TULSA, Okla. — Some may call it an upset. Others will simply say that the better team won.
However you want to spin it, the season opener between the host Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the visiting Lamar Cardinals was a great way to kick off the 2017-18 campaign.
Last season, the Cardinals knocked off the Oregon State Beavers on the road in their second game of the year. This season, the Cardinals were looking to pull off a big time road win to kick things off. With arguably their most talented roster in recent years, Lamar had the tools to pull out the win.
After leading most of the way, Lamar had to thwart a late charge from the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa rattled off a 12-0 run, trimming Lamar’s lead down to a single point, at 62-61.
However, that was as close as they would come.
Lamar was able to hold off the charge from the home side, and clutch free throw shooting from both Nick Garth and Colton Weisbrod in the closing minutes sealed the deal for the Cardinals.
When the dust settled, Lamar came away with the hard-fought 74-67 victory over Tulsa.
Lamar came out of the gate hot, opening with an 8-2 run to put Tulsa behind the eight-ball early on. A pair of three pointers from Garth set the tone early on for the visitors.
Just before the 11-minute mark of the first half, Martins Igbanu hit a pair of free throws to give the Golden Hurricane a slim one-point lead, at 11-10. Torey Noel responded with a three point play less than 30 seconds later to put Lamar back ahead.
Little did we know at the time, but Lamar wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
A free throw from Zjori Bosha in the closing minutes of the first half gave the Cardinals an 11-point lead, their biggest of the opening frame. Curran Scott responded with a jumper for the home side to trim the deficit down to single digits before the half.
In the second half, Lamar continued to build on their half time advantage. The lead reached as many as 16 points early in the second half, thanks to a pair of free throws from Bosha, but the Golden Hurricane weren’t ready to roll over and concede their home opener.
With 8:25 to play in the game, Noel hit a three pointer to give Lamar a 13-point lead, at 62-49. From there, Tulsa rattled off a 12-0 run, and the deficit was suddenly down to a single point.
Elijah Joiner kicked off the run with a three pointer of his own, and DaQuan Jeffries scored six of the team’s 12 points in the run. When all was said and done, Lamar’s lead was down to 62-61 with more than five minutes left on the clock.
The Cardinals bent during the run, but never broke. They didn’t allow the Golden Hurricane to take a lead of their own, and Weisbrod scored six straight points for the Cardinals to keep them ahead of the home side.
With 21 seconds to play, Sterling Taplin got a layup to fall that brought Tulsa back to within three points, at 70-67. Those were the last points that the home side would record.
Garth hit four three throws in the final 20 seconds to put the game on ice for the Cardinals, who held on for the 74-67 decision.
Nick Garth led the way for Lamar, scoring a game-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds in the win. He was 7-of-21 from the field, and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Colton Weisbrod recorded a double-double, adding 15 points and 13 rebounds. Zjori Bosha added 13 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.
For Tulsa, guard Sterling Taplin scored a team-high 18 points in a losing effort. Martins Igbanu added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Tulsa (0-1) will look to bounce back on Sunday, when they welcome the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to town.
As for Lamar (1-0), they will look to make it two straight wins to open the season when they return home on Tuesday and host the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
– T. Bennett