TU's Etou scores 30 in Mayor's Cup win over Oral Roberts

TU forward Junior Etu scores three of his career-high 30 points versus Oral Roberts (KTUL)

Junior Etou neared his career high with 30 points on just 13 shots to lead Tulsa past Oral Roberts, 90-71, and claim the Mayor’s Cup for the second straight year on Monday night at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.

Etou went 11-of-13 from the field, including 2-of-3 behind the arc to go along with six free throws and seven rebounds in just 29 minutes for the Golden Hurricane, who evened its record at 1-1 on the season. It was the eighth game of his career with at least 20 points and the senior just missed out on his career high of 31 points, set last year against ECU.

Sterling Taplin added 17 points, 13 of which came after halftime, and recorded four rebounds, four assists and three steals, while DaQuan Jeffries joined them in double-figures with 10 points and seven boards.

“I thought our guys competed really hard,” head coach Frank Haith said. “I thought early in the game we just needed to slow down a little bit offensively, but our competitive spirit was at a high level. This was more of what I expected our team to look like on Friday. I thought our guys competed hard. I challenged these two guys (Etou and Taplin) on Friday as leaders of our team to come back and play like that and obviously they did tonight.”

TU shot 54.4-percent from the field, including 60-percent (15-of-25) in the second half to improve to 34-19 all-time against the Golden Eagles (1-1). The squad’s 90 points were its most in a Mayor’s Cup game since 2002, when TU claimed a 90-80 win at the Reynolds Center.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Nzekwesi paced Oral Roberts with 18 points and nine rebounds, and the visitors were limited to 44.1-percent shooting.

Tulsa extended a 15-point halftime lead to 20 in the first five minutes of the second half. Etou picked up where he left off with a bucket inside before Taplin and Jaleel Wheeler each had a pair of baskets. Taplin and Jeffries then provided one of the highlights of the night with an alley-oop dunk from near halfcourt that made it 57-37 with 14:55 to play.

The Golden Eagles would make their next seven shots as part of a 16-9 stretch that closed the gap to 66-55 with just less than 10 minutes remaining.

However, Etou and Taplin combined to score the next nine points to shut down any hopes of an ORU comeback. The Golden Eagles would not get closer than 13 the rest of the way as TU rolled to the 90-71 final score.

The first half belonged to Etou, who totaled 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting over the opening 20 minutes, while the TU defense held ORU to just 34.5-percent shooting.

Both teams shot better than 50-percent in the early minutes and the score was tied at 17 through seven minutes of play. However, the Golden Hurricane broke the tie with a 17-5 spurt and buckled down on defense to slow the Oral Roberts attack.

Curran Scott started the run with his second 3-pointer of the half before a pair of free throws from Etou and back-to-back layups by Taplin and Jeffries. Geno Artison and Etou each connected behind the arc and Jeffries capped the run with a steal and layup that made it 34-22.

The Tulsa defense held Oral Roberts to just 2-of-17 shooting from the field over a 13-minute stretch in the half and the Golden Hurricane led by as much as 16. Etou scored seven straight points late in the period, including an old-fashioned three-point play and a thunderous dunk, to help TU take a 45-30 lead to intermission.

Tulsa will play its next three contests at the Puerto Rico Tipoff at Myrtle Beach, beginning with a 7 p.m. (CT) matchup on Thursday, Nov. 16, against Western Michigan (1-1).

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