Courtside with Cary

Sportswriter Cary Estes returns to provide insight at the GMC Sierra 2010 C-USA Basketball Championship in Tulsa.

 

 

March 13, 2010

1:32 p.m.
And so we close out this year's Conference USA basketball tournament. We would like to thank all the teams, players, fans, coaches and especially the people of Tulsa for providing us with such an enjoyable week.

It's been a lot of fun, and it began and ended the same way. With the Houston Cougars emerging victorious. Congratulations on a great tournament.

Finally, we'd like to thank all of you who have been following us for these past four days. We had a lot of fun, and we hope you did, too.

That's it from Tulsa. We'll see you next time.

1:26 p.m.
Kelvin Lewis was talking about his 28-point performance, which included 11-of-15 shooting from the field and six successful three-point attempts, a C-USA Tournament championship game record. He closed by saying, "Glory to God."

To which Penders immediately added, "And your jump shot."

1:23 p.m.
In the post-game interview room, Tom Penders referred to the game as "a gritty, gutty win for our kids. They just refused to die. What heart."

This is Penders' first trip to the NCAA Tournament since he took George Washington to the Big Dance 11 years ago.

"We're dancing. I may be dancing a little slower than the last time I went there, but we're dancing," Penders said. "When you don't expect it, it's even sweeter. But we ain't done yet."

1:01 p.m.
Tom Penders just cut down the final strands of the net, and then held it skyward as the Houston band played the Olympic theme and the players and fans cheered. A special moment for the Cougars.

12:57 p.m.
One of the most amazing aspects of Houston's victory is the way the rest of the team made up for Aubrey Coleman's shooting woes. Coleman was 4-of-20 from the floor. Everybody else was a combined 23-of-38. That's a sparkling 60.5 percent.

12:54 p.m.
No offense to UTEP, which has had a spectacular season, but you have to feel good for the Cougars. This is what March Madness is all about, a team getting a second chance to make up for a season that did not live up to expectations, and then taking full advantage. It is obvious the sheer joy being demonstrated by the players and head coach Tom Penders right now as they continue to celebrate on the court.

12:50 p.m.
The C-USA all-tournament team has been announced. Kelvin Lewis is the tournament MVP. Teammate Aubrey Coleman joins Lewis on the all-tournament team, along with Arnett Moultrie and Randy Culpepper of UTEP, and Southern Miss' Gary Flowers.

12:44 p.m.
They're dancing on the court at the BOK Center. That's because the Houston Cougars just finished off an improbable four-game run to win the Conference USA Tournament and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, the Cougars are going to the Big Dance. UTEP is expected to join them as an at-large team. Congratulations to both teams for putting on a great, great championship game.

12:41 p.m.
Since falling behind 65-56 with eight minutes to play, Houston has outscored UTEP 25-8.

12:38 p.m.
Aubrey Coleman has an odd stat line. He is a dismal 4-of-20 from the field. Yet overall he has 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.

12:35 p.m.
Despite all his problems today, Aubrey Coleman just came up with a big steal and basket. Houston suddenly has built a 78-72 lead with 42 seconds to play.

12:32 p.m.
Amazing. Junior guard Adam Brown just scored his first points of the game, a huge three-pointer that has given Houston a 74-70 lead with 2:06 left. The Cougars are two minutes away from the NCAA Tournament, if they can hang on.

12:30 p.m.
I don't think Kelvin Lewis is going to let the Cougars lose. He just hit another three-pointer - his sixth of the game - to give Houston a 71-70 lead with 3:11 remaining. Lewis has 28 points, one shy of his season best.

12:26 p.m.
Houston has a big problem inside. Maurice McNeil has fouled out and starting forwards Sean Coleman and Kendrick Washington have four fouls each. If the Cougars play tough down low, they'll run out of interior players. If they play tentatively, Caracter and Moultrie will dominate. It's a bad position to be in.

12:23 p.m.
And just like that, the momentum goes back to UTEP. Houston forward Maurice McNeil just fouled out, and the Miners have padded their lead to 69-64.

12:20 p.m.
Things are getting interesting. Derrick Caracter just picked up his fourth foul, and Randy Culpepper has missed his past four shots. The Cougars are on an 8-0 run and trail by only one at 65-64.

12:16 p.m.
Kelvin Lewis again, with another trey. He now has 25, and the Cougars have clawed back to 65-62.

12:13 p.m.
Kelvin Lewis is doing his best to keep Houston in the game. The senior guard just hit a three-pointer to cut UTEP's lead to 65-59. Lewis now has 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and is 4-for-8 from three-point range. His season high in scoring is 29.

12:10 p.m.
Caracter is feeling it, and the Miners are starting to take control. UTEP has built a 65-56 lead with eight minutes to play.

12:07 p.m.
Houston is having to work hard in an effort to contain UTEP's powerful inside game, and it's starting to take a toll. Starting forward Sean Coleman just picked up his fourth foul, and fellow starting forward Kendrick Washington has three fouls. And we still have 10 minutes remaining.

UTEP forwards Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie have combined for 26 points, and their numbers should continue to increase now that the Cougars are in foul trouble.

12:01 p.m.
The non-Aubrey Colemans are now shooting 62 percent from the field for Houston. Coleman, meanwhile, has been sitting on the bench lately, rubbing his left knee and wondering what happened to his shooting touch.

11:46 a.m.
The Cougars will not go away. We're tied at 48 five minutes into the second half. Take away Aubrey Coleman's 2-of-14 shooting performance, and the rest of the Cougars are a combined 16-of-27 (59.2 percent).

But despite his shooting woes, Coleman is contributing. He has seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

11:42 a.m.
While Aubrey Coleman is struggling, UTEP's Randy Culpepper is playing like the conference Player of the Year that he is. Culpepper has made 8-of-13 shots and has 17 points and three rebounds.

11:23 a.m.
An extremely entertaining first half ends with UTEP leading 43-38. This game has been high-scoring compared to recent C-USA Tournament championship games. The losing team in the past four title games has failed to reach 60 points. In fact, the Miners have already scored more points in one half than Tulsa did in losing last year's title game to Memphis 64-39.

11:17 a.m.
Kelvin Lewis has been taking up the slack for Coleman. The senior guard has scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

11:15 a.m.
Aubrey Coleman continues to struggle. He is now 1-for-9 from the field. Yet Houston trails by only a point at 35-34. If the Cougars can stay close until Coleman finds his touch, they can definitely win this game.

11:11 a.m.
Houston starting forwards Kendrick Washington and Sean Coleman have already picked up two fouls each. So Houston head coach Tom Penders has been forced to put 6-foot-9 reserve freshman forward Kirk Van Slyke into the game.

Van Slyke averaged only 9.7 minutes of playing time this season, but he has already played nine minutes today. Penders is sticking with Van Slyke, even though the freshman has picked up three quick fouls himself.

10:57 a.m.
UTEP leads 18-17 midway through the first half, and the stats are just as even as the score. The Miners are 7-of-15 from the floor, Houston is 7-of-16. UTEP has nine rebounds to Houston's eight, and both teams have only two turnovers. The only significant statistical difference is in assists, where the Cougars have a sizable 6 to 1 advantage.

10:52 a.m.
Unless UTEP gets up by 20 or 25 points, I would never count the Cougars out of this game. The Miners appeared to be taking command early, building a 16-7 lead. Then Maurice McNeil hit two shots in less than a minute, and now Houston has cut the lead to 16-14.

