ORU grabbed an early lead and didn't relinquish it until there were less than five minutes to play, but Tulsa came from behind to win the PSO Mayor's Cup 72-68 on Saturday afternoon at the Mabee Center.
Tulsa (7-5) matched its largest lead of the game at the final buzzer, while ORU (5-7) led by as many at 17 points with less than 16 to play, but a 30-percent shooting effort in the second half (6-20), including an 0-6 mark from behind the arc, eventually caught up to the Golden Eagles.
ORU had three players score at least 17 points, led by Warren Niles (24), who scored 20-plus points for the fifth consecutive game. Damen Bell-Holter had 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds, including four offensive boards, but found himself in foul trouble, playing with four fouls for the final 10-plus minutes of the game. Shawn Glover dropped in 17 points and had three blocks, two assists and two steals as well.
The Golden Eagles opened up a 13-point lead at halftime, thanks in large part to just two first-half turnovers. ORU ended the game with just eight turnovers, the fewest of the season.
Even taking care of the basketball couldn't help ORU maintain the lead as momentum shifted to the Tulsa bench and the Golden Hurricane hit 62 percent (18-29) of its shots in the second half and got 30 points off the bench, led by Rashad Ray's 11. James Woodard had 18 points to lead TU, while Scottie Haralson added 12. Zeldric King also added a 10-point effort for Tulsa.
"First of all give Tulsa all the credit. I thought their kids battled and they deserved to win the game," said Coach Scott Sutton. "I'm just really disappointed to be honest with you. To be up 17 points at home against a very young team, there's no way you should lose the game."
Midway through the first half, neither team had been able to put much distance between them and the opponent, until a 6-0 ORU run, which turned into an 11-2 run for ORU gave the Golden Eagles a 20-11 lead. Tulsa answered with eight-straight and cut it to a one-point game again at 20-19.
A Niles 3-pointer sparked the ORU offense back to action, keeping the lead for the Golden Eagles as ORU finished the half out-scoring the Golden Hurricane 18-6 over the remainder of the half, holding a 38-25 lead at the break.
With ORU up comfortably, keeping it around a 15-point lead, Tulsa finally got some momentum and went on a 9-0 run, forcing ORU to call a time out with 13:20 to play after the Golden Hurricane trimmed ORU's lead to 45-37.
An offensive rebound by Bell-Holter led to a Glover jumper to stop the bleeding momentarily for ORU, but Tulsa was not done, and they would out-score ORU 14-2 and make it a one point game (53-52) with 7:14 to play. With 4:34 left in the game, the Golden Hurricane completed the comeback and took its first lead of the game 61-59 on a 3-pointer by Woodward.
Down 71-68 with :23 to play in the game, ORU got the ball to Warren Niles who attempted a game-tying 3-pointer but it rimmed out and Tulsa escaped with the victory.
With a couple of days off for Christmas, ORU will return to the court to take on another Conference USA opponent as the Golden Eagles travel to Memphis to face the Tigers at 7p.m. on Dec. 28. That game will be televised on Comcast Sports.