Why weren’t fans excited at the TU/ORU basketball game?

It was a close and exciting game throughout, but you couldn’t always tell by the fans, as Oral Roberts defeated Tulsa, 70-68, in men’s basketball action Saturday at the Reynolds Center.

It was the third straight Mayor’s Cup victory for the Golden Eagles.

This game should have attracted a sold-out crowd, with the two cross-town rivals playing for the 51st time since 1974, but that wasn’t the case. There were only 5,225 in attendance (capacity 8,355) and that’s seriously disappointing. I’m not saying there would have been more people in attendance if the game were played at the ORU campus, but the attendance was a bit surprising.

Not only did the TU fans not pack their own house, but it seemed there were maybe only 50 ORU fans in attendance. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected more, considering the attendance at ORU hasn’t been setting any records either. But, this game is different. This is the game that everyone used to attend, not just ORU and TU alums – local basketball fans would attend the game because they knew it was going to be a good game, between two good teams, and the rivalry is so strong, the fans could feel the intensity all the way up to the last row in the arena.

The intensity was still there on the court this past Saturday, but it sure wasn’t the case in the stands. Every once in while the Tulsa fans would make some noise if the Golden Hurricane scored a couple ofback-to-back buckets, or someone took a shot that put their team in the lead, but for the most part, I didn’t sense the intensity from the fans, as I had in the past. And in regard to the ORU fans that were there, they were so few and spread out their cheers often were drowned out by the noise of the P.A., TU students or TU Pep Band.

The game really became exciting in the closing two minutes, and that’s when the crowd finally came alive. It was exciting as ORU’s center Albert Owens hit a three-pointer from the corner, his first of the season, to put ORU up by one point with 19 seconds left. Then Tulsa tied the game when Shaquille Harrison made one of two free throws.

Back at the other end, ORU leading scorer Obi Emegano hit the game winning shot with 1.9 seconds left. There was not enough time for TU to get off a decent shot on the inbounds play, as the buzzer sounded sealing the win for ORU.

The ORU bench and staff stormed the court celebrating as if they had won a championship, and rightfully so, the players and coaches understood the importance of the game.

Has the rivalry cooled? I think not. The game still bears a huge importance in bragging rights in the city, but I believe the perception of the two universities’ programs has changed in the community. Why?

I really don’t know the answer to that. Maybe my judgment is clouded by the fact that I’m an alumnus of ORU, but when I go to games at TU, I’m always rooting for the Golden Hurricane, as long as they’re not playing ORU. So, am I impartial? Sure, sometimes, but there’s nobody in the Tulsa media that would deny the fact that they would rather see the local teams win than lose. Nobody likes to cover a loser; that makes for a long season and it makes it harder to write your stories.

But losing isn’t the issue here. These are two really good teams, and they’ve been for a long time.

Prior to the game against ORU, Tulsa (now 5-3) had just come off a win at Oklahoma State – a game that could likely usher in the end of the Travis Ford coaching era at OSU. That coupled with the Cowboys’ loss to Missouri State, could mean Ford’s time in Stillwater may be coming to end.

Tulsa also has had big wins against ninth-ranked Wichita State, Ohio and Indiana State. All great basketball programs and there’s no doubt this TU team is very good.

The Golden Eagles have a record of 7-2, with wins over Missouri State, James Madison, Florida International and Detroit. That’s certainly not a cake schedule either.

So where were the fans on Saturday? No idea. I just hope moving forward the Tulsa community realizes there are two great basketball teams in town worthy of their support.

CFP TOP-4

It’s very difficult to believe that the College Football Playoff selection committee placed Oklahoma fourth in the rankings, meaning the Sooners would have to play in the Orange Bowl in Miami, instead of just down I-35 in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

I’m not even debating who is a better team – No. 3 Michigan State or No. 4 OU.

“We now have the full body of work to evaluate all of the teams,” said selection committee chairman Jeff Long. “The committee viewed Clemson and Alabama as clear-cut. We had a lengthy discussion about Michigan State and Oklahoma. The committee saw those two teams as very closely matched. They are both conference champions and both 4-0 against top 25 teams. Ultimately Michigan State’s two wins against top ten teams gave them the edge.”

What? They were so closely matched that the committee couldn’t have just done what would have made sense and make it easier for the fans of both teams to travel by putting both OU and Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. So now Clemson fans will have a relatively short trip from South Carolina to Miami, and Michigan State fans would have had a long trip regardless of whether they were playing in the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl, and Alabama fans will have a relatively short drive to DFW.

The number of miles from East Lansing, Michigan, to Arlington, Texas, is 1,138. From Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Arlington, Texas, it’s only 607 miles. From Clemson, S.C., to Miami it’s 724 miles. And finally, from Norman, Oklahoma, to Miami it’s a total of 1,496 miles.

Seems to me the Sooners got the short end, or rather the farthest end of the deal, on this one.