10:50 a.m.
Aubrey Coleman, the engine who powers the Cougars, has already taken five shots and has missed all of them. Of course, Coleman got off to a slow start in Friday's semifinal game as well, and then came on strong and finished with 27 points.

10:44 a.m.
There have been no early-morning doldrums so far, as both teams are pushing the ball up and down the court at a brisk clip. UTEP leads 11-7 barely four minutes into the game. We definitely are on pace for a game in the 70s or 80s.

10:32 a.m.
No matter who wins today's game, a 15-year statistical anomaly will continue. In the entire history of the C-USA Tournament, no team with an even-numbered seed has won the event. That streak will not be broken this year, as UTEP is seeded No. 1 and Houston is seeded No. 7. How odd.

10:28 a.m.
One bit of housecleaning from yesterday before we get started with today's game. For the second time in three days, a play from the C-USA Tournament was in the top-three of ESPN's Top 10 Plays of the Day. This time it was R.L. Horton's 77-foot shot at the end of the first half against Houston. That play was ranked No. 2, behind only Evan Turner's buzzer-beater that enabled Ohio State to defeat Michigan.

Horton's heave follows a spectacular lane-driving slam dunk by Tulsa's Justin Hurtt in the opening round that was ranked No. 3 on Wednesday's list. It would be tough for another conference to top having a pair of top-three plays in the same tournament.

10:19 a.m.
Good morning, and welcome to the championship game of the GMC Sierra 2010 C-USA Basketball Championship. Our bellies are full of bacon and eggs and we're ready for one more game of exciting C-USA Tournament basketball.

The championship game pits the top-seeded UTEP Miners and their 16-game winning streak against the upstart Houston Cougars, who are trying to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by pulling off their first four-game win streak of the season.

It should be a good one, and we're less than 15 minutes from tip-off.

March 12, 2010

8.26 p.m.
It's been three great days of basketball. Now we have one game to go, and it's the biggest one of them all. The tournament championship between UTEP and Houston will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. We'll be back courtside with all the action. See you then.

8.23 p.m.
Houston is now 40 minutes away from making the NCAA Tournament, which would be a surprising accomplishment considering that the Cougars entered the C-USA Tournament needing to win four consecutive games to make the NCAAs, and they had not even won three straight games since the opening month of the season.

Aubrey Coleman gave all the credit to Houston head coach Tom Penders, and in the process nearly brought Penders to tears.

"I just want to thank Coach Penders for never giving up on us," Coleman said. "Even though we didn't have as good a season as we wanted, he never pointed fingers at anybody and never gave up on us."

When asked if he had any response, Penders wiped his eyes and said, "I can't add anything to that."

8.15 p.m.
USM head coach Larry Eustachy said he thinks his team simply wore down in the closing minutes against Houston. He pointed out that the Golden Eagles had played at East Carolina in the regular-season finale last Saturday, then went ahead and made the trip to Tulsa for the start of the C-USA Tournament instead of returning briefly to Hattiesburg.

So by yesterday, USM had been on the road for eight days, and had played four games in a seven-day span. They are now set to return home by bus on Saturday.

"We just ran out of gas. We were on empty," Eustachy said. "Fatigue got us. We're beat down physically and mentally. "So what we need now is a nice 12-hour bus ride."

7:37 p.m.
The Cougars got the style of play - and the end result - that they wanted. Houston holds off Southern Miss 74-66 to advance to the championship game of the C-USA Tournament. Houston and UTEP will play at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for the tournament title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

7:32 p.m.
Horton has kept USM's slim hopes alive with a three-pointer. But even with that shot, the Golden Eagles trail 69-64 with only 30 seconds left. If the Cougars can make a few free throws, they'll win.

7:29 p.m.
Houston has lost the rebounding battle in this game, but junior forward Maurice McNeil just had a big one. With the Cougars holding a 63-59 lead, McNeil grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. He made only one of the two foul shots, but with less than a minute to play, that extra point might end up being enough.

As a team, the Cougars have only eight offensive boards. McNeil has six of them.

7:22 p.m.
We have the makings of a fantastic finish. Houston leads 61-59 with 2:15 remaining. This should be good.

7:13 p.m.
A game in the 50s would have been perfect for Southern Miss. It's not going to happen. Houston leads 59-54 with six minutes remaining. The Golden Eagles can still win, obviously, but this game has not been played at their preferred slow-down pace since about midway through the first half.

7:09 p.m.
Aubrey Coleman now has 20 points, giving him at least 20 in each of his three tournament games. His three-game totals so far are 70 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Again, this should be your tournament MVP, win or lose.

7:00 p.m.
Aubrey Coleman just turned in a nifty baseline drive that ended with a reverse scoop layup. He followed that up with a three-pointer, giving Houston a 51-44 lead midway through the half.

Coleman has 18 points in this game, and should be considered the front-runner for tournament MVP. No single player has been more important to his team than Coleman has for Houston.

6:54 p.m.
Southern Miss continues to dominate on the boards. The Golden Eagles have outrebounded Houston 27-14, including 14-6 on the offensive end. Yet Houston holds a 44-40 lead.

6:46 p.m.
USM head coach Larry Eustachy just sent the cameras of the photographers sitting along the baseline into overdrive. Upset with an official's decision, Eustachy began stomping and hopping along the sideline for several seconds.

Four photographers turned in unison toward Eustachy, and the rapid clicking of shutters became noticeably audible. Though not as audible as Eustachy himself.

6:37 p.m.
Unofficially, Horton's heave was a 77-footer.

6:23 p.m.
R.L. Horton just turned in what probably will end up being the play of the tournament (though Justin Hurtt's opening-night slam is close). After Houston's Aubrey Coleman hit a layup in the closing seconds of the half, Horton took the ensuing inbounds pass and flung the ball three-fourths of the length of the court for a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Not only was it an amazing shot, but it enabled USM to pull to within 31-30 at halftime. Before that play, the Cougars were on a 19-7 run.

6:12 p.m.
The Cougars finally are starting to up the tempo of the game, which definitely would be their preference. Houston is on a 10-2 run that has tied the score at 22.

6:06 p.m.
More than 13 minutes into the game, Houston has managed only one offensive rebound. Overall, USM has outrebounded the Cougars 16-6.

6:03 p.m.
The Cougars have scored seven points in the first 10 minutes. That means they are on a 28-point pace for the game. This is the same team that scored 93 two nights ago against East Carolina.

6:00 p.m.
A nice gesture by the Tulsa fans. Several Golden Hurricane players just emerged from the locker room, and the Tulsa fans still in attendance stood and applauded. The players currently are milling in the stands, talking with the fans and exchanging hugs and handshakes.

It's nice to see fans can keep the game in perspective and acknowledge a team's effort, even when it doesn't result in a victory.

5:55 p.m.
And so it begins. Another Southern Miss game, another slow-down brand of basketball in which the opponent somehow gets sucked into the Golden Eagles' plodding style of play. Seven minutes in, USM leads 8-7.

5:47 p.m.
The second semifinal game between Houston and Southern Miss is underway, and it took USM head coach Larry Eustachy exactly four seconds to remove his sport coat. As soon as the opening tip was thrown in the air, Eustachy immediately stood up and took off the jacket.

Which leads us to wonder why he wore it in the first place?

5:43 p.m.
With UTEP in the title game, it marks the seventh consecutive time that the tournament's top seed has made it to the finals.

