It's the game that will never end. Tulsa and Marshall are heading to triple overtime tied 86-86. DeAndre Kane, who has scored a game-high 35 points, nearly hit a half-court shot at the buzzer that would have ended the game, but it bounced off the rim.
This game has lasted so long that Tulsa's Jordan Clarkson ran back to the locker room between the second and third OTs, apparently because nature was calling.
Marshall has had an entire team foul out. The Thundering Herd currently has five players sitting on the bench with five fouls each. And yet Marshall still trails by only one point with 30 seconds left in the second overtime.
If you enjoy close basketball games, then the Conference USA Tournament is the place to be today. We are closing in on 95 minutes of playing time, spread across two games and three overtime sessions, without any of the teams holding a double-digit lead. In fact, over the past 71 minutes the largest lead has been six points. Amazing.
Memphis fans probably considered the afternoon session of the Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals to be merely an appetizer to tonight's main course of Memphis vs. UTEP. Well, the appetizer just turned into a full-blown meal. We are going into double overtime in the Tulsa vs. Marshall game. The score is tied 74-74. We are less than an hour away from the scheduled tip of the Memphis-UTEP game. At this rate, this game might not be over by then.
If Marshall somehow pulls out a victory in this game it will be a minor miracle. With 1:25 left in overtime, the Thundering Herd has had four players foul out. Fortunately for the Herd, DeAndre Kane and Shaquille Johnson are still on the floor. Those two have combined to score 49 of Marshall's 71 points.
Former Chicago Cubs player Ernie Banks famously said, "Let's play two." The motto in Conference USA today should be "Let's play five more." As in minutes. As in overtime.
For the second time in two games today, we have overtime. A Tulsa vs. Marshall contest that was close throughout is, appropriately enough, tied at the end of regulation. Marshall held Tulsa scoreless over the final 3:25 and scored six consecutive points to erase a 64-58 deficit. So we have five more minutes, at least, before a winner will be determined.
We have finally broken the five-point barrier. For the first time all game, somebody has a lead larger than five. Tulsa has built a whopping six-point advantage, 62-56, with 3:23 remaining.
Of course, within seconds, Marshall hit a basket to cut the lead to 62-58. We're back within five points again.
Even though there are still eight minutes left in regulation, it's probably safe to go ahead and declare that DeAndre Kane will be the MVP of the game for Marshall. Kane is 9-of-18 from the field, meaning he has accounted for exactly half of the Thundering Herd's baskets. The rest of the team is 9-of-26 from the field. Kane, who averaged 15.8 points per game this season, already has scored 20 in this game, to go along with five rebounds.
As for the game, it remains amazingly close. The largest lead still has been only five points.
This is certainly shaping up to be an exciting day of basketball in the Conference USA Tournament. In the opener between Southern Miss and East Carolina, neither team ever led by more than eight points and the largest lead over the final 16 minutes of the second half and throughout overtime was five points. And now in the second game of the day between Tulsa and Marshall, the largest lead in the first half was also five points. So we have just had a total of 41 minutes of basketball over two games where the largest lead was five points.
And the games haven't just been close, they have constantly shifted back and forth. There were 14 lead changes and eight ties in the second half and overtime of the USM-ECU game, and 10 lead changes and eight ties in the first half of Tulsa vs. Marshall. That's a total of 24 lead changes and 16 ties over 45 minutes of basketball. It doesn't get much better than that.
Tweetest Fan Winner: Tyler Devereux
Tyler Devereux from Tulsa tweeted his way to Memphis for the C-USA Basketball Championships by winning C-USA's Tweetest fan Contest (link http://www.conferenceusa.com/ot/tweetest-fan.html) . Following @ConferenceUSA1 and like us on Facebook to get all the lastest updates on your team in Conference USA! #CUSAchamp
TEP's McCulley returns to Memphis
Gabriel McCulley talks about returning to his hometown of Memphis for the C-USA Championship #CUSAchamp
Since he first became a Division I head coach in 1990, Southern Miss' Larry Eustachy has been involved in a total of 658 basketball games. And out of all of those, he said the one that took place Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament has to rank among his all-time favorites.
Southern Miss held off a scrappy effort by East Carolina to win 81-78 in overtime. There were clutch shots, key defensive plays and record-setting performances by both teams.
"That was a great game, one of the best games I've ever been involved in," Eustachy said. "I've been in some good ones, but that one belongs right up at the top. It was a great win for us."
Of course, games are always more enjoyable when you win. But even though ECU head coach Jeff Lebo was on the losing side of the final score, even he had to admit, "That was a heck of a basketball game."
