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UConn Advances To Conference Finals With 47-42 Comeback Win Over Tulsa

Daniel Hamilton shoots against Tulsa Golden Hurricane guard Shaquille Harrison.
March 14, 2015

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HARTFORD, Conn.-- UConn used an improbable comeback Saturday to continue its unlikely run at the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior guard Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) scored 21 points and UConn overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to beat Tulsa 47-42 in the American Athletic Semifinals.

Redshirt sophomore Rodney Purvis (Raleigh, N.C.) added 11 points and freshman guard Daniel Hamilton (Los Angeles, Calif.) pulled down 12 rebounds with five assists for the defending national champions (20-13).

"It's a scenario where we lose and we don't get a bid," said head coach Kevin Ollie. "You know, we feel not the pressure, but we feel the opportunity."

Shaquille Harrison had nine points and Rashad Ray finished with eight for Tulsa (22-10). The tournament's No. 2 seed led 38-28 with 6:35 to play, but now finds itself on the NCAA bubble.

UConn used a 14-1 run over the last 3 ½ minutes to win the game. Boatright hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining to tie the game at 41. Purvis gave the Huskies the lead for good with 46 seconds left on a jumper from the left baseline.

Connecticut sophomore center Amida Brimah (Accra, Ghana) altered a shot by Shaquille Harrison with 14.5 seconds left and two Boatright free throws made it 45-42. Tulsa had a chance to tie, but Harrison missed an off-balance 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Boatright put in in the final two points from the line.

"It was ugly for a second," said Boatright. "I'm not going to lie. When we got in that under-4 minute timeout, we all looked each other in the eye and said we're going to figure it out. We're going to dig ourselves out of this hole and win the game."

UConn, which is hosting the tournament on one of its two home courts, will face SMU, the regular-season conference champion, for the title on Sunday afternoon. The Mustangs beat Temple 69-56 earlier Saturday.

"There's no better way than go through the best and that's what we're going to have to go through to win a championship," Ollie said.

The Golden Hurricanes led the game for more than 32 minutes and dominated the boards, outrebounding UConn 40-28.

Tulsa stretched a five-point halftime lead to nine early in the second on a layup by Rashad Smith.

But UConn began showing signs of life. Boatright cut the lead to 32-28 midway through the second half with his fourth 3-pointer.

Tulsa scored the next six points and pushed the lead back to 10 on a layup by Rashad Smith, but did not make another field goal.

"I think we just tightened up," said James Woodard, who finished with seven points and nine rebounds. "They got more aggressive."

Tulsa had won 17 of its last 21 games, but could be headed to the NIT.

"I think this league doesn't get enough credit for what we have in this league," said Tulsa coach Frank Haith. "I think our guys are deserving (of an NCAA bid)."

UConn has done this before. The Huskies had to make a run in 2011 to make it into the tournament. They won five games in five days and eventually another six straight for the national championship.

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TIP-INS

UConn: Brimah, who is averaging more than three blocked shots per game, had five more on Saturday to push his season total to 112.

The Huskies, who lost in last year's conference final to Louisville, will be looking for its 12th conference championship. The Huskies won the Big East tournament seven times.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane, who won last year's Conference USA title, lost for the first time in five conference tournament games.

Tulsa had been 17-0 when leading at halftime this season.

HEAVY HEART: Daniel Hamilton's grandmother, Lucine Noble, died Friday in Los Angeles. The conference's rookie of the year was 0 for 8 from the field before making a key 3-pointer during UConn's final run. "It's been tough," he said. "I'll be out on the court and just start thinking about her."

UP NEXT

UConn will face top-seed SMU at 3:15 p.m. Sunday for the conference championship

Tulsa awaits the decision of the NCAA Tournament committee.

 

 

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