5:40 p.m.
One factor that would be easy to overlook in UTEP's victory was the play of junior guard Julyan Stone. Forget the fact that Stone scored only two points and missed all five of his shots from the field. He ran the Miners' offense to near perfection, with seven assists and just one turnover. He also had six rebounds and three steals.

5:36 p.m.
Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik said that UTEP's victory came down to three factors: the play of sophomore forward Arnett Moultrie (18 points on 8-of-10 shooting), Tulsa's 12 turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the game, and the Golden Hurricane's poor performance at the free-throw line (19-of-31).

"Those three things did us in." Wojcik said.

5:11 p.m.
UTEP is in the championship game following a 75-61 victory over Tulsa. It was an impressive victory for the Miners on the Golden Hurricane's home floor. Whichever team wins our second game - Houston or Southern Miss - is going to have its hands full in Saturday's title game.

5:09 p.m.
Tulsa's time is about to run out. UTEP leads 75-61 with 50 seconds on the clock. In addition, Jerome Jordan just fouled out for the Golden Hurricane.

5:07 p.m.
Randy Culpepper just showed why he is the C-USA Player of the Year with a play that might have ended Tulsa's comeback chances. After UTEP ran the shot clock down to near zero, and errant shot bounced long off the rim. Culpepper chased the ball down as it was going out of bounds and threw it off a Tulsa player.

It is still UTEP's ball, and now there is only 1:34 remaining.

5:04 p.m.
Another UTEP player has fouled out (Jeremy Williams) and the BOK Center is as loud as it has been since the opening tip. Tulsa is down 69-61 with two minutes left.

5:02 p.m.
Tulsa is not going to go down quietly (if at all). The Golden Hurricane has trimmed UTEP's lead to 69-59 with nearly three minutes left. It's still a longshot, but they do have a shot.

5:00 p.m.
UTEP's Derrick Caracter just fouled out after scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. The Miners definitely will miss his presence, but they still lead 69-57 with 3:20 left in regulation.

4:54 p.m.
Tulsa's Jerome Jordan is only 4-of-12 shooting in this game, but he has come up big on the boards. The 7-footer has 15 rebounds, which is only two away from the C-USA Tournament record of 17 that Jordan currently shares with UTEP's Arnett Moultrie and former SMU player Devon Pearson.

4:50 p.m.
Tulsa is making one finally push at the Miners. A 6-0 run has closed the gap to 63-49 with 5:12 left. It's still a daunting task for the Golden Hurricane, but there remains a glimmer of home.

Of course, if the Miners keep getting the ball to Randy Culpepper and Arnett Moultrie, it probably won't matter. Those two are a combined 14-of-21 from the floor and have scored 32 points.

4:45 p.m.
Not much has changed since the first half in terms of key stats. UTEP is shooting 54.3 percent from the field, Tulsa 34.2. The Golden Hurricane's turnover total has reached 17. And perhaps most damaging to Tulsa, it is only 12-of-22 from the free-throw line.

It all adds up to a 61-43 UTEP lead with only 6:19 to play.

4:39 p.m.
And we're back, after an unexpected sidetrip into the murky world of cyberspace. The computer is up and running again, and so are the UTEP Miners.

While we were gone, UTEP has built a 20-point lead, 59-39 with nine minutes to play. Tulsa keeps missing foul shots, and the Miners keep playing the same brand of solid basketball that propelled them to the top of the C-USA standings this season.

4:18 p.m.
Tulsa forward Joe Richard just missed two free-throw attempts. A comeback against this UTEP team is going to be hard enough for the Golden Hurricane without wasting easy points.

3:57 p.m.
The half closed with a small sign of life from the Golden Hurricane. After falling behind 35-21, Tulsa scored two consecutive baskets and then denied the Miners on their final possession. True, Tulsa still trails by 10 at 35-25, but the crowd and the team were both energetic as the first half ended.

3:50 p.m.
It's not difficult to diagnose this game from the stat sheet. The goal is to score more points than the other team, and the best way to do that is by shooting well. UTEP is 14-of-23 from the floor (61 percent). Tulsa is 5-of-17 (29.4 percent). Those stats will give a team a 13-point lead nearly every time.

3:48 p.m.
Every time Tulsa gets the crowd into the game with a small run, UTEP hits a basket to quiet the arena. The Miners have now pulled out to a 31-18 lead less than four minutes before halftime.

3:46 p.m.
Tulsa's task just got tougher, as freshman guard Donte Medder was helped to the locker room with an injury. Medder is a valuable role player for the Golden Hurricane, having put up 11 points and four assists in Thursday's quarterfinal victory over Marshall.

3:43 p.m.
Tulsa has committed 12 turnovers in the first 13 minutes. That's more turnovers than some teams commit in an entire game. No way the Golden Hurricane wins without taking better care of the basketballl.

3:38 p.m.
It's not that Tulsa isn't playing with emotion, it's that UTEP seems to be playing just a little bit harder, a little bit quicker. The Miners had built a 22-11 lead and currently are up 22-13 with 7:51 left in the half. Plenty of time, obviously. But the bottom line is that the Miners are on a 15-game winning streak for a reason. They're really good.

3:27 p.m.
The Tulsa hurricane mascot just took to the court during a timeout with an identically clad child close behind. The child must be the Tulsa Golden Tropical Depression.

3:23 p.m.
The intensity and crowd noise are picking up. This place is getting loud, including from a large number of UTEP fans who made the trip to Tulsa. The Miners lead 17-10, but it looks like Tulsa has settled down from its slow start and is ready to go the distance in this one.

3:20 p.m.
The timeout initially didn't do any good, as the Miners built their lead to 15-4. But Tulsa has just scored two consecutive baskets to cut the margin back to seven points at 15-8. That was enough for UTEP head coach Tony Barbee to call a timeout of his own. We're less than seven minutes into the game, and both coaches are already deep into strategy.

3:16 p.m.
Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik is trying to make sure this game doesn't get away from his team. He just called a timeout with UTEP leading 11-4. It's one thing to make a comeback against Rice and Marshall, as Tulsa did in the first two rounds. It's going to be much more difficult to do it against the top-seeded Miners, who are on a 15-game winning streak.

3:11 p.m.
For the third consecutive game in this tournament, Tulsa is off to a sluggish start. It took more than two minutes for the Golden Hurricane to score, and they just turned the ball over against the UTEP press. Miners take an early 7-2 lead.

2:55 p.m.
We already have one tournament champion in Conference USA. The Tulane women's team defeated UAB this afternoon 62-54 to capture the tournament title. Tulane is the first C-USA regular-season champion to also win the tournament championship since 2006. Danielle Nunn was named the tournament MVP. Congratulations to Danielle and the entire Tulane team.

2:22 p.m.
We are back for the semifinals of the GMC Sierra 2010 C-USA Basketball Championship. First up is top-seeded UTEP taking on hometown favorite Tulsa, beginning at 3 p.m. That will be followed by Houston vs. Southern Miss at 5:30 p.m.

We are less than six hours away from determining which two teams will meet in Saturday's championship game, with a guaranteed berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line. It should be a great doubleheader of basketball. So get ready. It all starts in approximately 40 minutes.

March 11, 2010

11:07 p.m.
We are down to the final four following UTEP's convincing 76-54 victory over UCF. The Miners will play Tulsa at 3 p.m. Friday in what promises to be a whale of a semifinal game. Houston will take on Southern Miss in the other semifinal at 5:30. The two winners will meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for the tournament title.

We will be back Friday afternoon for all the semifinal action, so be sure to join us then.

