John E. Hoover: TU not interested in moral victory
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, January 27, 2013
1/27/13 at 7:14 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog
TU comes up short, falls to C-USA leader Southern Mississippi
TU basketball notebook: Swilling's role
Original Print Headline: Moral victories not in TU's vocabulary
There's no place in competition for moral victories. Moral victories are for losers.
And yet ...
Tulsa lost 62-59 to Southern Mississippi on Saturday night at the Reynolds Center. The same Tulsa team that was picked to finish ninth in Conference USA had a scripted opportunity to beat the same Southern Miss team that sat atop C-USA with an unbeaten record and an RPI rank of 39.
The Golden Hurricane needed only a 3-pointer in the final seconds to force overtime, but freshman star James Woodard instead penetrated for a 2-point shot as time expired.
Up to the point when Woodard crossed the 3-point arc, TU had given itself a chance to win.
Afterward, neither coach Danny Manning nor his players looked for positives, though there were plenty.
"We can sit back and say this or that," Manning said, "but bottom line in this profession is you've got to win games."
Junior guard Pat Swilling, who made four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 14 points, was sullen afterward.
"Moral victories, we don't see it like that," Swilling said. "If we lose and we stay with somebody, it's still a loss to us and we've got to get better."
Southern Miss (17-4 overall, 6-0 C-USA) had multiple chances to pull away to the easy victory most everyone expected.
The Golden Eagles led 23-12 late in the first half, but Tulsa scored 10 unanswered points and trailed just 31-30 at halftime.
Tulsa (12-9, 4-3) pulled ahead to a 39-33 lead early in the second half, but went almost nine minutes without a field goal as USM went on an 11-1 run. Still, the Golden Hurricane clawed back to stay within one possession throughout the final five minutes.
"We don't back down from anybody," Swilling said. "We're a tough-minded team. Even though we're young and we have some inexperienced players ... we don't back down from nobody."
During the second-half stretch that TU missed 10 consecutive field goals and suffered four turnovers, it appeared Southern Miss and its tall, thick and experienced roster was just imposing its will on a short, slender and young Tulsa squad.
But that never happened.
"We say time and time again, our guys try," Manning said. "They compete. That gives you a chance to be successful in life, and on the basketball court, it always gives you a chance to stay in a game. As long as we continue to compete and fight, we'll work and we'll get there."
Ultimately, it wasn't Woodard's wayward drive or Zeldric King's two missed free throws with 10.4 seconds left or Rashad Ray's 1-of-7 shooting or the team's 69-percent free throw accuracy or a worrisome Southern Miss press that did Tulsa in.
It was defensive rebounding. The Golden Eagles collected 19 offensive boards and produced 18 second-chance points.
"We do a better job than that, hold them to one shot," said senior Scottie Haralson, "I say we win that game by 10 points."
Players say they've grown tired of reading and hearing the same old excuses everyone wants to make for this team: first-year coach, not much vertical presence, limited college basketball experience.
"Yeah, those excuses, we've heard them since the beginning of the season," Swilling said. "Everybody told us that we're not gonna be any good, we don't have any height, we don't have any posts, our guards are young, you're a junior college player so you're not any good - hearing all that stuff is just motivation for us to work harder.
"We're tired of hearing excuses from people, you know, 'Just move on, you'll be better next year.' We're tired of hearing that. We want to win now. Not wait until next year or next month or next game. We want to win now."
That's good, Manning said. But then a new reality - that of the next game, or the next few - begins sets in.
USM represented the first of three successive challenging Saturdays for the Golden Hurricane. Next week, TU visits 5-0 Memphis. The week after is a road trip to fourth-place Texas-El Paso.
"Nobody's feeling sorry for you," Manning said. "Nobody feels sorry about the circumstances you have. We all have extenuating circumstances at some point. We all deal with injuries. We all deal with freshmen. We all deal with - whatever. That's just part of it. You've got to go out there and find a way."
A way to avoid moral victories.
TU Golden Hurricane No.3 Rashad Ray keeps the ball from Southern Miss Golden Eagles No.23 Jerrold Brooks during the men's basketball game at the TU Reynolds Center in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World