Last year, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane rode into Stillwater and stole a victory from the Cowboys in Gallagher-Iba Arena. This year, the Cowboys look to return the favor in their first game back after losing a heartbreaker to the Maryland Terrapins.
Here are the quick hits for tonight’s matchup against the Golden Hurricane.
Golden Hurricane (4-3, 3-1 Home) vs. Cowboys (6-2, 0-1 Away)
Time: 4:00 p.m. CST
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
TV: CBS Sports Network
Stream: CBSSports.com (requires provider login) (Frontier Communications, COX, WOW, and Optimum customers only)
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
Tulsa is coming off two 20-win seasons in a row, and took a trip to the Big Dance last season. Head Coach Frank Haith has had this team rolling since he took over for Danny Manning (Rock Chalk) going a combined 43 - 23. But, he’s got his work cut out for him this season as Tulsa basketball is undergoing the dreaded REBUILDING season. Haith has only two returning players from last year’s NCAA tournament team... yes, only two.
The Golden Hurricane are currently sitting at 4-3 in the 2016-17 season, and they are 3-1 at home. Tulsa and OSU both had a common opponent this season in UNO. Tulsa defeated New Orleans 77-68. The Cowboys, if you remember, soundly thumped the Privateers 117-72. Tulsa is averaging just a hair under 70 points per game and are led by Jaleel Wheeler and his 13.8 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Players to Watch
Speaking of Wheeler, he’s been the primary scorer for the Golden Hurricane this season. The 6’4 junior guard is a JUCO transfer and has really made his mark in his first few games with Tulsa. Aside from scoring, he’s gotta a pretty solid stat line overall, leading the team in assists at 2.8 and second in rebounds at 6.6. There’s also a pretty interesting story of how he ended up playing at Tulsa. Along with Wheeler, another player to keep an eye on for Tulsa is Rutgers transfer forward Junior Etou. He averaged 7.6 ppg and 6.6 rpg for the Scarlet Knights in two seasons and he’s been playing well for Tulsa averaging 12.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Outside of these two Tulsa’s scoring comes from a variety of different role players with no one else averaging double figures.
According to the OSU website, this will be the 110th meeting of the two teams, with OSU leading the series 71-38.
Here’s how the two teams match up on paper.
Three Big Things
1. Shut down the three point line.
This year, the Pokes are nearly dead last in three point line defense (324th out of 347), with teams hitting 40.3% of their shots from deep. This has to improve. This year, Tulsa is 33.8% of their shots from beyond the arc, so it could be a good game for Brad Underwood to shore up the spotty three point defense.
2. Get some work in the post.
Tulsa is similar in height to the Cowboys, with their tallest two bigs listed at 6-9 and 6-10 and neither getting major minutes. The OSU big men will have the opportunity to score down low and hopefully create some second change opportunities.
Specifically, Mitchell Solomon and Lucas N’Guessan, listed at 6-9 and 7-0 respectively, should be able to get some good post work in this week, granted they stay out of foul trouble.
3. Take care of business on the defensive side of the ball.
Let’s not pretend the loss to Tulsa in Stillwater last year wasn’t embarrassing. It was. We have a great chance for redemption this year, so let’s not waste it. Tulsa is averaging 15.6 turnovers per game, they get the ball stolen 6.7 times, and get blocked almost 4 times per game. Coach Underwood spent the preseason preaching defense, and we have seen his style of defense. I’d just like to see it more regularly, especially since conference play is quickly approaching (December 30th).
The last time the Cowboys lost was to UNC, then they came out and defeated Georgetown by 27 points in the next game. Tulsa has lost to Jacksonville State (KenPom: 234) and Little Rock (139). They only defeated New Orleans by nine, and the Privateers are ranked 246. On paper, this should be a no doubt win for the Pokes, but as we all know waaaaaaay too well, sure-fire wins aren’t always sure-fire, and upsets happen. I wouldn’t put the Cowboys on upset alert though in their second in-state matchup of the season.