10:56 p.m.
Here is an odd stat. The current leading scorer in this game, UTEP junior forward Jeremy Williams, has made only three shots from the field. He is 3-of-5, with two of his buckets coming from three-point range. That's eight points. And he is 9-for-9 from the free-throw line, making for a total of 17.

10:38 p.m.
We just had the best individual match-up of the game. The UTEP miner mascot battled the UCF knight mascot. It was pick-ax vs. sword. The miner was at a distinct disadvantage, however, since the knight is wearing full armor and has a shield, while the minor is wearing blue jeans and has a bad Tom Selleck mustache.

Meanwhile, out on the court, UTEP leads 64-35.

10:27 p.m.
Marcus Jordan just entered the game. Unless Michael Jordan joins him, UCF doesn't have much a chance. UTEP leads 62-31 with 12:25 to play.

10:23 p.m.
We are quickly running out of things to say about this game. UTEP now leads 58-27. The stats are just as lopsided as the score. The Miners lead in rebounding 20 to 10, assists 14 to 6, and shooting 64.7 percent to 33.3 percent.

10:00 p.m.
An impressive first half by UTEP. The Miners made 68 percent of their shots (17-of-25) while holding UCF to 31.8 percent shooting (7-of-22), and they have a 48-20 halftime lead. It's too early to say that this one is over, but it's awfully close.

9:53 p.m.
Assuming the Miners hold on and win this game (and they currently lead 44-20), this will mark the second time in the past three years that only the No. 1 seed among the top four seeded teams made it past the quarterfinals. In 2008, top-seeded Memphis advanced while No. 2 UAB, No. 3 Houston and No. 4 UCF all lost.

9:50 p.m.
There are three UTEP fans in the stands wearing bright orange sombreros, and two others who are wearing orange hard hats. Don't they sell regular old baseball caps in El Paso?

9:48 p.m.
The Miners are taking care of business. UTEP is putting this one away quick, building a 39-18 lead late in the first half.

9:40 p.m.
Two early stats to keep an eye on. UCF has managed only two rebounds in 13 minutes. And the Knights have already committed 10 turnovers (to just two assists).

9:36 p.m.
This might be a case of one team simply being considerably better than the other. The Miners lead 30-14 and appear focused and determined to make sure they do not fall victim to the upset bug that has hit C-USA today. Plus, keep in mind that when these teams met during the regular season, UTEP cruised to a 96-59 victory

9:27 p.m.
All right, let's turn our attention to the final game of the day between top-seeded UTEP and the UCF Knights. The Miners have jumped out to a 17-9 lead.

All the other teams that received a first-round bye have lost today, and UCF is looking to make it a clean sweep. But to pull off the upset, the Knights will have to snap UTEP's 14-game winning streak.

To put that streak into perspective, the last time the Miners lost a game the NFL playoffs had just started, and the beginning of the Winter Olympics was still a month away.

9:21 p.m.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the success of the various senior classes at Memphis and the number of games they were able to win in the conference tournament.

Well, Tulsa's current senior class needs to start getting some credit as well. The Golden Hurricane has now won eight times in the C-USA Tournament over the past four seasons, including this one. Tulsa made it to the championship game each of the past two years, before losing to Memphis on the Tigers' homecourt.

9:15 p.m.
We said before the game that there would be plenty of blocked shots, and that was indeed the case. There were a total of 10 blocks: six for Marshall (all by Whiteside) and four for Tulsa.

9:13 p.m.
Marshall's downfall against Tulsa stems primarily from the lack of production by their starting guards. Damier Pitts, Dago Pena and Chris Lutz combined to go 2-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-9 from three-point range.

The Herd basically turned into a two-man team. Forward Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson combined to score 30 points. The rest of the team had 34. Whiteside and Wilkerson combined for 18 rebounds. Everybody else had a total of 17.

And there was one final state the led to Marshall's downfall. The Herd had only five assists, compared to 17 for Tulsa.

8:40 p.m.
It was a strong, strong effort by Marshall. But this game showed the difference between a team whose best players are seniors (Jordan and Uzoh for Tulsa) and a team whose roster is filled with freshmen and sophomores. When the Golden Hurricane got down, its seniors did not panic. And when Tulsa made it late-game run, Marshall's young players did not react well.

The result is Tulsa closed the game with a stunning 35-12 run and won going away, 80-64. Tulsa advances to play either UTEP or UCF in Friday's semifinals.

8:28 p.m.
Like we said about Ben Uzoh, superior quality. He won't end up as Tulsa's leading scorer tonight - that honor is going to Jerome Jordan - but he has hit several of the most important baskets. He just made another jumper with the shot clock winding down, and it probably sealed the victory for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa leads 75-64 with only 1:30 remaining.

8:20 p.m.
Another Tulsa slam, this one by Steven Idlet. The Golden Hurricane leads 71-61 with less than four minutes to play. Does Marshall have one final run left?

8:16 p.m.
Tulsa is taking control of the game. The Golden Hurricane is on a 24-6 run and has surged to a 69-58 lead. There's still nearly six minutes left, but Marshall has to counter now, or this one is going to get out of reach.

8:04 p.m.
Channel your inner Dick Vitale, baby. Ben Uzoh to Jerome Jordan for the crowd-pleasing dunk. Tulsa is back in front, leading 59-58 midway through the second half.

7:53 p.m.
Justin Hurtt, who turned in the play of the tournament's opening night with his soaring one-handed dunk against Rice, is at it again. Though it wasn't quite as impressive as last night, he just excited the crowd with another strong jam. That was followed by a Jerome Jordan basket, and suddenly Tulsa has closed the gap to 53-51 with still more than 12 minutes to play.

7:50 p.m.
Tulsa guard Ben Uzoh's name is pronounced the same way as the Greek drink Ouzo. According to some accounts, the word "ouzo" was used in 19th century Italy to designate that a product was of "superior quality."

That certainly would describe Ben Uzoh. He has been a key contributor to the Golden Hurricane's success this season, and he is working hard to keep Tulsa in this game. Uzoh has scored Tulsa's past six points and has 12 for the game, but it's not enough right now as Marshall has built a 52-45 lead.

7:31 p.m.
As befits the two tallest teams in the league, there is no difference at all in the big-man stats. The rebounding is even at 19-19, scoring in the paint is all square at 20-20, and both teams have blocked three shots.

7:25 p.m.
Marshall went on a 5-0 run to close the half and take a 38-33 lead. The difference so far has been at the free-throw line, where the Herd is 13-of-15, while Tulsa is only 6-of-9. That seven-point difference in foul shooting has Marshall in the lead.

7:19 p.m.
We're nearing halftime, and this game has last-minute game-winner written all of it. These are two evenly matched teams, as evident by the 33-33 score. Neither team has a clear edge in any aspect of the game.

7:10 p.m.
After watching the slogfest that was Southern Miss vs. UAB, it was inevitable that this game would be more uptempo. But so far it's been even more than that. Sort of like watching a 1920s black-and-white silent movie, and then going to see a showing of "Avatar."

During one recent possession, Tulsa's Ben Uzoh blocked a shot, Marshall's Dago Pena grabbed the ball and threw it over his head as he was falling out of bounds, the Herd tracked down the ball, missed a shot, and Tulsa grabbed the rebound.

It was 10 seconds of riveting action, and in the end nobody scored. As opposed to the USM-UAB game, which would be a full minute of no action, and in the end nobody scored.

