Kansas State falls 61-54 in spirited battle with Tulsa
WICHITA, Kan. — Tulsa coach Frank Haith sent precocious guard Elijah Joiner into Saturday night’s nip-and-tuck game against Kansas State with a few minutes left and a simple message to remember.
“I said, ‘Hey, you get an open look, you take it,'” Haith recalled later, “so for a freshman, I guess that means, ‘If I’m in the arena, I’m taking the shot.'”
He knocked it down with veteran poise.
The deep shot from right in front of his bench gave Tulsa the lead with just over three minutes to go, and the Golden Hurricane held on to beat the Wildcats 61-54 in a sloppy, defensive slugfest.
“I thought our guys played with great toughness,” said Haith, who is no stranger to the Wildcats from his days coaching Missouri in the Big 12. “I thought we made some tough shots down the stretch, and I thought everybody that played contributed.”
Junior Etou had 22 points and seven rebounds and Martins Igbanu added 10 points as the Golden Hurricane (5-4) overcame the loss of junior guard DaQuan Jeffries. Their third-leading scorer at nearly 12 points a game hurt his hand on the rim in practice and could miss the next two months.
The loss of his best athlete forced Haith to implement a series of zone defenses, including one he installed just this week. That befuddled the Wildcats (8-2), who missed all nine of their field-goal attempts over the final five-plus minutes and wound up 4 for 31 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“The first half we ran offense and got good corner shots and we just missed them,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Those corner 3s were open, we didn’t make them, then I think the second half we panicked a bit and forced some action, got a little uncharacteristic.”
Xavier Sneed had two of the 3-pointers and finished with 15 points and eight boards for the Wildcats. Dean Wade had 13 points, Kamau Stokes had 11 and Barry Brown finished with 10.
“Just a bad shooting night,” said Stokes, who along with Brown combined to go 1 for 15 from the 3-point arc. “We just didn’t make the shots that we normally make.”
The Wildcats, who entered the game 13th nationally in scoring defense, forced Tulsa into as many turnovers (11) in the first half as made field goals. Etou had four of them as he struggled to deal with the pesky hands of the Wildcats’ perimeter players.
Still, the Golden Hurricane trailed just 30-27 at halftime, and they used an early flurry of points in the second half to pull ahead on Etou’s 3-pointer with 12:38 to go.
The game remained a nip-and-tuck affair down the stretch, neither team ever leading by more than six until the final seconds, when Tulsa was able to put things away.
“This was the very first game were we put everything together as a team, and that feels good,” the Golden Hurricane’s Martins Igbanu said. “Some games we were guarding the ball but we didn’t rebound well and some games we were missing assignments. We still missed assignments but we played through it.”
Tulsa improved to 6-1 against the Wildcats in a series dating to 1932. The teams were playing the first game of a three-game series between schools that are within driving distance of each other.
Tulsa won a defensive slugfest despite 15 turnovers, including eight from Etou. A big reason was the Golden Hurricane’s perimeter defense and work on the boards, where they out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-30 despite giving up several inches in the paint.
Kansas State was trying to match its best start under Weber but instead watched a 23-game non-conference home win streak come to an end. The Wildcats considered the game at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita a home game even though it was a tw0-hour drive from their campus in Manhattan.
Tulsa begins a two-game homestand against Prairie View A&M on Thursday night.
Kansas State gets a week off before facing Southeast Missouri State next Saturday.