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Remembering Tulsa’s shocking win over UCLA 20 years later

Members of the 1993-94 Tulsa basketball team are honored at halftime of their alma mater's game against UTSA on March 2.
Members of the 1993-94 Tulsa basketball team are honored at halftime of their alma mater's game against UTSA on March 2.
University of Tulsa Sports Information Department

The University of Tulsa’s basketball team from 1993-94 team was recognized earlier this month at halftime of a home game.

Hard to believe its been two decades since they stunned UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. As a matter of fact it was 20 years ago today.

I don't remember much about that TU team because I was attending school out of town at the time. But what I do remember is it being named as one of the teams to be playing in the regional at what was then known as the Myriad in Oklahoma City, just over 100 miles southwest from campus.

The Golden Hurricane, seeded 12th, had the likes of Shea Seals, now a TU assistant, Gary Collier, Alvin “Pooh” Williamson, J.R. Rollo, Lou Dawkins, just to name a few, on their roaster and were coached by Tubby Smith, who was in his third season with the program.

They were matched up against the Bruins, seeded fifth in the regional.

When you think of UCLA basketball, a rich tradition and history of college basketball comes to mind. The names of John Wooden, Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton and other legends who helped the program win 10 national championships in a 12-year span from 1964-75. The Bruins had been in elite status at that time as well and were favored to beat TU.

UCLA players, including Ed O’Bannon, one of its stars at that time, also knew it. When players were asked questions about Tulsa by media in a press conference, O’Bannon, made comments indicating about not knowing where the city is on the map.

That proved to be bulletin board material because the Golden Hurricane went out and dispensed with the Bruins, 112-102, stunning the college basketball world nation.

I was in class when the game was being played. But when I got out and to my car, I tuned to the radio and learned that the upset was about to be made. I heard that TU also led by as much as 49-17 at one point in the game, and 63-38 at halftime.

Headlines in the state papers the next day read “Where’s Tulsa? Ask UCLA now,” and “A Geography Lesson.”

TU went on to stun in-state rival Oklahoma State in the next round before succumbing in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual national champion Arkansas in Dallas.

Ironically, the loss spurred the Bruins to win the national championship one year later.

The win over the Cowboys seems to be more remembered by most TU fans, but to me, how they manhandled UCLA in the first round will always stand out about that squad.

Ironically, this year’s version of the Golden Hurricane will also be playing UCLA Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. TU is once again an underdog as a No. 13 seed against a No. 4 seed. This time it is San Diego, close to the Bruin’s home.

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