6:57 p.m.
Marshall forward Antonio Haymon just took a shot ... from one of his teammates. Tirrell Baines collided with Haymon following a Marshall rebound, and Haymon looked a little woozy as he ran back downcourt.

No offense to Haymon, but Marshall fans probably are glad that it wasn't Baines who was shaken up in the collision. Baines already has eight points, three rebounds and three steals, which is one of the main reasons the Herd has a 21-17 lead.

6:41 p.m.
It took barely a minute for the first block of the game to occur, with Jerome Jordan getting the honors. It likely will be the first of many, since these two teams ranked one-two in the conference in blocked shots. Marshall easily led the way with 249, a staggering average of eight per game. Tulsa was second with 180, a 5.8 per-game average.

By comparison, SMU, Rice and Tulane all had fewer than 80 blocked shots this season. It took Marshall only 10 games to exceed that total.

6:29 p.m.
And we're back. It's time for what could be one of the best games of the tournament, No. 5 seed and hometown Tulsa vs. fourth-seeded Marshall. Both teams boast quality big men and some athletic guards. The teams split the regular-season series, so the winner of this game gets bragging rights and a trip to the tournament semifinals. It should be a good one.

5:39 p.m.
Next up is Tulsa vs. Marshall, beginning at 6:30 p.m. We'll be back soon with all the details.

5:34 p.m.
UAB head coach Mike Davis just concluded a brutally honest news conference in which he pulled no punches in talking about the way his team played against Southern Miss. We're not going to go into too many details, other than to give you his opening line, which pretty much sums up his feelings.

"I thought we were doomed from the start," Davis said.

4:52 p.m.
Hide the children. We're about to talk about UAB's shooting stats. The Blazers were 18-of-46 from the field (39.1 percent) and a horrific 4-of-15 from the free-throw line (26.7 percent). The Blazers had twice as many turnovers (10) as successful free throws.

4:48 p.m.
Southern miss prevailed 58-44. That is UAB's lowest point total in more than three years. The Blazers were never closer than eight points after falling behind 16-2 early. So basically, this game was decided in the first five minutes.

The Golden Eagles will play Houston in Friday's semifinals. It will be an interesting contrast in styles, with the uptempo Cougars trying to puncture USM's suffocating defense.

4:42 p.m.
This one is over. USM leads 55-39 with less than two minutes to play. They might not be pretty, but give the Golden Eagles credit. They have a style of play they are comfortable with, and when it works it gives the other team fits. Call it 40 minutes of dreck.

4:37 p.m.
While the Blazers have struggled at the free-throw line (two more misses brings their total to 4-of-15), Southern Miss has been money. The Golden Eagles have made 19-of-22 foul shots, including all eight of their second-half attempts.

Not hard to figure this one out. USM has scored 15 more points than UAB from the line. USM leads UAB by 13.

4:28 p.m.
The Blazers are particularly hurting themselves at the free-throw line. UAB has missed all four of its foul shots in the second half and is now 4-of-13 for the game.

4:23 p.m.
With 7:13 left to play, there is still plenty of time for UAB. Yet the Blazers simply have not shown the ability to make any sort of extended run at USM. Even though the Blazers doubled their anemic first-half scoring production in barely 12 minutes in the second half, they still trail by 12 points at 46-34, which is only three points less than their halftime deficit.

4:20 p.m.
UAB point guard Aaron Johnson passed the ball to teammate Jamarr Sanders, then urged the hesitant Sanders to "keep going" toward the basket. Instead, Sanders pulled up for a fadeaway jump shot. It wasn't what Johnson was looking for, but the shot was good.

4:16 p.m.
The pace is startling to be more to UAB's liking, as the Blazers have nearly doubled their first-half output in only 10 minutes. But the Golden Eagles continue to maintain a comfortable cushion and currently lead 44-32 midway through the half.

4:02 p.m.
The Blazers have scored nine points in the first four minutes of the second half. That doesn't sound overly impressive, until you consider it took them more than 10 minutes to score that many points in the first half.

But it's still an uphill slog for UAB, as Southern Miss leads 37-26.

3:50 p.m.
The halftime numbers are ugly for UAB. The Blazers finished the half with as many turnovers as made shots (six each). The Blazers made only 30 percent of their shots from the field, 44.4 percent from the free-throw line, and were outrebounded 18 to 12. Their leading scorer, Jamarr Sanders, has five points.

3:40 p.m.
Southern Miss held Tulane to 16 first-half points in Wednesday's opening round. UAB scored 17 points in the first half today. That's a total of 33 points in 40 minutes of playing time. Amazing.

The Golden Eagles lead 32-17 at halftime. That means if the Blazers can do no more than double their first-half output, then USM needs to score only three points in the second half to win.

3:23 p.m.
Fifteen minutes into the game, UAB has more turnovers (five) than made shots (four). That's no way to win a basketball game, and sure enough, the Blazers trail 25-11.

3:15 p.m.
UAB appears to have settled down after its early funk and has cut the Golden Eagles' initial 14-point lead down to nine. But the Blazers continue to struggle from the field, having made only 4-of-15 shots. With the way USM plays defense, the Blazers can't stay too far down for too long, or else they won't have enough time to come back.

2:56 p.m.
We're getting a late start talking about the second game between UAB and Southern Miss. And apparently the Blazers are getting a late start in playing it. Less than five minutes into the game, USM already has a 16-2 lead, and the Blazers were just called for a traveling violation coming out of a timeout.

2:51 p.m.
As far as Memphis forward Will Coleman is concerned, it wasn't the final shot by Houston's Aubrey Coleman that beat Memphis. It was the first half, when the Tigers fell behind by nine points.

"We slept on those first 20 minutes," Coleman said, "and it came back and bit us."

2:48 p.m.
Aubrey Coleman's leaner between two Memphis defenders turned out to be the game-winning shot. But the fact is, the Tigers were double-teaming the player they knew would take the final shot, and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said he doesn't know much else his team could have done differently.

"We trapped him, which we wanted to do, but the trap opened up just a little bit and he got through the seam and made the shot," Pastner said. "It was good defense, but better offense."

2:44 p.m.
Sometimes the stat sheet doesn't tell the entire truth, but there was a stat from the Memphis-Houston game that accurately summed up why the Cougars managed to pull out a one-point victory.

Houston outrebounded Memphis 46 to 33, including a staggering 22 to 6 advantage on the offensive boards. Those numbers enabled the Cougars to overcome their 35.3 percent shooting performance.

"Our kids shot 35 percent and won. That means you're doing a lot of other things very well," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "We really rebounded the ball extremely well. We had 22 offensive rebounds. That's huge. We had a lot of second and third shots, and you need that when you shoot 35 percent."

2:12 p.m.
Was there any doubt who was going to take the final shot for the Cougars? Aubrey Coleman split two Memphis defenders and drained a short lean-in jumper to give Houston a 66-65 upset victory over Memphis. This was a great, great basketball game.

Houston, the team of dead men walking according to head coach Tom Penders, is still alive. The Cougars will play the winner of our next game between UAB and Southern Miss in the semifinals Friday afternoon.

2:08 p.m.
Willie Kemp just did it again. After Aubrey Coleman hit a shot to give Houston a one-point lead, Kemp calmly drove inside for a layup, putting Memphis back in front 65-64 with 15.7 seconds on the clock.

2:03 p.m.
A cold-blooded three-pointer by Kelvin Lewis has put the Cougars back on top 62-61 as we hit the two-minute mark. Buckle up. It looks like we're in for a wild ride.

