Tulsa falls to Kent State in NIT, 75-74
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
3/17/10 at 10:04 PM
KENT, Ohio — The shot had fallen so many times during Ben Uzoh’s career.
But when Uzoh’s final collegiate attempt — a 15-foot left-baseline shot while fading — hit hard off the rim and fell into a Kent State player’s hands, it completed the career for one of Tulsa’s most prolific players.
It also ended a season that started with high expectations.
Tulsa and Kent State had a thrilling National Invitation Tournament first-round game, with the Golden Flashes capturing a 75-74 victory on Wednesday night in front of 1,175 at the M.A.C. Center.
Uzoh had a decent look at the game’s final attempt.
“That’s a shot that I’ve made a lot of times throughout the season,” Uzoh said. “It felt good when it left my hands. It was straight-on.
“That was tough.”
The Hurricane’s season finishes the year at 23-12 after losing nine of its final 16 games.
Watching seniors Uzoh, Jerome Jordan and Bishop Wheatley leave the court one final time was tough for their teammates.
“I feel terrible personally,” Steven Idlet said. “I don’t feel like I did enough for those three guys.”
TU came close to advancing to a second-round game against (Illinois-Stony Brook winner).
The Hurricane built a 35-28 halftime lead behind the offense of Jordan and Justin Hurtt. It was only the second time in the past 14 games that TU has led at intermission. Until Wednesday, Tulsa was 17-0 in contests where it led at halftime.
Kent (24-9) blew that statistic up with 47 second-half points, with key buckets to keep close tabs on TU.
“We didn’t break them,” TU coach Doug Wojcik said. “If we were in Tulsa, we would have broken them. We couldn’t pull away.”
Tulsa never led by double-digits, and enjoyed a 52-46 advantage after a pair of Joe Richard free throws with 12:26 left. The Hurricane was up 56-52 before Kent went on a 10-2 run to take a 62-58 lead with 8:09 left.
It was the most separation by a team the rest of the way. A Jordan free throw with 5:12 left gave TU a 66-65 edge. From then, neither team led by more than one point.
The Hurricane’s last lead (74-73) came on Hurtt’s baseline jumper with 41.7 seconds left.
Rodriquez Sherman made a shot in the lane with 20.8 seconds to provide the winning points for Kent.
“I didn’t know how much time there was,” Sherman said. “I knew I had to get a bucket ... I was off-balanced and shot it with my left hand and it went in.”
Tulsa called timeout with 14.3 seconds left and set up a pick-and-roll between Uzoh and Jordan. Uzoh used the screen, dribbled left and had to shoot over two Kent State players.
“Those guys had torched us one-on-one and we decided to trap the ball screen to make him give it up,” said Kent State coach Geno Ford, who led the program to its first postseason win in eight years. “That didn’t happen, but it worked well in us being able to string him out. He wasn’t able to see the roll guy in Jordan. He took a tough shot on the baseline that he’s capable of making.”
Wojcik didn’t point toward that one play for Tulsa’s loss.
“If I had to do that again, I’d do something different and get it to Jordan,” Wojcik said. “But that was 14 seconds. That’s not the game. It was the 47 second-half points.”
Jordan ended with 23 points and 12 rebounds in his final game. Hurtt scored 22 and had 10 boards. Uzoh had 14 points.
“I’m sad that it comes to an end tonight, but it’s been a wonderful experience,” Uzoh said of his career. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Jerome Jordan leaves the court after Wednesday's game. PHIL LONG/Associated Press
Tulsa center Jerome Jordan defends against Kent State gurd Chris Singletary on Wednesday in Kent, Ohio. PHIL LONG/Associated Press
Tulsa guard Justin Hurtt looks to get away from the defense of Kent State forward Frank Henry-Ala. PHIL LONG/Associated Press