Tulsa rocks Tulane with historic comeback
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
At the 5:55 mark of the first half, after Tulane had surged to a 22-point cushion, a University of Tulsa comeback seemed impossible.
With 12½ minutes remaining in Saturday’s Conference USA basketball game at the Reynolds Center, the Green Wave still led by 15 points. A Golden Hurricane comeback seemed improbable.
But just as impossible had graduated to improbable, improbable graduated to memorable and unprecedented.
In what ranks as the greatest comeback in program history – witnessed by an extremely involved Reynolds Center crowd of 5,089 and more than 30 former players who returned for Legends Day – the Hurricane danced away with a 78-66 victory.
During the final 12:16, Tulsa outscored the Green Wave 41-14.
“We just kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” said Hurricane senior guard Scottie Haralson, who led his team in scoring with 16 points and converted on a big 3-pointer with 9:32 left, cutting the deficit to eight points.
Following a session of postgame research, University of Tulsa media-relations personnel determined that the Hurricane never before had prevailed after trailing by as many as 22 points. During a December win at Oral Roberts, Tulsa rallied from a 17-point, second-half deficit.
In recorded history, there have been only 25 college basketball games during which a team won after trailing by as many as 22 points.
Said Tulsa coach Danny Manning: “Tonight for us, it was a tale of two halves.”
Said Tulane coach Ed Conroy: “It’s an understatement to say it was a tale of two halves.”
While the Hurricane ended a two-game losing streak, improving to 15-13 overall and 7-7 in C-USA, Tulane’s records dropped to 18-11 and 6-8.
Tulsa’s comeback ranks as the second-best in Conference USA history.
UAB overcame a 24-point deficit to beat SMU in 2010, and Rice overcame a 24-point deficit to beat Houston in 2007.
The Hurricane plays its final Reynolds Center game on Wednesday, as SMU visits for a 7 p.m. league contest. Tulsa ends the regular season at Rice next Saturday, then hosts the March 13-16 Conference USA Tournament at the BOK Center.
On Saturday, Tulsa’s dismal first half ended badly as freshman point guard Rashad Ray, with 2.9 seconds left, got popped with a technical foul. Tulane’s Ricky Tarrant was good on four free throws, and the Green Wave led 43-23 at halftime.
Manning’s halftime message to his players: “There are no 20-point plays. Each possession, we have to grind and fight.”
The Hurricane did exactly that. Lethargic and offensively clueless during the first half, Tulsa’s energy and execution were at high levels after halftime.
“I felt good at about the 16-minute mark, knowing that we were actually competing,” Manning said. “Knowing that we won that first four-minute segment (of the second half). Let’s see if we can win that second one. I think it kind of snowballed from there.”
If any one shot would qualify as the one that triggered the Tulsa avalanche, it was Pat Swilling Jr.’s 3-pointer with 12:16 left. Forward Kauri Black followed with a pair of baskets. Haralson swished a trey. Freshman James Woodard and Swilling each connected on two free throws.
With 7:43 left, Ray passed to an open Woodard on the right wing, and Woodard was perfect on a 3-pointer that pulled Tulsa to within one point (55-54) and resulted in what might have been the loudest Reynolds Center crowd reaction of the season.
With 6:44 remaining, Woodard’s two free throws gave Tulsa its first lead of the afternoon at 58-57.
Tulane led as late as the 3:49 mark, but Haralson responded with a 3-point play. Up 65-63, the Hurricane buried Tulane with another flurry of buckets from Shaq Harrison, Ray and Black.
Woodard’s important 3-pointer was his first field goal of the game, but he finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Swilling and Ray each scored 12 points. From Black and forward Brandon Swannegan, Tulsa got a combined total of 17 points.
The Hurricane shot 59 percent from the field during the second half. On free throws, Tulsa was 28-of-34 overall. Tulane also was good from the foul line – 24-of-28. The teams committed a combined total of only 18 turnovers.
“In the second half, our guys played the way that we’d like for them to play all the time,” Manning said. “They fought. They scrapped. They battled.
“To come back from 22 down ... I’m very happy and proud of the young men in our locker room.”
Tulane’s Josh Davis and Tarrant each scored 16 points, but were a combined 8-of-27 on shots from the field.
“Tulsa won that (second) half in every way,” Conroy said.