Tulsa Holds off Rice in C-USA Quarterfinal

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:16 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Mar 11, 2011 12:46 AM CDT

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

EL PASO, Texas – The Golden Hurricane took one step closer to its overall goal on Thursday with an 81-72 win in the C-USA quarterfinals against Rice.

With Thursday’s events, the stage is now set and the path becoming more clear for Tulsa to make a run at a Conference USA Championship and an NCAA tournament berth.

Top seed UAB lost to East Carolina in the opening game on Thursday, leaving second-seeded TU as the highest remaining seed in the tournament.

Freshman Jordan Clarkson scored 21 points to lead the Golden Hurricane and guard Justin Hurtt added 15. Two other Tulsa players – Steven Idlet and D.J. Magley – scored in double figures.

Tulsa held a significant lead for much of the game but encountered a bit of a scare toward the end.

Lucas Kuiper of Rice hit a 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining to pull the Owls to within 74-70, and the foul game began.

Rice sent Tulsa to the line five times in the final minute trying to hang on, but the Golden Hurricane hit seven of 10 free throws down the stretch to hold the Owls off. Tulsa also locked down on defense, allowing just two more points in the final elongated stretch.

Tulsa swept the season series against Rice 3-0 with the win, and it has won nine of its past 11 games.

While the Golden Hurricane certainly has the momentum heading into the semifinals, its next opponent has the home-court advantage.

TU will face the host team, third-seeded UTEP at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Don Haskins Center.

The other semifinal featuring Memphis and East Carolina will tip afterward, and the championship game will take place at 10:35 a.m. on Saturday.