C-USA Tournament: TU rallies its way into semis with win over East Carolina
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Friday, March 15, 2013
3/15/13 at 7:11 AM
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When Paris Campbell converted on yet another 3-point shot for East Carolina, the Pirates led by six points. Seven minutes remained in Thursday's Conference USA Tournament quarterfinal basketball game at the BOK Center.
A six-point lead should not be daunting, but the University of Tulsa team seemed a little wobbly. East Carolina had momentum. The Golden Hurricane hadn't consistently clicked.
"We were playing hard," TU freshman guard Shaq Harrison said. "What we needed to do was to play smarter.
"When we played smarter, we played a lot better."
In a comeback reminiscent of its recent rally against Tulane, the Hurricane outscored East Carolina 28-15 during the final seven minutes. Before a crowd of 7,050, fifth-seeded Tulsa defeated the fourth-seeded Pirates 79-72.
The Hurricane advances to a 5:30 p.m. Friday semifinal clash with top-seeded and 20th-ranked Memphis. In their Thursday quarterfinal, the Tigers beat Tulane 81-68.
"Memphis is a big challenge for us," Harrison said. "They've got the player of the year (Joe Jackson) in the conference, and they've got the defensive player of the year (D.J. Stephens) and coach of the year (Josh Pastner). They're really good, but we won't back down."
During the regular season, at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., the Tigers rocked Tulsa 94-64. It was the Hurricane's worst loss in seven years.
"Memphis is the best team in our league," TU coach Danny Manning said. "We look forward to the challenge of going out and playing them."
Memphis and Tulsa are matched for the third time in a Conference USA Tournament game. Each of the previous two meetings occurred in the championship round. The Tigers won 77-51 in 2008 and 64-39 in 2009.
Against East Carolina, Tulsa improved to 17-14 as senior guard Scottie Haralson scored 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field. With 3:49 left to play, Haralson connected on a 3-pointer, tying the score at 61-61. And with 2:35 left, Pat Swilling Jr. was good on a 3 from the top of the key. At 66-65, Tulsa had taken the lead for good.
"Last year, we lost in the first round (of the C-USA Tournament)," Haralson said. "I want to prolong my career as long as I can. Our goal is to win a conference championship. I just wanted to leave it out on the floor tonight. That's what we said at halftime - just leave it on the floor."
After he was scoreless during the first half, Hurricane freshman James Woodard totaled 17 points. Harrison finished with 12 points and D'Andre Wright added 10 along with seven rebounds.
"We had our chances, but give (TU) credit. They made the plays down the stretch," East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. "I thought the freshman Woodard was terrific."
On Feb. 20, East Carolina prevailed 72-63 over TU at the Reynolds Center. In that game, Woodard was scoreless in 20 minutes of play. During Thursday's first half, he was scoreless in 16 minutes. Through the first two minutes of the second half, he was scoreless.
But with 17:52 left to play, Woodard finally broke the ice - converting on a 12-foot shot in the lane for his first points of the season against the Pirates.
The ice was more than broken, actually. It completely melted.
During the second half, Woodard scored his 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
"(TU coaches) were telling me to keep my head up and stay aggressive," Woodard said. "My teammates were telling me to stay positive and that's what kept me going. We just worked as a team to hit the open man. I just got going."
Maurice Kemp led East Carolina with 24 points, while guards Akeem Richmond and Miguel Paul had a combined seven 3-point baskets. East Carolina's record dropped to 18-12.
The Hurricane committed only eight turnovers, matching its lowest total of the season. TU also had eight turnovers in a Feb. 9 win at UTEP.
On March 2, Tulsa rallied from a 22-point deficit and beat Tulane 78-66. During the final 12 minutes, the Hurricane outscored the Green Wave 41-14.
Thursday's strong finish against East Carolina "was a lot like our second half against Tulane," Harrison said. "Even when we weren't playing well tonight, we felt we still had a chance. When Pat Swilling hit that three, I felt like we had turned the corner."
(2) So. Miss 81 (7) UAB 66
(3) UTEP 80 (6) Houston 69
(1) Memphis 81 (8) Tulane 68
(5) Tulsa 79 (4) E. Carolina 72
Friday's semifinals (TV: CBSSN-249)
(2) So. Miss vs. (3) UTEP, 3 p.m.
(1) Memphis vs. (5) Tulsa, 5:30 p.m.
Visit tulsaworld.com/cusachampionships call 866-726-5287 or visit the BOK Center box office.
C-USA QUARTERFINALS: TULSA 79, EAST CAROLINA 72
TU up next: vs. Memphis • 5:30 p.m. Friday • BOK Center • TV: CBSSN-249 • Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: TU rallies into semis
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
East Carolina's Miguel Paul loses the ball as it's knocked away by Tulsa's Shaq Harrison during their Conference USA quarterfinal Thursday at the BOK Center. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Tulsa's D'Andre Wright blocks the layup by East Carolina's Maurice Kemp during their quarterfinal game Thursday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Tulsa's James Woodard puts up a shot in the middle of East Carolina's Miguel Paul, Ty Armstrong and Paris Campbell. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World