D'Andre Wright's put-back layup with 0:01 remaining in overtime gave Tulsa a 72-70 victory over a pesky UTSA team that fought back from an 18-point first-half deficit to force the extra period on Sunday afternoon in front of 5,427 fans at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
Tulsa won its seventh straight game and stayed in a first-place tie in Conference USA on the same day that Tulsa recognized the 20th anniversary of the 1993-95 NCAA Sweet Sixteen team with Coach Tubby Smith and many of the players from that team in attendance.
This year's Hurricane team improved to 12-3 in C-USA and 17-12 overall, while UTSA fell to 8-20 overall and 4-11 in league play.
"There are a lot of adjectives that I could open this up with, but I'll just say, 'whew!' Texas-San Antonio played a really good game. They dictated the tempo in the second half to be honest. The reason we won this game, in my mind, is because we got off to a good start," said Tulsa Head Coach Danny Manning. "They outscored us by 12 in the second half. We were able to get the first bucket in overtime and ride that from there. It was not the best game for us, but you have to win games like this. Now we have a chance to go down to North Texas and get a piece of the league title. We'll be fired up, excited, and ready to go."
Tied at 64-64 at the end of regulation the Hurricane went ahead 69-64 with 3:35 to play on three free throws and a Tim Peete dunk. UTSA fought back to within one-point at 69-68 and tied the game at 70 on two Keon Lewis' free throws with 0:33 left on the clock. With time running down, Tulsa's Shaquille Harrison's reverse layup under tough defensive pressure at the 0:04 mark missed, and Brandon Swannegan's tip missed before Wright put back the game-winning two-pointer.
"We talk as a team about making multiple effort plays. We want to keep the ball alive, get a hand on it, and D'Andre comes away with a great hustle play. Obviously we're excited that we won, but for him to make the play after missing the free throw earlier was big for him," added Manning.
Wright ended the game with 12 points and seven rebounds, while James Woodard led all scorers with 19 points and also added seven boards for the Hurricane. Stevie Repichowski finished with 13 points. UTSA's Devon Agusi had 17 points and Lewis added 13 for the Roadrunners.
After shooting 46-percent from the field and 36-percent from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, the UTSA zone defense created havoc for the Hurricane offense in the second half. Tulsa shot second-half percentages of 29-percent from the field and eight-percent from three-point range, connecting on just 1-of-12 three-pointers.
Ahead by 12 points at halftime, the Tulsa lead was cut to seven points on a Agusi layup at the 15:13 mark to make the score 40-33. The Hurricane built the lead back to 12 points by scoring the next five points for a 45-33 lead. Tulsa's last double-digit lead 55-45 came at the 7:16 mark, then UTSA went on a 13-4 run to cut Tulsa's advantage to one point at 49-58 with 4:04 left on the clock.
Agusi's two free throws at 3:28 gave UTSA its first lead of the game at 60-59. Peete knocked down two free throws to put Tulsa back ahead by one point and Woodard's jumper gave Tulsa a 63-60 at the 2:43 mark. Harrison made one of two free throws for a 64-60 lead with 1:38 left before Jordan Sims sank a three-pointer with 1:27 on the clock and Kaj-Bjorn made one of two free throws with 0:30 remaining to tie the score at 64 and force the overtime period.
Tulsa jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game and increased its lead to 18-2 on a Repichowski three-pointer with 14:02 on the clock. Tulsa kept the double-digit lead throughout the remainder of the first half. Equaling that 16-point lead two more times at 23-7 and 31-15. The Hurricane went into halftime ahead by 12 points at 34-22.
Woodard had first-half highs of 10 points and five rebounds for the Hurricane, while Repichowski knocked in two treys for six points.
Tulsa closes out the regular season this Thursday, March 6th in Denton, Texas against the North Texas Mean Green. Tip-off time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The Conference USA Tournament takes place March 11-15 at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.