Leading for the vast majority of the game, ECU (18-12, 9-8 Conference USA) clinged to a 65-63 with less than three minutes left to play in the game and Tulsa shooting a pair of free throws.
After both free throws were missed with the second attempt deflected off the rim and seemingly out of bounds, it was athletically saved and regained by the Golden Hurricane—leading to a go-ahead triple by Pat Swilling Jr. to make it 66-65 Tulsa.
Tulsa would score six more unanswered points before the Pirates showed any type of resistance, but by then, it was too late. The Golden Hurricane outlasted ECU 79-72.
In the second half, Tulsa (17-14, 9-8 C-USA) coach Danny Manning leaned to his two prolific scorers, Scottie Haralson and James Woodard, who finished with 22 and 17 points respectively.
They will advance to face the No. 1 seeded Memphis Tigers (28-4, 17-0 C-USA) on Friday with a trip to the conference title game on the line.
The loss eliminates ECU from the tournament and dismisses any hope of ending its twenty year NCAA tournament drought.
The Pirates will likely appear in a less-decorated postseason tournament and could even host another game at Minges Coliseum. In 2011, they hosted Jacksonville University in the Collegeinsider.com tournament but came up short in overtime, 71-66.
Tulsa came out of the gate and punched ECU right in the jaw—jumping out to a 14-6 lead—but the Pirates responded with a 24-11 run to end the first half. They led the Golden Hurricane 30-25 at halftime.
ECU held onto its lead until the game's final moments, with both team's firing on all cylinders on the offensive side of the ball.
The difference in the Pirates' 72-63 win in BOK Center on Feb. 20 was getting key stops in crunch time and not allowing the home team to go on substantial runs.
In the second half, they could not get any stops and saw the Golden Hurricane score 54 points in the final twenty minutes.
ECU countered with first team all-conference forward Maurice Kemp, who tallied a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds to along with his five assists.
Akeem Richmond and Paris Roberts-Campbell both stepped up and provided huge contributions from three-point range. Both players drained four 3's apiece, with Richmond scoring 16 points and Roberts-Campbell 12.
Senior point guard Miguel Paul finished with 14 points and eight assists while center Ty Armstrong got into foul trouble and mustered two points.