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Tulsa downs William and Mary in NIT, 70-67

wm-logoOn display numerous times in 2014-15, that never quit attitude of the William and Mary men’s basketball team did not stop on Tuesday night, the Tribe just ran out of a time in a 70-67 loss at Tulsa in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. Trailing by as many as 21 points with 13:07 remaining, W&M drew to as close as two points and had a pair of chances from 3-point range to tie it in the closing 15 seconds, but on each occasion, the shot was off the mark. The Green and Gold closed out the year at 20-13, marking the program’s second-straight 20-win campaign, while Tulsa improved to 23-10 and advanced to the second round.

One of the greatest careers in W&M history came to a close as senior guard Marcus Thornton led the Tribe with a game-high 23 points, including 17 in the second half, in his final collegiate game. Sophomore Omar Prewitt tallied his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while junior Terry Tarpey finished with another all-around stat line of 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal.

Tulsa used a 23-4 run, spanning the final 1:08 of the first half and opening 6:53 of the second half, to open up a 21-point lead. In total, the Golden Hurricane scored the final five points of the first 20 minutes and the first nine points of the second half.
James Woodard scored four straight points of the second half, pushing the TU lead to double-digits for the first time and forcing a W&M timeout just over a minute into the period. The Golden Hurricane run continued as Woodard added a 3-pointer, before five straight points from Marquel Curtis following a Tribe bucket extended the TU lead to 19, 53-54, with 14:15 remaining. The cushion ballooned to 57-36 with 13:07 remaining on a Rashad Ray lay-up.

W&M showed its ability to score quickly, putting together a 10-1 run in less than two minutes. Prewitt knocked down a 3-pointer, before Thornton hit a step-back jumper. Tarpey scored the final five points of the run, including a steal and fast-break lay-up. He was fouled on the play and completed the old-fashion three-point play to draw the Tribe within 58-46 at 11:14 mark.

A Thornton 3-pointer cut the deficit to 64-56 with 7:38 remaining, but the margin was 10 with five minutes to play after a Rashad Smith lay-up. Tarpey answered on the ensuing Tribe possession, hitting a 3-pointer to ignite a seven-point W&M run. The Tribe closed the gap to three, 66-63, on a pair of Sean Sheldon free throws with 1:50 left.

After Curtis hit a 3-pointer to push the Golden Hurricane lead to six, W&M scored four straight points to draw within two with just 27 seconds remaining. Prewitt scored on a driving lay-up, before Thornton was fouled on a drive to the hoop and knocked down both freebies to cut the gap to 69-67.

The Tribe was forced to foul, and Tulsa’s Brandon Swannegan hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 20.2 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game, 70-67. On the ensuing Green and Gold possession, Thornton’s 3-point chance from the right wing was off the mark and TU pulled down the rebound.
The Golden Hurricane’s Rashad Ray was fouled and proceeded to miss the front end of a 1-and-1,. W&M came away with the rebound, giving the Tribe once last chance to tie the game. Tarpey had a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer from the right side of the key in the closing seconds, but his chance too was off the mark, and the Golden Hurricane survived the Tribe’s comeback.

W&M shot a just 33.8 percent (22-of-65) from the field, but connected on 11 3-pointers. It marked the fifth straight game that the Tribe hit double-digit 3-pointers and the 17th time this season. Despite being outrebounded, 41-36, the Green and Gold pulled down 17 offensive rebounds and also added eight steals. W&M dished out 11 assists compared to just eight turnovers.

Tulsa finished the contest at 48.2 percent (27-of-56) shooting, including 8-of-20 from 3-point range. The Hurricane dished out 16 assists on its 27 made field goals. Curtis led TU with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Woodard tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Smith added 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds.

After Prewitt canned a triple to open the game for W&M, Tulsa scored eight straight points to open up an early lead. Curtis and Woodard connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Golden Hurricane an 8-3 cushion just two and a half minutes into the game, forcing a Tribe timeout. W&M responded with five straight points and pulled even on a Tarpey 3-pointer from the left corner just over a minute later.

Back-to-back lay-ups from D’Andre Wright and Smith put the home side back on top. Shaquille Harrison scored five straight points to push the Hurricane margin to 21-15 at the 10:34 mark. A Thornton 3 just over a minute later drew W&M within one, 21-20, but the Hurricane again answered with back-to-back buckets, extending its advantage to five points.

A Daniel Dixon triple closed the gap to 34-32 with 1:27 left. Tulsa, though, took the momentum to the intermission, scoring the frame’s final five points. Smith answered Dixon’s trey with one of his own and Curtis hit a jumper with just 28 seconds left in the half to send TU to the locker room with a 39-32 advantage. Tulsa shot 51.7 percent (15-of-29) from the field, including 5-of-11 from 3-point range, in the opening 20 minutes.

Thornton’s 23 points on the night pushed his career total to 2,178. A number that already is the program’s all-time best, his points total moved up to seventh on the CAA’s all-time scoring list. His 659 points this season are the second-best total in Tribe history behind only the late Chet Giermak’s 740 in 1949. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native also became W&M’s all-time leader in games played, tying former Tribe players Kyle Gaillard and Matt Rum, with his 127th appearance against Tulsa. Thornton’s four triples on the night pushed his single-season 3-point field goal total to 102, which is the most in W&M history.

With the win, Tulsa advanced to the second round of the NIT and will host No. 3 seed Murray State, a 71-55 winner over No. 6 seed UTEP on Tuesday.


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