Walls’ 4 free throws in OT help Tulsa hold off UTEP 64-62 to reach finals
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Calvin Walls scored the first four points in overtime at the free throw line, and Tulsa held on for a 64-62 victory over UTEP on Friday night to advance to the Conference USA tournament championship.
Ben Uzoh, who finished with 17 points for the Golden Hurricane (20-12), put the game out of reach with two more free throws with 35.7 seconds left. Brett McDade’s free throw with 4.8 seconds remaining provided the final margin.
Stefon Jackson’s desperation shot for UTEP (19-13) from just inside midcourt as time ran out went over the backboard, sending Tulsa to its first conference tournament championship game since 2003 when they won the Western Athletic Conference.
Tulsa will face No. 2 Memphis with a chance at the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth Saturday morning. The Tigers defeated Southern Mississippi 69-53 in the other semifinal.
Jerome Jordan and Walls finished with 12 points and nine rebounds each for Tulsa, which won its second straight game in overtime. The Golden Hurricane upset No. 2 seed UAB 78-68 in the quarterfinals.
Jackson led UTEP with 18 points, while Randy Culpepper finished with 14.
Tulsa held a 63-59 lead when Culpepper hit one of two free throws with 8.4 seconds left. Culpepper rebounded the miss on the second on the left baseline and hit a 12-footer to pull the Miners within 63-62 with 5.5 seconds to go.
But McDade’s free throw, his only point of the night, clinched Tulsa’s trip to the championship game. The Golden Hurrricane did not score from the floor in overtime, instead connecting on 7 of 8 free throws.
Tulsa maintained a double-digit lead through much of the second half’s early stage, eventually reaching 44-32. But UTEP answered with a 9-0 run to cut it to 44-41 with just under 9 minutes to play. The Miners would get within a basket several times, but didn’t catch Tulsa until Jackson connected on an 18-footer with 29 seconds left to tie the game at 57.
The Golden Hurricane missed a chance to win in regulation as Uzoh held the ball until shooting an airball over Marvin Kilgore as time expired.
UTEP struggled shooting and was just 2-of-19 from outside the arc. That wasn’t the only place the Miners had trouble connecting, as they were 4-of-11 from the free throw line and finished the game 8-of-18.
Tulsa wasn’t much better hitting 5-of-17 3-pointers, and the Golden Hurricane also had 19 turnovers. Jordan, the 7-footer who averaged 20.5 points in the first two games, was often doubled and was limited to four points in the half, hitting the only two shots he took.