Collier's smart plays drive Tulsa to victory

March 21, 1994|By Wendell Barnhouse | Wendell Barnhouse,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was a fast-moving game of chess. Tulsa coach Tubby Smith kept moving his pieces to hide the fact that his team had no answer for Oklahoma State center Bryant Reeves.

Checkmate, Smith.

Trailing by 11 points at halftime, 12th-seeded Tulsa changed its offensive and defensive tactics yesterday to rally for a scintillating, 82-80 second-round victory over the fourth-seeded Cowboys (24-10) in the NCAA tournament. Tulsa (23-7) advances to the Midwest Regional semifinals in Dallas, where it will play top-seeded Arkansas, an 85-73 winner over Georgetown.

Golden Hurricane senior forward Gary Collier (25 points, five assists) made two game-winning plays in the final minute. First, he rebounded a Lou Dawkins free-throw miss and scored to give Tulsa a 79-78 lead. Then, after a Reeves miss, Collier drove and passed to Dawkins, whose three-pointer with 8.6 seconds remaining clinched the upset.

"I didn't think Lou was going to miss, but I noticed [Oklahoma State's Randy] Rutherford next to me," Collier said of his free-throw rebound. "I wanted to push him under the basket and go up. The ball bounced my way. I didn't want to bring it down, so I shot it as soon as I touched it."

In a postgame news conference, Reeves tried to take responsibility, but Oklahoma State Eddie Sutton pointed out that Rutherford was the one who failed to block out. "That's a fundamental error," Sutton said. "Collier made a nice play."

That Tulsa had any chance to win at the end was remarkable. In the first half, Oklahoma State scored on 21 of 33 possessions and made 64 percent of its shots. Reeves, the 7-foot junior center, had 19 points (8-for-11 shooting) and four blocked shots.

"We tried to play him man-to-man, but anytime he touched the ball in the first half, he scored," Smith said.

To counter that in the second half, Smith told Collier to sag off the man he was guarding to help box in Reeves, who finished with a game-high 32 points.

"It was a grab bag on defense," Smith said. "We recognized there were certain guys on their team that were not going to shoot the ball. Whoever was guarding [Chianti] Roberts, [Terry] Collins and [Scott] Sutton had to help on Reeves."

Those three combined to take 10 of the Cowboys' 60 shots. And Collier helped limit Reeves to just four shots over the last 10 minutes.

Tulsa benefited from the fact that Oklahoma State had little chance of duplicating its first-half performance. The Cowboys shot just 40 percent in the second half. They wasted the momentum gained when Brooks Thompson swished a running 35-footer at the halftime buzzer for a 50-39 halftime lead.

"It was a luck shot," said Thompson, who scored 11. "We were excited in the locker room at halftime, but we lost our aggressiveness in the second half. When you're not aggressive, you're not quick. They seemed to get all the loose balls.

"It's happened a lot this year. We get a big lead in the first half but lose our intensity in the second."

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