Tulsa coach Frank Haith likes what he sees on the defensive end for the Golden Hurricane.
It’s translated to five straight wins as Brandon Rachal scored 17 points to lead Tulsa to a 67-58 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
“We’ve gotten better on the defensive end and that’s been consistent because we haven’t always shot the ball well,” Haith said. “Guys are getting more confident and now you’re starting to see our ball movement getting better.”
Elijah Joiner added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Golden Hurricane.
Aaron Nesmith, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter and SEC’s leading scorer, led Vanderbilt with 26 points, including five 3-pointers.
Scotty Pippen Jr. added 12 points and Saben Lee had 11 for the Commodores, who shot an uncustomary 36% from the floor, hitting just 20 of 56, and had their three-game win streak snapped.
“They just slowed the pace down,” Nesmith said. “We couldn’t play with our speed and we’ve just got to do a better job of executing our offense all the way through.”
The Commodores (5-2) entered the game leading the Southeastern Conference in field goal percentage at 51%, but they shot just 36% against Tulsa (6-1).
“We did a good job changing defenses,” Haith said. “We wanted to guard the 3-point line as well as we could. We had to have good rotation, D in the gaps and not let them have straight-line drives to the rim.”
“They did some things to make us have some indecision with our playmaking,” Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “They played a match-up zone and threw a few wrinkles at us. They got a lot of points off turnovers. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of the ball a little better.”
Vanderbilt led the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage (41%), but it managed just 33% against Tulsa on 8-of-24 shooting.
“We just wanted to make it tough for them,” said Joiner, a junior guard from Chicago. “They’re going to make shots. They’re a good team. We just wanted to make it difficult for them and that’s what we did tonight.”
Vanderbilt pulled to within four points twice during the final 3:21 using its full-court press but didn’t get closer.
It was the first time the teams met since the 1950-51 season.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane earned a good road win with a balanced scoring attack.
Vanderbilt: A poor shooting night gave the Commodores their second loss under first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse, a former NBA star.
BY THE NUMBERS
Tulsa’s bench doubled Vanderbilt in scoring, 30-15. ... Powered by an 11-0 run late in the first half, the Golden Hurricane took a 34-30 halftime lead.
THEY SAID IT
Tulsa’s match-up zone defense gave Vanderbilt problems. “It was a defense we haven’t seen before, so just running our offenses against it was kind of different,” Pippen said.
Stackhouse said the Commodores were impatient. “This is a good test for us,” Stackhouse said.
Tulsa hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt hosts Buffalo on Tuesday.