Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-18, 1-11 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 11-20 (4-14 AAC)
Coach: Eric Konkol (8th Season Overall, 158-93; 1st Season at Tulsa, 5-18)
Last Game: 2/8 at Houston (L, 80-42)
Opening Tip: 2/11 7:00, Addition Financial Arena (TV: ESPN Plus)
Opponent at a Glance
No matter how you break it down, this is a game the Knights must win. They’re at home, they still have something to play for, and the opposition has won only one conference game all season. After Wednesday’s win over Wichita State, the opportunity to build some positive momentum is right in front of them.
Tulsa’s top scorer is 6’4” Junior Sam Griffin (15.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg). He’s followed by 6’9” Sophomore Bryant Selebangue (12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg), who shoots an amazing 63.9 percent from the floor.
Other key players include 6’1” Chicago State transfer Junior Brandon Betson (9.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 2.2 apg); 6’7” Junior Tim Dalger (9.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 apg); and 6’3 Sophomore Anthony Pritchard (8.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.1 apg). Note: Pritchard has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury. The lone Senior player in the rotation is 6’3” Keyshawn Embery-Simpson (5.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.3 rpg).
Sterling Gaston-Chapman, a 6’5” Sophomore (3.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and 6’6” Freshman Brian Knight (2.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg) provide support off the bench.
Tulsa leads the all-time series 13-12, though UCF has won five of the last seven meetings. The teams split two games last season, with UCF winning 76-67 on Valentine’s Day behind 17 points from Brandon Mahan and 14 from Darius Johnson.
This season, Tulsa has averaged 67.7 points per game and given up 77.0.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives the Knights an 86.5% chance to win.
The two teams will play again on February 26 in Tulsa.
When Frank Haith resigned at the end of last season (likely before his would have been fired), Tulsa was seemingly at rock bottom as they finished with their worst record since 2004-2005. But this season has been even worse.
To replace Haith, Tulsa went out and hired Eric Konkol from Louisiana Tech, where in seven years as Head Coach he never experienced a losing season. This will be his first one, and he has a monumental task ahead of him to turn the team’s fortunes around. A watered-down AAC next year will help.
Tulsa has been a stepping stone job for many well-regarded current and former coaches, including Nolan Richardson, Steve Robinson, Bill Self, Tubby Smith and Danny Manning.
I found 17 Tulsa players who have made it to the NBA. Among the most notable are current player Jordan Clarkson of the Jazz; and former players Paul Pressey (Bucks, Warriors, Spurs); and Robert “Bingo” Smith (San Diego Rockets, Cavaliers, San Diego Clippers).
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.