TU Takes Title

Thursday, December 23rd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Tulsa had played as good a first half as the Golden Hurricane could have hoped for against No. 11Tennessee in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic on Thursday night. That didn't matter to them and it showed as they went on to an 88-68 victory and handed the Volunteers their first loss of the season. "Every game, whether we're up 20 or five, we start the second half with the score 0-0," said sophomore guard Greg Harrington, who matched his career high with 22 points and was selected tournament MVP. "We knew they were going to come after us and make a run and they did." The Golden Hurricane (11-1) opened the second half with a 13-4 run, taking a 57-35 lead on a 3-pointer by Harrington with 16:05 to play. The Volunteers (11-1), despite having lost starting point guard Tony Harris early in the game to an injury, weren't done. They got within 65-57 with 5:57 left but Tulsa had enough left to pull away again. "They got it down there to eight and we just executed poorly and bailed them out by fouling," Tulsa coach Bill Self. "But then we made some shots and made some plays and it went to 16 quick and the game was over then." Harrington, a sophomore guard who had 22 points against Fresno State last season, became just the third player to score 20 against Tennessee this season. "That wasn't one of my goals coming here and I was really surprised because I thought (teammate) Eric Coley was going to get MVP," Harrington said. The Volunteers were off to the third-best start in school history and were trying to match the second-best, set by the1915-16 team. "We've been talking from the get-go about this," Tennessee coach Jerry Green said. "I've said many times we're ranked in the top 25 but I personally don't think we're playing there. It can happen again because we make ourselves easy to guard because we shoot the basketball so quickly without moving and our effort has been inconsistent. We've got to learn from this." The Golden Hurricane, whose only loss was a one-point decision at crosstown rival Oral Roberts, used the defense and balanced scoring it had in tournament victories over Boston College and North Carolina Charlotte. What they did here was no surprise to Self. "We came over here very focused and thought we had a great chance to win the tournament and then we caught Tennessee on an off night," he said. Tony Heard had 17 points for Tulsa, which shot 60 percent for the game (33-for-55), while Brandon Kurtz and Charlie Davis had 11each and Marcus Hill added 10. "We had five guys in double figures each game and it was different guys," Self said. "It's important for this team to move the ball well and they are unselfish. We don't have that star player but we have guys you have to guard and when you have to guard five players on the floor it does open up things." Vincent Yarbrough had 20 points for the Volunteers, who finished 21-for-69 from the field (30 percent), and Jon Higgins added 13. Harris, the co-leading scorer for Tennessee at 15.8 points per game and the team leader on the floor, went down in the opening minute when he was fouled as he drove to the basket. He stayed in the game and played eight minutes but he didn't play in the second half. The school said he had a hip pointer and a possible fractured left wrist and would be X-rayed when the team returned home. "He has a sore hand and hip and it stiffened up on him," Green said. "I was amazed he got up and kept playing for as long as he did." Tennessee's last lead was 8-7 with 15:41 left and Tulsa took it for good on a three-point play by Kurtz with 14:54 to play. A 7-0 run, with all the points coming from reserve forwards David lden Hurricane out of reach but the Volunteers used a 15-2 run to get within 61-52 with 10 minutes to play. A 5-0 run had Tennessee within 65-57 with 5:57 to go but the Volunteers got no closer. The Volunteers' free throw woes in the tournament got even worse against Tulsa as they missed 11 of their first 15 from the line and were 12-for-27 at halftime. They were 29-for-61 from the line over the first two games, a blowout over American University of Puerto Rico, the Division II host school, and a tougher-than-expected game against Southern Illinois. The Volunteers finished 19-for-39 from the foul line against Tulsa. "We shoot them well in practice then don't in the game," Green said. "It's an individual thing in a team game. We can't shoot them for them. It's something we have to get better at it."