Good teams find ways to win, even when they play bad.
That’s what Tulsa did Wednesday night as it dug itself out of a 15-point hole to dish out a 57-52 victory over cross-town rival Oral Roberts before 9,303 fans at the Mabee Center.
Coach Doug Wojcik and the team accepted the Mayor’s Cup trophy after the game.
The win was the first for the Golden Hurricane (15-3) at ORU since Dec. 2001 and under Wojcik’s regime as coach.
“It was a hard-fought, ugly game, but we found a way to win,” Wojcik said. “Honestly, give the kids all of the credit in the world. They hung in there and fought for the win.”
Jerome Jordan led TU with 17 points. Justin Hurtt scored 11 and Steven Idlett had 10 off the bench.
Kevin Ford led Oral Roberts with a game-high 18 and produced 10 rebounds for a double-double. Dominique Morrison and Warren Niles each logged 11 and Michael Craion scored 10.
TU had been dominated in the first half and trailed by nine points at halftime, but began turning it around with a 14-6 run that brought it to within 44-40 at the 8:28 mark. The run was capped by lay-up in the paint by Hurtt, who set it up with a steal.
By that time, Tulsa was doing what it could not do when its cross-town foe had the upper hand. It was rebounding, holding longer possessions and sinking second-and-third chance shots into the net.
“We just toughed it out,” Uzoh said. “Our backs were really to the wall. We just had a real sense of urgency to just pick it up. I tried to do the best I could, picking up (Kevin) Holdman full court. I really believe our guys fed off of that, Jerome and everybody. We picked it up on the defensive end.”
The Golden Eagles (10-10) got the next three points on a 3-point play from Kevin Ford and made it 49-42 on a lay-up by Craion. Jordan then spearheaded the completion of the rally with a pair of jumpers and tip-in bucket.
Hurtt knotted the game up with a free throw with 3:17 to go, but missed the second one that would have put the Hurricane ahead. But he got another chance when he was fouled by ORU’s Warren Niles with 2:38 left, and hit both foul shots that put TU up 51-49.
Drama continued down the stretch. Joe Richard got a tip-in, but the Golden Eagles got a jumper from Dominique Morrison with 24 ticks remaining.
Idlett scored on dunk after taking a down-court pass from Jordan.
“We were all over the place,” Jordan said. “When I got it, my instinct was to turn around and look at who we have open. Surprisingly, he was wide open. I think somebody else was wide open as well. So I got it to (Idlett) who was wide open under the basket and he just finished the play.”
Uzoh iced the game for Tulsa when he sank two free throws with six seconds left.
Tulsa experienced difficulty against Oral Roberts’ pressure in the first half. The Golden Eagles also out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane on both ends of the court, often held longer possessions and had 14 first half second-chance baskets compared to seven for TU. But in the end, both teams came out even at 16 each.
The visiting Hurricane were also denied a few buckets from key blocked shots by Oral Roberts.
ORU took the lead at 7-6 when Niles hit a 3 and Tulsa never saw the lead until the conclusion of its rally. The Hurricane also endured a 10-minute of not scoring any points as it trailed 25-12 with 3:22 left in the half.
A 3-pointer by Morrison at the halftime buzzer made it 30-21.
Oral Roberts continued to exercise the control it demonstrated in the first half, as it scored the first three baskets in the second to make it 36-21.
Despite relinquishing the lead, ORU won the rebounding battle, 39-36. Tulsa converted on 39.3 percent (22-of-56) of its shots, while Oral Roberts connected on 38.3 percent (23-of-60).
TU returns home Saturday to meet Rice at 2 p.m.