It’s time to go all in on basketball season, which means it’s time to shift our “interview with the enemy” focus over from football. What better game to start with than in-state foe Tulsa of the American Athletic Conference.
While the Cowboys and Golden Hurricane have faced off the last four years in a row, teams change. With that in mind, I reached out to Kelly Hines, who covers Tulsa for the Tulsa World.
We discuss strengths and weaknesses, match-ups, bench players, and get a prediction for the game.
Phillip Slavin: What is the biggest strength and biggest weakness of this Golden Hurricane team?
Kelly Hines: “I think the biggest strength is the amount of talent and the biggest weakness is not having the roles figured out yet. This is Frank Haith’s most talented group in five seasons at Tulsa, and eight players are averaging at least six points per game. There’s a lot of depth particularly on the perimeter, but the rotations are a work in progress, trying to find the right mix of guys on the court. The Big Three -- forward Martins Igbanu, swingman DaQuan Jeffries and point guard Sterling Taplin -- are the primary players, but then the Hurricane has a slew of other guys fighting for playing time.”
PS: Who is the most important player off the bench for Tulsa?
KH: “That kind of depends on the game, but the two main ones have been Elijah Joiner, who is the backup point guard but also plays quite a bit alongside Taplin especially in crucial moments because he typically takes care of the ball and hits free throws. He’s probably made the biggest progression since last season. The other one is forward Jeriah Horne, who has come on strong as of late. He sat out last year as a transfer from Nebraska, and he scored 15 points in the second half against Utah last week.”
PS: Which Tulsa player do you think will benefit most from this match-up?
KH: “A guy I’m curious to see match up with OSU is Jeffries, who missed this game last year because of an injury. He can be pretty erratic offensively, following a one-point outing against Southern Illinois with 24 points against UT Arlington, but the Hurricane is undefeated when he scores more than eight points. Jeffries is super athletic and can defend bigger guys and speedy guards, both of which the Cowboys have.”
PS: Score prediction?
KH: “I think this game is a coin toss. I’ll go with the Hurricane winning 74-72 simply because TU hasn’t lost at home this year and is due for a bounce-back performance.”