Sunday afternoon, his Tulsa basketball team made 16 of 25 second-half shots, held New Mexico State without a point for nearly five minutes in the second half and got NMSU in foul trouble to key a 78-66 win in front of 7,141 fans at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
New Mexico State is now 4-2, while Tulsa is 3-3. "I think we have the chance to be a pretty good shooting team and a chance to be a good defensive team," Phillips said. "I thought we had some different guys made some shots for us and I thought our defense was good at a critical time."
The game was close with 10:19 left in the game after NMSU forward James Felder scored a layup to cut the Golden Hurricane lead to 57-52 to cap an 8-0 run. James Moore scored four points in the run to lead the way.
But then things went downhill for the Ags. Moore, the team's second leading scorer, fouled out with 9:42 left in the game and with top scorer Duane John on the bench saddled with four fouls, NMSU was in trouble.
Kelsey Crooks missed an open trey that would have pulled NMSU within two and that was all Tulsa needed. The Golden Hurricane went on a 14-1 run to lead 71-53 with 3:57 left and put the game out of reach.
"Tulsa made some big shots, we didn't execute on a few trips down the court," John said. "We fought hard. Tulsa didn't do anything differently, they executed though." During the 14-1 run, Tulsa also switched defenses to a zone once Moore was out, and the Ags struggled.
"We have some guys who struggle with a zone," NMSU coach Lou Henson said. "We missed some shots, but it was tough to stop Tulsa. They are very physical inside and those inside guys can shoot. And their perimeter guys are very talented as well."
Said Phillips: "We knew James Moore had four fouls. We were trying to go at him, but hadn't done a good job. Then on that inbound play, they called a foul on him. He made a good play, we were fortunate. James Moore is a very good player."
John said the Aggies foul trouble hurt the Aggies. "James fouled out and I had four fouls and that hurt us in a lot of ways," John said. "This was our first road game. We have to learn from this." Tulsa got big performances out of Brian Cardwell and Jason Parker in the second half.
The 6-10 Cardwell scored all 10 of his points, including six from 3-point range, while the 6-2 Parker shrugged off a slow start to hit 4 of 6 shots from the field in the second half. He finished with 12. Jarius Glenn topped Tulsa with 16.
The Golden Hurricane made 28 of 53 from the field and 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. NMSU made 24 of 56 from the field and 10 of 15 from the free throw line. Tulsa made 9 of 10 to start the second half and 15 of 21 at one point.
"Tulsa just executed tremendous on offense," Henson said. "We have to play better defensively. They got some open looks. Offensively, we did all right at times, but we have to shoot a better percentage." Both teams came out firing to start the second half as they traded baskets. Tulsa used a 12-3 run to go up 57-44 as Cardwell and Parker combined for seven points.
The Aggies were led by John's 16 on the day, followed by Detruis Roberson with 14 and Moore with 10. Moore was limited to just 17 minutes on the day. The first half saw NMSU struggle early on with turnovers and missed opportunities. NMSU had five turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and seven in the first 12 minutes as Tulsa led 20-12 with eight minutes left.
The Ags also went the final 10:37 of the first half without Moore, who picked up his second foul, sending him to the bench. Moore had just two points in the opening half. New Mexico State managed to claw back into the game despite Moore's foul trouble and only five points from John.
The Ags trailed just 36-31 at halftime behind 10 points from point guard Roberson, seven from forward Gary Jackson and five points by forward Jeff Jones.
The Aggies hit just 11 of 26 from the field, but five of those were treys. Tulsa hit 12 of 28 from the field, but won the battle at the free throw line making 10 of 12 to NMSU's 4 of 5. The Golden Hurricane were led by reserve guard Seneca Collins, who scored nine points and forward Glenn, who eight points, six of which came from the free throw line.
Tulsa led by as much as 9, 27-18, with 5:18 left in the half before NMSU cut into the lead and made things closer at the break. The Aggies are at Texas-El Paso on Wednesday for the two team's second meeting of the year. The Miners dealt NMSU an 83-74 loss back on Dec. 6 in Las Cruces.