Tulsa looks to stretch its success vs. Cincinnati

·3 min read

Tulsa looks to stretch its success vs. Cincinnati

Coming off the program's first win over a Top 5 opponent in 24 years, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane will seek more history in an American Athletic Conference clash at Cincinnati on Saturday.

Tulsa (5-3, 2-1 AAC) stunned No. 5 Houston on Tuesday with a 65-64 victory that was clinched when Brandon Rachal hit two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining. It was possibly the biggest regular-season win for the Hurricane under coach Frank Haith. Tulsa's previous win against a Top 5 opponent came in 1996 at UCLA.

"This one was special," Haith said. "Houston is one of the best teams in the country. I hope everyone understands that."

But Cincinnati (2-5, 0-2) presents another historical challenge for the Golden Hurricane. The Bearcats are 9-1 all-time against Tulsa, have won seven straight in the series, and are 5-0 all-time in meetings at UC. Last season, Cincinnati romped to a 75-44 home win in the only meeting between the teams.

"It's a place we've never won at," Haith said. "We have to be ready."

Tulsa enters riding a four-game winning streak, and Rachal has been the driving force. He leads the balanced Hurricane attack with averages of 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He was his team's only double-digit scorer against Houston, with 20 points.

But Haith has crafted a deep team with the Hurricane, who typically will play more than 10 players in a given night. For example, Rachal logged just 28 minutes in the upset, but Tulsa had 27 bench points. The approach has helped defensively as well, with the Hurricane allowing only one opponent (TCU) to score 70 or more points this season.

Cincinnati enters with a four-game skid and hasn't played in over a week. The Bearcats lost 75-70 at UCF on Dec. 22 in its most recent outing despite getting the first career double-double from Keith Williams (19 points, 10 rebounds) and a career-high 15 points from Zach Harvey.

Cincinnati coach John Brannen had found the offense tough to orchestrate. The Bearcats, who tied with Tulsa and Houston at 13-5 for the top spot in the AAC last season, are shooting just 25.3 percent from 3-point range this season.

Williams (15.1 ppg) is the team's only double-figures scorer. Chris Vogt, who averaged 11 points a game last season, is scoring just 6.4 a game this season; Vogt was scoreless in 19 minutes against UCF.

The Bearcats' four-game skid is their first since 2009.

"We don't make enough plays to win games that are difficult," Brannen said. "Winning is hard, and there's a misconception that it just happens. You have a young team that hasn't been through a lot of these things."

And it's a team still changing its makeup. This week Brannen announced that junior forward Mamoudou Diarra has rejoined the team after he opted out earlier in December. Meanwhile, graduate transfer Rapolas Ivanauskas has left the team to pursue a potential professional career and Gabe Madsen has opted out due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.

--Field Level Media