Brandon Rachal took the inbounds pass and hurled it down the Reynolds Center court, allowing the clock to run out by the time the ball landed and sealing the University of Tulsa’s 58-57 comeback win against Memphis on Sunday afternoon.
Despite not making a field goal in the final four minutes, the Hurricane effectively executed down the stretch to complete the season sweep against the Tigers and stay undefeated against them at home in the American Athletic Conference era.
“We’re capable of winning these types of games,” senior point guard Elijah Joiner said. “When we step out on the floor, it’s just about doing it and I feel like that’s what we did tonight.”
TU (8-4, 5-2) trailed for almost 30 minutes and was in serious danger of dropping a second game in a row. Joiner knotted the score with six minutes left as part of a 9-0 run for the Hurricane, which relied on crucial baskets from Rey Idowu and Keyshawn Embery-Simpson in that stretch.
Lester Quinones twice nailed corner 3-pointers to trim Memphis’ deficit to two, with the second coming at the one-minute mark. After Joiner made one of two free throws, Rachal picked off a pass but had his shot blocked, giving the Tigers another opportunity with 21 seconds to go.
Landers Nolley, who had repeatedly burned TU in the game, missed a 3-pointer and teammate DeAndre Williams scored on a putback with 2.8 seconds left. In a timeout, the Hurricane drew up the final inbounds play to burn what was left on the clock.
“There’s three seconds left — no time to get fouled,” coach Frank Haith said. “It would be a tough play for them to catch it and turn and shoot. Good execution there on our guys’ part.”
After rallying from an eight-point halftime hole at Memphis last month, TU was down six at halftime Sunday, having shot 36% from the field and turning the ball over on 11 occasions. The offense ignited early in the second half behind Joiner’s ability to drive to the basket.
Joiner, who finished with a game-high 14 points, delivered two and-one plays to briefly put his team on top before the Tigers responded with a 10-2 run that included back-to-back dunks from Malcolm Dandridge.
For the next nine minutes, Memphis (6-5, 2-2) didn’t have a field goal and recorded five turnovers.
“I thought in the second half we got in a little bit better rhythm offensively, but the key was we got timely stops,” Haith said. “Once the momentum swung our way offensively, we got timely stops defensively and timely rebounds.”