C-USA Tournament - Afternoon Session

Two matchups were featured in the afternoon session of the Conference USA Basketball Tournament on Thursday.

Tulsa Impressive in Debut

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (23-9, 13-4 C-USA) looked well rested and well coached as they crushed the Rice Owls, 73-51. Tulsa used a 25-1 run early on to take control of the game and they never let up, as they held a 41-17 advantage at halftime. Ray Reese led Tulsa with 14 points at the break, while Cory Pflieger paced Rice with eight points.

"Our focus has been terrific," Tulsa head coach Doug Woljcik said. "It was certainly a game in which we got off to a great start and made some shots. I thought our defense was very alert. We had just played them on Saturday so we kind of knew what they were going to do. They were fresh in our minds."

Rice (10-21, 5-13 C-USA) appeared to be running on fumes early on as they couldn't match Tulsa's athleticism and intensity, and the second half wasn't much better. The Owls went on an 10-2 run early in the second half to slice the Hurricane lead under 20, but they would get no closer.

"They had some tired legs," Woljcik said. "Rodney Foster played 38 minutes last night, so I think that affected them. But, I thought they battled pretty hard."

Tulsa was led by senior forward Ray Reese, who connected on eight of 15 shots from the field and six of seven of eight from behind the arc , as he finished with 22 points. Junior guard Ben Uzoh added 14 points and seven assists. Rice was led by freshman guard Connor Frizzelle, who scored 10 points, and junior guard Cory Pflieger, who scored eight points, all in the first half. Senior Rodney Foster, playing in his last collegiate game, scored eight points.

Tulsa will face UAB on Friday.


Delaney Beats Buzzer Twice, Blazers Survive

Entering their quarterfinal game against Southern Miss, UAB needed not one, but two Paul Delaney buzzer beaters to survive in what was clearly the best game of the tournament to this point.

UAB, entering as a near double-digit favorite, was in for a tough time as the two teams went back and forth early on matching long-range bombs. UAB senior guard Robert Vaden connected on his first four three-point shots in the first half, and the Blazers hit six from behind the arc in the first half. Vaden led the Blazers with 12 points at the break.

The trio of Jeremy Wise, Craig Craft, and Courtney Beasley did their best to keep the Golden Eagles in the game, as they bucketed 34 points combined in the first half. The undersized Eagles used plenty of heart and hustle, as they hung in with the heavily favored Blazers and thanks to a 13-1 run to end the first half, went into the locker room with a 34-28 lead. During the run, Jeremy Wise scored 11 straight points, and had 19 at the half on 8-11 shooting from the field.

The second half began just as the first half did, with both teams going right at each other with back and forth action. Southern Miss scored the first five points of the half to extend their lead to double digits, and whenever UAB hit a big shot, Southern Miss had an answer with big shots of their own by Jeremy Wise or Courtney Beasley.

With 10 minutes remaining, UAB went to a full-court press, and was able to force some turnovers. The Blazers offense cashed in with a pair of big shots by senior guard Robert Vaden to trim the lead to just four points with six minutes left. UAB was finally able to reclaim the lead as senior guard Paul Delaney banked in a leaner with four minutes left.

Courtney Beasley broke a 60-60 tie with 28 seconds left as he drove to the basket for an uncontested layup. UAB quickly advanced the ball and Robert Vaden was fouled with just 11.7 seconds remaining. Vaden hit the first free throw, but missed the second. Craig Craft grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled. Craft hit the front end of the one-and-one to put the Golden Eagles up two, and then he finished the job by hitting the back end. UAB guard Paul Delaney, who had been 3-11 from the field, took the ball down the court and drills a game-tying three-point shot to send the game to overtime.

The two teams went back and forth in overtime, as each team held no more than a two-point advantage. Down by two, Southern Miss senior Courtney Beasley took the ball to the basket and drove over three defenders and scored and was fouled. Beasley connected on the free throw to put USM up by one. UAB wasted no time as 5'8" guard Aaron Johnson was fouled and calmly hit both free throws to put the Blazers back on top. Southern Miss had one last chance with 26.4 seconds remaining. Courtney Beasley hit a short runner to put the Golden Eagles up 73-72 with just 5.4 seconds remaining. UAB didn't call timeout, and senior guard Paul Delaney drove the ball down the court and threw in a short jumper to win the game for the Blazers, 74-73.

Delaney shot just 5-14 from the field, but finished with 21 points including his two game winners. Robert Vaden added 20 for UAB on 6-11 shooting. Jeremy Wise led the Golden Eagles with 28 points on 10-15 shooting, and Courtney Beasley, playing in his last game, scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a heroic effort.

"We didn't lose the game," Southern Miss Larry Eustachy said. "UAB won the game."

UAB will face Tulsa in tomorrow's first semi-final matchup.


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