1:59 p.m.
Another basket by Kemp has given the Tigers their first lead since 11-8. The BOK Center is starting to sound like the FedEx Forum. With 3:12 left, Memphis leads 61-59.

1:56 p.m.
Two consecutive baskets by Willie Kemp has tied the game at 57, but give a big assist to Wesley Witherspoon. He had an offensive rebound that kept the ball alive and led to Kemp's first basket, and then on the next possession he tipped a defensive rebound out to Kemp, who proceeded to score on a fastbreak.

1:50 p.m.
If the Tigers end up losing this game - and they currently trail 55-49 with 7:47 remaining - one of the culprits will be the shooting of Elliot Williams. A first-team All-Conference selection, Williams is 0-for-7 from the field and has nearly as many fouls (four) as points (six). He averaged a team-best 18.5 ppg this season.

1:43 p.m.
Houston may have withstood the Tigers' best run. Memphis had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but didn't score. The Cougars have since gone on a 11-5 run to take a 53-45 lead with nine minutes remaining.

So despite all the good things the Tigers have done this half, at the moment they have trimmed only one point off Houston's halftime lead.

1:35 p.m.
Another block by Will Coleman. His second-half stat line after only eight minutes: six points on perfect shooting (2-of-2 from the field, 2-of-2 from the line), 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. Memphis has closed the gap to 42-40.

1:31 p.m.
Memphis junior forward Will Coleman is trying to single-handedly get the Tigers back into the game. He sandwiched a pair of slam dunks around a blocked shot of Aubrey Coleman, and Memphis has cut the Cougars lead to 42-37 with still 13 minutes to play.

1:25 p.m.
This isn't the way to make a comeback. The Tigers have now gone more than 10 minutes without hitting a basket. Their last successful shot from the field came with 6:05 left in the first half. Not surprisingly, Houston still leads by nine points.

1:10 p.m.
If the Tigers are going to win this game, they'll have to do something they have not done all season. The largest halftime deficit Memphis has overcome has been only five points.

1:03 p.m.
The Tigers are getting crushed on the boards. Houston outrebounded Memphis 26-17 in the first half, 11-3 on the offensive end. Those rebounds have offset a 37.1 percent shooting performance by the Cougars.

12:57 p.m.
Upset alert. Houston leads Memphis 36-27 at halftime. The Tigers have not been one-and-done in C-USA tournament play since 2004. Memphis is about to face its most important 20 minutes of the season.

12:52 p.m.
Another game, another solid outing by Houston senior guard Aubrey Coleman, who already has 12 points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist. He is the primary reason the Cougars have built a surprising 34-25 lead a minute before halftime.

12:43 p.m.
So far, it looks like Tom Penders was correct in saying that his team is dangerous because they have nothing to lose in this tournament. The Cougars jumped out to a 28-22 lead, and still lead by five late in the first half.

12:29 p.m.
A creative bit of taunting from the Memphis band. When the Cougars step to the free-throw line, the band sings the 1980s song, "We're Not Gonna Take It," but changes the words to, "You're not gonna make it. No, you ain't gonna make it."

Maybe they're on to something. The Cougars have missed three of their first seven free-throw attempts.

12:20 p.m.
Not only does Memphis have a 12-game winning streak in C-USA Tournament play, but the Tigers have won 15 of their past 16 tournament games, with the lone loss coming by one point in the 2005 championship game.

Even more impressive, every one of those 15 victories has been by double digits. The Tigers' closest contest during that stretch occurred last year, when they won their quarterfinal game against Tulane by 10 points.

12:05 p.m.
You can take the tournament out of Memphis, but you can't take Memphis out of the tournament. A good showing of Memphis fans have made the trip to Tulsa. This game will definitely have a homecourt feel for the Tigers.

11:46 a.m.
We have one final note from Wednesday's action. The soaring one-handed jam thrown down by Tulsa guard Justin Hurtt came in No. 3 on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day. It originally was No. 2, behind only a 360 catch-and-slam by the Denver Nuggets' J.R. Smith. But both those plays were bumped down a notch late last night to make way for E.J. Singler's tip-in at the buzzer that allowed Oregon to force overtime, and eventually win, in its Pac-10 tournament opener.

If you haven't seen Hurtt's dunk, check it out in the next few hours on SportsCenter. It might very well end up being the play of the C-USA Tournament, though we still have seven more games filled with exciting plays that could top it.

11:35 a.m.
Welcome back for the second day of the GMC Sierra 2010 C-USA Basketball Championship. We have four exciting quarterfinal games on tap for today, beginning with a cat fight between the Houston Cougars and the Memphis Tigers at noon. The teams split the regular season match-ups by almost identical scores, with Memphis winning at home 92-77 and Houston gaining revenge two weeks ago 92-75.

Today's deciding third game should be a good one. Houston head coach Tom Penders has proclaimed his squad to be Dead Men Walking, meaning they have nothing to lose and therefore are a dangerous opponent. The Tigers, meanwhile, have the NCAA Tournament squarely in their sights, having closed with seven victories in their past eight games.

The lone loss during that stretch? To Houston.

There is a lot on the line in this game and the three to follow. UAB plays Southern Miss at 2:30 p.m., Tulsa tussles with Marshall at 6:30 p.m. and top-seeded UTEP finally hits the court at 9 p.m. to take on UCF.

So settle back and get ready for another day great of C-USA basketball tournament action.

March 10, 2010

10:32 p.m.
And so the first day of marathon hoops comes to an end. UCF advances to the quarterfinals with a 69-53 victory over SMU. The Golden Knights will play top-seeded UTEP at 9 p.m. Thursday.

It's been a great day of basketball, but the best is yet to come, as Conference USA's top-four seeded teams take to the court for the first time on Thursday. The highlight of the quarterfinals undoubtedly will be the third match-up of the season between Tulsa and Marshall, and the individual battle between Tulsa's Jerome Jordan and Hassan Whiteside of Marshall.

Tulsa won the first meeting this season 73-69, while Marshall took the second game 64-58. Now it's time for the decisive rubber match, with the winner advancing to the tournament semifinals.

So join us again tomorrow, beginning at noon, for another action-packed day of Conference USA tournament basketball.

10:13 p.m.
The Mustangs' chances of making a comeback might have just ended. With 4:17 left and UCF leading 60-48, SMU's Papa Dia fouled out. The Mustangs have been struggling to find any offense in this game, and losing their second-leading scorer isn't likely to help.

10:04 p.m.
Well, all the indications that this was going to be a close game are starting to fall apart. SMU has scored only 12 points through the first 12 minutes of the second half and trail 56-42 with less than eight minutes to play. The Mustangs have got to live up to their name and embark on a late-game gallop if they want to advance to the next round.

9:55 p.m.
After building a 10-point lead, UCF sat on 48 points for several minutes. But the Mustangs couldn't take advantage, scoring only four points during the Knights' drought. Now UCF has regrouped and leads 54-42 midway through the half.

9:45 p.m.
Every time I see the UCF Golden Knights mascot, it reminds me how cool it would be if capes came back in style.

9:36 p.m.
Apparently the 15 or so minutes SMU coach Matt Doherty spent talking with his team at halftime didn't get through. Doherty called a full timeout one minute into the second half after UCF scored the first four points of the second half, and proceeded to talk to his players some more.

9:27 p.m.
Actually, the halftime stats indicate that this game couldn't be much closer. UCF is 12-of-22 from the field, SMU is 12-of-13. UCF has made 5-of-12 three-point attempts, SMU 6-of-11. UCF has six turnovers, SMU has five. Both teams have three steals.

