden Hurricane got blown away by their nemesis from Memphis.
Sure, this was only a seven-point game on the scoreboard, but coach Josh Pastner - all of 32 years old - saw his charges outpace Wojcik's athletes when crunch time came calling. Tulsa overcame a 46-32 halftime deficit to take a 52-51 lead with 12:54 left, but as soon as the home team developed an appreciable degree of momentum, Memphis rose up to stop that surge by using offense as its best defense. In the following five minutes and change, the Tigers - scoring at a pace that, if extended throughout 40 minutes, would have produced 144 points - rolled up 18 points to take a 69-60 lead with 7:45 to go. Tulsa did pull within four (77-73) on a trey by guard Ben Uzoh with 2:50 left, but when the Tigers scored on each of their remaining nine possessions - going 14 of 16 from the foul line in the final 2:09 - the Golden Hurricane had no way of crawling back into contention.
What began as a huge opportunity and a moment of immense significance turned into a deflating, devastating defeat. Tulsa's NCAA at-large hopes lie in a place of pronounced peril, and the might of Memphis remains intact in this particular rivalry.