Tulsa 77, Mississippi St. 75

Thursday, March 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ A fraction of second was the difference between Tulsa's Greg Harrington being the hero instead of Mississippi State's Derrick Zimmerman.

After Harrington floated in a 5-footer from the baseline with 2.6 seconds to give Tulsa a two-point lead, Zimmerman received a long inbounds pass, raced up the court and made a 3-pointer that could have sent the Bulldogs to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.

But Zimmerman's release came a split-second after the horn sounded, giving Tulsa a 77-75 victory Wednesday night and a trip to New York to play the winner of Friday's New Mexico-Memphis game.

Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury immediately ran to the referees after Zimmerman's shot was waved off and requested they check a courtside replay. The replay confirmed the call on the floor, and the Golden Hurricane (24-11) celebrated.

``After the shot, I fell to the ground and heard the crowd go wild, but the horn went off before the shot went in,'' said Zimmerman, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half. ``That is just how it goes sometimes.''

Tulsa used some quick passing on its last possession to get Harrington free on the baseline. He said he wasn't sure how much time was left or how far away from the basket he was, so he just turned and pushed up a shot.

``I didn't know Greg had a jump hook,'' Tulsa coach Buzz Peterson said.

``There was no time think about it,'' said Harrington, who scored 14 points. ``It's sweet to make that shot to go to New York.''

Harrington said he didn't see Zimmerman's shot go in because he turned away when the buzzer sounded.

``When I heard the crowd, I knew it went in,'' he said. But he also said he was positive it was after the buzzer.

Zimmerman wasn't so sure.

``I couldn't hear nothing,'' he said.

Antonio Reed led Tulsa with 17 points, and Kevin Johnson had 16. The Golden Hurricane were 10-for-20 from 3-point range and shot 53 percent overall.

The Bulldogs made up for 40 percent shooting by outrebounding Tulsa 42-29, including 19 offensive boards.

Mississippi State, which never led in the second half, tied it at 75 with 21 seconds left on a layup by Mario Austin, who finished with 12.

Marckell Patterson led the Bulldogs (18-13) with 20 points.

Tulsa advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden for the second time. The first was in 1981.

The Golden Hurricane's road to Madison Square Garden has been a narrow one. Tulsa's three NIT victories were by a total of nine points, including an overtime victory Monday at Minnesota.

``We are fortunate to get out of here with a victory, and we are looking forward to New York City,'' Peterson said.

On that point, Zimmerman concurred.

``A couple of plays here and there down the stretch, and it could have been a different ballgame,'' he said.