UCF has a slight lead in rebounds (13 to 8) and assists (10 to 7). The one big difference is in points off the bench. Isaac Sosa has come off the bench to lead the Golden Knights in scoring with 11 points. Meanwhile, SMU's bench is scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting.

9:18 p.m.
We expected a close game and the two teams have delivered. UCF leads 32-30 at halftime. The game has been tight throughout and there is no indication that it won't remain that way until the end. It looks like the final game of the day could end up being the best.

9:14 p.m.
SMU 6-foot-9 forward Papa Dia got caught up with UCF 5-9 guard A.J. Rompza, and as Dia tried to get past him his elbow caught Rompza in the head. It looked to be inadvertent, but the officials whistled Dia for an intentional foul. Right or wrong, that's probably going to be the call anytime there is that kind of contact between a player who literally is a foot taller than his opponent.

The foul shots and ensuing basket by UCF have helped give the Golden Knights a 32-27 lead late in the first half.

8:52 p.m.
We are into the final game of the day, between SMU and UCF. This is a matchup between the No. 8 and 9 seeds, so it should be a close one. It certainly has started out that way, with SMU taking an early 18-15 lead.

8:48 p.m.
There is no doubt that Rice played an excellent first half against Tulsa and was very good for most of the second half. But in the end, Rice head coach Ben Braun said such a performance simply wasn't good enough.

"Playing a team like Tulsa at Tulsa, you can't be better for just 35 minutes or 36 minutes," Braun said. "You have to be better for 40 minutes. And we weren't able to do that."

8:40 p.m.
The sarcastic quote of the day goes to Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik. When asked what he said to his team at halftime with Rice leading 41-26, Wojcik replied, "I said some nice pleasantries and hugged everybody and we all got together and said how much we loved each other."

8:05 p.m.
That blast of air you just felt wasn't the wind coming sweeping down the plains. It was the collective sigh of relief from the Tulsa fans at the BOK Center. The Golden Hurricane kept from becoming one of the biggest upset victims in C-USA tournament history, battling back for a 73-62 victory over a gallant Rice squad.

Tulsa advances to play Marshall at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals.

8:00 p.m.
If Tulsa holds on, it will be the third time this season the Golden Hurricane has come back from a 15-point deficit. Tulsa did it this time on the strength of a 32-10 run.

7:57 p.m.
It's starting to look like Tulsa will avoid the upset. The Golden Hurricane lead 68-59 with only two minutes remaining. Give Rice plenty of credit for playing this well, but also credit Tulsa with regrouping at halftime and putting together an impressive second-half performance.

7:50 p.m.
Justin Hurtt put the hurt on Rice with the play of the tournament (so far). He took a pass from Jerome Jordan near the top of the key, then blew down the lane and threw down a soaring one-handed jam, in the process enticing Suleiman Braimoh into picking up his fifth foul. The momentum is now squarely on Tulsa's side, as Rice looks rattled.

7:42 p.m.
Rice is starting to make the silly mistakes that lead to an 8-22 record. The Owls just threw away the inbounds pass under their own basket. Seconds later Donte Medder drained a three-pointer for Tulsa, giving the Golden Hurricane its first lead of the game at 58-57.

7:39 p.m.
It's easy to spot the reason for Tulsa's comeback. After shooting 28.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Golden Hurricane has improved that number to 47.1 percent in the second. They already have made as many shots in the second half (eight) as they made in the entire first half.

7:33 p.m.
For the first time all game, the crowd at the BOK Center is getting loud. A three-pointer by Tulsa guard Justin Hurtt cut the gap to 53-49 with still nine minutes to play. It's officially a game again.

7:27 p.m.
Rice 6-foot-1 guard Connor Frizzelle just ignored the obvious size difference and drove down the lane past Tulsa 7-foot center Jerome Jordan. It was a gutsy move that appeared to catch Jordan off guard, as Frizzelle sprinted past him in a flash for what looked to be an easy layup.

The only problem was, about halfway to the basket Frizzelle simply lost control of the ball. That's the type of play an underdog needs to make in order to pull off the upset.

With that said, the Owls still have a sizeable 51-40 lead with 12 minutes to play. It's getting close to panic time for Tulsa.

7:18 p.m.
Give Rice credit. The Owls are playing solid defense and are scrapping for every loose ball. Win or lose, they already have turned in an admirable performance

7:11 p.m.
Hurricane warning. Tulsa is not wasting any time in making a second-half move, opening the half with an 8-2 run to close the gap to single digits at 43-34. The crowd remains visibly nervous, but you can also sense some growing confidence that their team might be able to pull this out.

7:05 p.m.
Take away a late-season non-conference victory over Texas A&M International, and Rice has not won a game since Jan. 30. But the Owls have been close in most of their games. In fact, when they played at Tulsa earlier this season, the Golden Hurricane had to fight for a four-point victory.

And keep in mind that Tulsa has not been playing great basketball lately. The Golden Hurricane entered the conference tournament 2-5 in the past seven games, including a 22-point loss to Memphis in the regular-season finale.

6:52 p.m.
In a promotion for CBS College Sports, the PA announcer just said, "In March, no team is safe." Right now, every Tulsa fan in the house couldn't agree more.

6:50 p.m.
Things haven't changed yet. Rice looks nothing like a team that won only one game in conference play all season. The Owls have flown to a stunning 41-26 halftime lead. The crowd at the BOK Center is in a state of shock.

6:21 p.m.
Jerome Jordan is still looking for his first basket more than eight minutes into the game. He has had two shots roll around the rim and fall off. Meanwhile, the Owls have been cooking with their outside shooting. Yet Rice's lead is only 14-9. If Jordan starts hitting his shots and the Owls cool off at all, this game could change in a hurry.

6:15 p.m.
The fans resumed standing after the timeout, and the Golden Hurricane finally came through with a three-pointer by Ben Uzoh five minutes into the game.

6:12 p.m.
Call it a standing O-klahoma. There is a tradition among all basketball teams in the state of Oklahoma that the fans stand until the home team scores the first basket. But Tulsa just made it difficult for its fans to uphold that tradition. The Golden Hurricane failed to score in the first four minutes in falling behind Rice 8-0. When the first official timeout took place at the 15:39 mark with Tulsa still scoreless, the leg weary fans at BOK Center finally took a seat.

4:33 p.m.
A late flurry of activity - relatively speaking, that is - prevented any low-scoring records from being set. USM prevailed 57-47 and advances to play UAB at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals.

We're about to take a break. We'll be back at 6 p.m. to watch hometown favorite Tulsa take on Rice.

4:24 p.m.
OK, the record will not be broken, though it seems like the Green Wave is trying. But an airball was followed by a fortuitous layup, and Tulane now has 39 points.

Now there are two things to watch for in the final 1:44. Will Tulane break 40 points, and will the two teams combine for more points than the 93 Houston scored by itself in the first game of the day. USM and Tulane currently have 89.

4:17 p.m.
With 2:26 to play, Tulane is in danger of setting the conference record for fewest points scored in a C-USA tournament game. The record of 39 was set last year by Tulane against Memphis. The Green Wave currently has 37.

4:06 p.m.
Tulane simply cannot score. Another layup just rolled off the rim. The Green Wave is on a point-a-minute pace, scoring 35 points in 35 minutes. The only thing that has prevented this from being a blowout is that USM's offense has been just as offensive. With five minutes left, the Golden Eagles lead 44-35. But in this game, a nine-point lead with five minutes to play might be insurmountable.

