John Klein: Late run spurs TU into C-USA semifinals
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, March 15, 2013
3/15/13 at 7:55 AM
Get complete coverage of the C-USA Tournament.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Late run spurs Hurricane to latest victory
Danny Manning's first season as Tulsa's coach figured to be a challenge.
Injuries, youth and some bad luck down the stretch of the season turned a promising upturn for Tulsa into a late-season slide.
But, as it has often done this season, the Golden Hurricane surprised us again.
Tulsa went on a 10-0 run that started with 2:35 left, taking control after trailing for much of the game, and stayed alive in the Conference USA Tournament with a 79-72 victory over East Carolina on Thursday night at the BOK Center.
It was a terrific finish at the end of a difficult game for the Hurricane.
"We just shot the ball much better in the second half and that gave us a chance to win the game," said Manning.
Tulsa had trouble getting defensive stops against the hot-shooting Pirates.
"They were very efficient with their offense," said Manning.
However, when East Carolina finally cooled Tulsa jumped on the opportunity. TU turned a 65-63 deficit into a 73-65 lead with just 51 seconds left.
On a team loaded with youth, it was Tulsa's senior starter, Scottie Haralson, who wouldn't let Tulsa lose.
Haralson had 22 points, including three 3-pointers.
"I wanted to prolong my career," said Haralson. "I just wanted to leave it all on the floor."
James Woodard was also fantastic down the stretch and finished with 17.
"We worked as a team late in the game," said Woodard. "They were able to find me when I was open. I was able to just get it going."
As a result, Tulsa remains in the C-USA Tournament and will face top-seeded Memphis at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
And, the longshot hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years stays alive.
Memphis has won 17 straight games against C-USA teams, including 16-0 in the regular season this year.
The Golden Hurricane suffered its worst loss of the season at Memphis earlier this season - 94-64.
"Memphis is the best team in our league," said Manning. "Outstanding defensive player. Player of the year. Coach of the year. I don't know what else to say."
In this game, TU wouldn't go away and got the lead for good at 66-65 on a 3-pointer from Pat Swilling Jr.
The Golden Hurricane will need to play its best and hope for an off-game from Memphis on Friday. Tulsa will probably need two more wins to reach the NCAAs.
Tulsa's last moment in the NCAA Tournament was Wisconsin knocking home a miracle shot at the buzzer to beat the Hurricane in the second round of 2003.
It is hard to believe TU, a program that made 13 NCAA appearances (an Elite Eight, three Sweet Sixteens) and won two NITs in a 22-year period, has been shut out of college basketball's biggest stage for a decade.
The reality is Tulsa hasn't been able to regenerate the magic that Nolan Richardson brought, Tubby Smith nurtured and Bill Self elevated.
Manning is the third coach since Self left for Illinois. All three have faced different challenges in trying to bring Tulsa basketball back.
Manning faced the longest odds with a once-proud program wrecked by nine years of mediocrity and disappointment. It got worse when TU's three best players left before the season (two transfers and one medical).
Then, a series of injuries hit Tulsa's rebuilt roster loaded with teenagers.
It is little mystery how Tulsa arrived at the Conference USA Tournament for a quarterfinal game with a 16-14 record and an underdog to East Carolina.
In 31 games this season, Tulsa has not had a full healthy roster available for any game. TU has played with as few as nine players.
The Golden Hurricane played five conference games with eight players available.
Still, Tulsa has flourished at times because it found five productive freshmen.
That youth leads to some uncomfortable moments on the court but should be a bonus in the next few seasons.
Those players give the Hurricane a terrific future.
But, that future will have to wait. The Golden Hurricane live to play another day.
E. Carolina's Miguel Paul pressures Tulsa's Scottie Haralson as coach Danny Manning looks on during their second round game in the C-USA Championship Tournament at the BOk Center. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World