"We fought through a lot of adversity in a lot of different areas," Lebo said. "We battled, we fought, we clawed. And despite all the adversity, we had a chance to win the game. We just came up a little short."
If the first game is any indication of what we can expect, then this is going to be one wild, exciting day of Conference USA basketball. Southern Miss prevailed over East Carolina 81-78 in overtime in a game that had a little bit of everything.
The Golden Eagles used the balance of six players scoring in double figures, all between 17 and 10 points each. Meanwhile, ECU tied a C-USA Tournament record by making 15 3-pointers, and Miguel Paul scored a career high 28 points and set a tournament record with 12 assists.
The best thing about this game was the clutch shooting. Robert Sampson sank a 3-pointer to force overtime, and USM's Darnell Dodson made a trey with a minute left in the extra session to give the Golden Eagles the lead for good.
How good was this game? There were 14 lead changes and eight ties in the second half / overtime. And we still have three more games to go today.
Sampson comes alive. Robert Sampson, son of the legendary Ralph Sampson, just drained a 3-pointer with 15.8 seconds remaining to tie the game at 68 and force overtime. Win or lose, this has been an amazing, gutsy effort by East Carolina.
If you had said before the game that East Carolina guard Miguel Paul was going to reach his career high of 25 points with still three minutes remaining and that the Pirates as a team would have made a dozen 3-pointers, you probably would have predicted an ECU victory. If you had said that Darrius Morrow was going to have no points and only two rebounds with three minutes left, you probably would have said the Pirates were sure to lose. Well, both those things have happened, and the outcome is still in doubt. Southern Miss leads 65-61.
Give East Carolina credit. The Pirates refuse to go away. In fact, back-to-back 3-pointers have helped propel them on an 11-3 run and tie the game at 43. ECU is 9-for-17 from 3-point range, compared to 3-of-10 for Southern Miss.
Stop me if you've heard this one. Foul on Darrius Morrow. That's the fourth on the big guy, and he is back on the bench with 16 minutes to play and Southern Miss leading 40-32. The odds are getting longer by the minute for ECU.
Ouch. Barely one minute into the second half, Darrius Morrow has picked up his third foul, an offensive call that was made when he turned near the basket to go in for a layup attempt. Even though he now has three fouls, Morrow is remaining in the game in an attempt to end USM's run, which is up to 12-0.
Southern Miss came to life at the end of the first half with a 7-0 run that has given the Golden Eagles a 32-30 halftime lead. Both teams are 11-for-23 from the field, but East Carolina has made more 3-pointers (6 to 3) while USM has made more free throws (7 to 2). It is easier to continue making free throw than it is 3-pointers, so a slight edge has to go to the Golden Eagles right now.
The Pirates must hope that they will receive a boost with the return of forward Darrius Morrow, who has no points or rebounds after sitting out much of the first half with two fouls. Morrow is averaging 14 points and 16 rebounds per game this season, so the fact that the Pirates are down by only two points without any contribution from their big senior is a reason for optimism for ECU fans.
Nice job of adjusting by East Carolina. After the early flurry of six made 3-pointers in eight attempts, the Pirates missed three treys in a row. So sure enough, they began working the ball inside and it has paid off. ECU now has 10 points in the paint and holds a 30-25 lead three minutes before the half. If the Pirates can hold on until halftime and get Darrius Morros back into the game, they appear to have a decent chance of pulling off the upset.
East Carolina is off to a hot start against Southern Miss, making six of their first eight 3-point attempts. In fact, all of ECU's points have come from 3-point range, as the Pirates hold an early 18-15 lead. But they are going to have to work the ball inside at some point, and the most likely candidate is 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior forward Darrius Morrow, who is averaging 14 points per game this season on 54.6 percent shooting. The problem is, Morrow has already picked up two quick fouls and is on the bench. Unless the 3-pointers keep falling, the Pirates could be in trouble the rest of this half.
Walking in Memphis: A Tour of the City
While you're in Memphis for the C-USA Basketball Championships, be sure to check out these great places in between the games! The Trolley line is only $1 per person and everything is within walking distance of the Trolley. Enjoy some great attractions and great food.
Thursday's quarterfinal action of the 2012 C-USA Men's Basketball Championship is almost underway at FedExForum. Southern Miss will be battling East Carolina in the first game, followed by Tulsa and Marshall at 2:30 p.m. Host Memphis faces UTEP at 6:30 and UAB and UCF square off at 9 p.m. If you can't be with us in person, all of Thursday's action can be seen on CBS Sports Network.