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Saturday, December 4, 2004
Tulsa, Oral Roberts reverse roles in annual rivalry

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- Tulsa has been the big dog for years in its annual crosstown clash with Oral Roberts. Not this time.

The Golden Eagles come into Sunday's game at the Reynolds Center as the preseason power, picked to finish first in their conference, while the Golden Hurricane are expected to be an also-ran in their league.

Oral Roberts is living up to the expectations so far, winning its first four games including two nail-biters on the road. Tulsa (1-2) has struggled, dropping its opener to Wright State and losing at Arkansas.

Still, Tulsa's Jarius Glenn believes his program still reigns in the state's second largest city.

"I think Tulsa is probably -- I'm sure ORU won't agree -- but we are the premiere basketball in this area, except for OU and OSU," Glenn said before the season.

Not that the Golden Eagles needed any bulletin board material to motivate them. Players on both teams know each other well from the pickup games they play together in the offseason.

Oral Roberts will be gunning for its second straight win over Tulsa. The Golden Eagles won 87-81 last year at the Mabee Center. Tulsa leads the series 27-13.

"I don't know if I'd say it's been reversed," Golden Eagles coach Scott Sutton said. "It's still on their home court. They have some very talented players."

Tulsa coach John Phillips is happy with his young team's effort, but he's not pleased with the results. Tulsa has struggled with turnovers in the early going.

Arkansas used full court pressure to force 27 Golden Hurricane turnovers Tuesday, and Tulsa had 21 miscues in the 63-54 win over Northwestern State on Nov. 21.

"Some of our turnovers came from guys that are juniors and seniors," Phillips said. "You can't pinpoint it. You can't blame it on just youth. You've got to look at every single player out there."

Oral Roberts has had a hard time scoring points, despite returning stars Caleb Green and Ken Tutt and adding former Texas Tech center Mickey Michalec and high-flying forward Larry Owens.

But tough defense has handed the Golden Eagles wins, including victories on Tutt's last second shots on the road against Northern Arizona and St. Louis.

"We have a chance to be a really good offensive team," Sutton said. "The last couple of games we've struggled shooting the ball. We're not executing as well as I'd like. The good news is, we'll get better."