3:46 p.m.
During a recent timeout, the band played the cheesy 1980s hit "The Final Countdown." Which made those of us who are fans of the television show "Arrested Development" think about the bad magic acts performed by the character Gob Bluth.

So far, the biggest disappearing act in this game has been by the offenses. The score is 39-27 with 14 minutes left. At the rate Tulane is going, it might take some slight of hand for the Green Wave to crack the 50-point mark.

3:29 p.m.
The primary culprit for Tulane is as basic as it comes: poor shooting. The Green Wave went 7-for-31 from the field in the first half (22.6 percent). Tulane's leading scorers - Jordan Callahan and David Booker - have four points each.

3:23 p.m.
At halftime, Southern Miss leads Tulane 25-16. This is such an amazing contrast to the previous game. At the rate the Green Wave is scoring, it would take three full games to exceed the 93 points Houston put up against ECU.

Of course, low scoring games are nothing new for USM. The Golden Eagles allowed a league low 60.1 points per game this season, and during one stretch went 11 consecutive games without allowing an opponent to score more than 60. When Tulane played USM on Jan. 30, the Green Wave was held to a season-low 40 points.

3:02 p.m.
We have followed the high-scoring shootout between Houston and ECU with a defensive slugfest between Southern Miss and Tulane. The Green Wave has managed only 10 points in the first 14 minutes of the game, yet trail by single digits because USM has scored just 19 points.

2:50 p.m.
Several teams that had a first-round tournament bye still were busy today. Student-athletes from Marshall, Memphis and UAB spent time at Tulsa's Whittier Elementary School to talk about fitness and education. The children asked questions and the players shared personal experiences and advice.

2:43 p.m.
Southern Miss and Tulane are underway, with USM out to a quick 10-2 lead.

Interestingly, even though both these teams were charter members of Conference USA, they have never played each other in the 15-year history of the C-USA tournament.

2:39 p.m.
There was no emotional farewell from Mack McCarthy during his postgame news conference following ECU's loss to Houston.

"It really hasn't sunk in," McCarthy said. "I've had a really great career in terms of working at great schools with some really good people, and I did it as hard as I could every single day. So I don't really have anything but great memories right now."

ECU sophomore forward Darrius Morrow tried to get a little emotional when asked about the impending departure of his head coach. Morrow said of McCarthy, "I look at him as a father figure because ... ." But before Morrow could finish, McCarthy interrupted by saying, "Because I'm old."

2:27 p.m.
Houston head coach Tom Penders said his team is playing loose and without any nerves, mainly because the Cougars' 15-15 regular-season record has made them what he called DMW: dead men walking.

"The most dangerous person in a fight is that crazy person who think he's already dead," Penders said, with a bit of a crazy gleam in his eye. "What have you got to lose?"

2:22 p.m.
Impressive stat line from Game 1: Houston guard Desmond Wade scored 13 points, went 3-for-3 from three-point range, had seven assists, no turnovers and three steals.

As a team, The Cougars had 19 assists and only five turnovers.

1:54 p.m.
The Cougars held on for a 93-80 victory. That is the most points either team has ever scored in a C-USA tournament game. In fact, Houston's 93 points are the most scored by any team in the C-USA tournament in 11 years, and it is the most the Cougars have scored in any conference tournament game since 1978. Houston advances to play Memphis at noon Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Next up, Southern Miss takes on Tulane, with a scheduled tip time of 2:30 p.m.

1:48 p.m.
ECU has cut the margin to single digits at 89-80, but the Pirates' comeback might simply run out of time, since there is only a minute to play.

1:42 p.m.
Not dead yet. We might have buried the Pirates a bit too soon. ECU has now closed the gap to 88-78 with still 3:49 remaining. Like Jack Sparrow, these Pirates don't go away easily.

1:36 p.m.
Houston is putting this one away. It is 88-71 with less than six minutes to play. It will be a tough way for ECU coach Mack McCarthy to end his career. McCarthy announced on Saturday that he is resigning at the end of this season. Barring an amazing comeback, McCarthy will finish with a 34-57 record in three seasons at ECU and a 342-234 record in 19 seasons overall.

1:07 p.m.
In our ever-increasing world of corporate sponsorship comes this tidbit. The Werner Ladder Company is the official ladder of the NCAA net-cutting ceremony.

Take that NASCAR.

12:52 p.m.
So far, the BOK Center has been Cougartown. Houston leads 50-37 at halftime, and the Pirates have no answer for Aubrey Coleman, who has 16 first-half points. A second-half comeback by East Carolina would go against recent trends. ECU is only 2-14 this season when trailing at halftime, while the Cougars are 13-5 when leading at the half.

12:39 p.m.
Aubrey Coleman is feeling it. He just scored five points in less than a minute and has 14 for the game. Just another day at the office for the nation's leading scorer, who is averaging 26 ppg

12:28 p.m.
Houston senior guard Kelvin Lewis has a sweet-looking jump shot. That's one of the main reasons why he led the league in successful three-pointers this season with 89. That was 12 more then Randy Culpepper in second place and 20 more than the third-most prolific three-point shooters, Isaac Sosa and Justin Hurtt. It's also why he is about to pass Clyde Drexler on the Cougars' all-time scoring list.

Three-pointers by both Lewis and Aubrey Coleman, who has already passed Drexler, have helped Houston take a 29-23 lead 12 minutes into the game.

12:03 p.m.
The East Carolina band did its part in creating an upbeat atmosphere for the day's opening game. Just before tip-off, the band launched into a funky version of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Purple Haze," complete with a first-rate guitar solo. Nice job.

11:50 a.m.
Two months after being in "crisis mode," UTEP has been honored for having both the C-USA Coach of the Year and the Player of the Year. It was just announced that Tony Barbee was named the league's Coach of the Year, while Randy Culpepper was given top player honors.

This comes on the heels of the Miners winning the C-USA regular-season championship. It has been quite a turnaround for a team that lost three of four games in early January before embarking on their current 14-game winning streak.

"I thought we were in a little bit of a crisis mode," Barbee recalled. "And the only way you get out of a crisis is to make a change. And the change we made that sparked us on this run is we moved Jeremy Williams into the starting lineup. It made us a better defensive team and a better rebounding team."

Of course, having Culpepper in the starting lineup certainly helped as well. The junior guard averaged 18.1 points per game, sank 38.3 percent of his three-point attempts and had nearly two steals per game. Despite those impressive stats, Culpepper said he wouldn't have voted himself as Player of the Year.

"I'd have the team of the year," Culpepper said. "And it would be the UTEP Miners."

10:55 a.m.
This year's bracket has broken in an interesting manner. One half of the bracket is filled with teams that were in C-USA before the realignment of 2005: Houston, East Carolina, Southern Miss, Tulane, Memphis and UAB. The other half of the bracket consists of the league's six newcomers: Tulsa, Rice, SMU, UCF, Marshall and UTEP.

10:35 a.m.
Greetings from Tulsa, where we are slightly more than an hour away from the beginning of the GMC Sierra 2010 Conference USA Basketball Championship. After spending the past several years in Memphis, we are at a new location this year, the beautiful BOK Center in downtown Tulsa. But while the venue is different, the teams are set to provide the same exciting basketball action that we have grown accustomed to in C-USA.

So settle back and get ready for four days of basketball. It's March Madness, Tulsa style. The first game begins at noon, with Houston taking on East Carolina.

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