Tulsa (13-6, 5-1 AAC) hit on all cylinders and cruised to an 80-40 victory against the 20th-ranked Memphis Tigers (14-4, 3-2) Wednesday night in front of a raucous 4,668 fans at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. Tulsa scored 40 points in each half, while limiting the Tigers to just 40 points for the entire contest.
Tulsa sits atop the American at 5-1, while the 4-1 Houston Cougars, a team Tulsa defeated more than a week ago, hosts UConn tomorrow night.
Jeriah Horne led 5 Hurricane players in double-digits with his fifth 20+ scoring game this season as the junior poured in 21 points and added 8 rebounds, both game highs. Senior Martins Igbanu and junior Brandon Rachal tallied 11 points against, while juniors Elijah Joiner and Darien Jackson each added 10 points.
The win was Tulsa’s largest since a 56-point victory, 110-54, when the Hurricane defeated LSU Shreveport in the 2012 season opener on Nov. 11.
The 40-point victory was also the largest win margin against a ranked opponent in the history of Tulsa basketball. The previous biggest win against a ranked foe came on Dec. 22, 1952 when the 15th-ranked Hurricane defeated #10 LSU by 26 points with a score of 84-58. It was Tulsa’s first win over a top-20 team since last year’s 47-46 victory over #16 Kansas State on December 8, 2018 and the 4th win over a top-25 team in the Frank Haith era.
The win was also the largest in the series between Tulsa and Memphis. The previous biggest win against the Tigers was 18 points on January 21, 2015.
“I’m proud of our kids, how we fought, how we competed,” said Haith. “There’s not an area of the game that I think we didn’t do well.”
And how apropos he was, as the Hurricane dominated for 40 minutes, scoring 40 points in each half. Tulsa held Memphis to 17 points in the first 20 minutes and 23 in the second half. For the game, Tulsa knocked down 50-percent of its field goals, as the Hurricane outscored Memphis 36-20 in the paint and 24-4 off turnovers.
The Hurricane defense held the Tigers to just 28-percent shooting from the field and 9.5-percent from 3-point range. Tulsa forced 20 Memphis turnovers, while totaling only 11 of their own.
Since taking its first double-digit lead at the 11:52 mark of the first half, the Hurricane would lead by double-figures for all but 1:47 of the final 32 minutes of the contest.
Rachal got the Hurricane off right in the second half on a fast-break layup for a 25-point lead at 42-17.
While the Hurricane kept the Tigers at 28 points for a span of 1:54 in the second half, it was a Jackson fast-break dunk that increased the Hurricane lead to 32 points at 60-28 with 12:15 left on the game clock.
Tulsa eventually hit the 40-point margin with a 75-35 lead on two Joiner free throws at the 3:52 mark. The Hurricane had a 41-point lead twice in the final 3 minutes, at 78-37 and 80-39 with 2:02 remaining.
Tulsa set the tone early and did nearly everything right in the first 20 minutes of the game to take a 40-17 halftime lead against the Tigers. The Hurricane dropped in 54-percent of its field goals, out-rebounded Memphis 18-14 and scored 11 points off of 9 Tiger turnovers in the first half.
Tulsa also made 5-of-15 treys for 33-percent, while Memphis went 0-for-10 from behind the arc in the first half. Horne led Tulsa with 11 first-half points and 5 rebounds. Tulsa’s bench, led by Igbanu with 9 points, outscored the Memphis reserves by a count of 17-7 over the first half.
The contest was tied twice in the first 3 minutes at 2-2 and 4-4 before the Hurricane scored the next 5 points for a 9-4 advantage with 15:30 left on the game clock.
The Hurricane took its first double-digit lead of 19-8 on a Jackson 3-pointers at the 11:52 mark as that basket ignited a 10-2 run over nearly the next 4 minutes for a 26-10 Tulsa lead with 8:35 left in the first half.
Tulsa closed out the final 8 minutes of the first 20 minutes on a 14-5 run to take its biggest first-half advantage of 23 points into the intermission.