By KEN MACLEOD, Associated Press
TULSA (AP) — As Tulsa’s leading returning scorer and a 3-point specialist, Pat Birt is undeterred by a slow start — to a game or a season.
“It’s all about the next shot, you can’t dwell on the past,” said Birt, whose 13 points in the second-half and overtime after an 0-for-7 start on 3-pointers helped Tulsa edge UConn 61-59 Saturday.
Birt’s steal and layup with 1:12 left gave put Tulsa ahead 60-59, then he made one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left. He made two crucial 3-pointers late in regulation that helped Tulsa forge a 56-56 tie.
UConn’s Jalen Adams, who led all scorers with 18 points, missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Adams is one of the best guards in the conference and he was a handful for us today,” said Tulsa coach Frank Haith. “But I thought we showed some great fight today. We talked as a team (after losing two of three in Hawaii) about our identity and what Tulsa basketball has meant and I thought we got back to a little bit of that today.”
Birt made a steal and layup with 1:12 left to put Tulsa ahead 60-59 Adams missed a 3-pointer and Tulsa secured the rebound. Following a timeout, Birt missed a 3-pointer, teammate Will Magnay rebounded, but double dribbled, giving the ball back to UConn with 15.9 seconds remaining. But Rodney Purvis, who scored 12 points, missed a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Sterling Taplin had 13 points and six assists and was credited by Haith with playing an excellent floor game for Tulsa (7-6, 1-0 American Athletic Conference). Junior Etou scored nine and Martins Igbanu had eight points and seven rebounds.
Amida Brimah had nine rebounds, eight points and six blocks for UConn (5-8,, 0-2). The Huskies had 10 blocks but Tulsa continued to attack and finished with 28 points in the paint, four more than the taller Huskies.
Adams scored eight consecutive points for UConn down the stretch in regulation, including a pull-up jumper with 1:03 left, to give UConn a 56-54 lead. He had a chance to cement the win, but missed a drive with 15 seconds left and Tulsa’s Jaleel Wheeler converted on a twisting layup over the 7-foot Brimah with seven seconds left to force overtime.
The Huskies pulled ahead 41-34 before a 12-0 run sparked by six points by Igbanu gave Tulsa its largest lead at 46-41 with 7:51 left. UConn pulled back into a 48-48 tie. UConn shot 40 percent while holding Tulsa to 36 percent but had 17 turnovers to 11 for Tulsa. Tulsa made just 5 of 26 3-pointers (19.2 percent).
The Huskies, coming off a miserable first half in a 62-46 home loss to Houston, made 4 of 6 3-pointers, including 2 of 3 by Adams while Purvis made both his attempts, in taking a 28-27 halftime lead.
Tulsa: The win was Frank Haith’s 50th coaching the Golden Hurricanes. Tulsa scored 16 points off the 17 UConn turnovers and made 22 of 61 field goals (36 percent).
UConn: In addition to losing Adams for the conference opener at Houston, three scholarship players are out for the year: Terry Larrier, Mamadou Diarra and Alterique Gilbert with knee injuries.
Jalen Adams, after missing the conference opener against Houston with a concussion, played all 45 minutes, made 7 of 17 from the field and also contributed seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“I’m just glad he came back from his concussion,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “He played 45 minutes of gutsy basketball. He had a shot at the end to win the game. It was a great look. I just thought he gave us effort and life. That kid is a competitor.”
COLD FROM DISTANCE
Tulsa fancies itself a good shooting team and Haith says he sees it every day in practice, but the Hurricane made just 5 of 26 3-pointers.
“I thought we rushed some and took some that were contested,” Haith said. “We’ve got enough weapons that we should never be taking contested threes. Someone like Pat, I encourage him not to try to force things and let the game come to him. All he has to see is the ball going through the basket one time and that can come off a drive or a mid-range shot. He has become much better at his all-around game, driving and penetrating.”
Tulsa’s only returning starter, Birt has been averaging 9.2 points and his 3-point percentage was just 32.3 percent. His first 3-pointer to go down gave Tulsa a 51-48 lead with 3:22 left, and his second tied the game at 54-54 with 1:30 to play.
UConn finishes its two-game road trip at Memphis Thursday.
Tulsa is at Houston on Wednesday.
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