Tulsa picked up a 72-59 come-from-behind win over East Carolina in the Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Friday afternoon at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
With the win, the Golden Hurricane improves to 16-16 on the year and advances to Saturday’s C-USA Championship title game for the first time since 2006 where they will face No. 8 seed UCF. The Knights punched their ticket to the championship contest earlier in the day with an 89-77 win over UTEP. Tipoff for the title game is slated for 7 p.m., and the contest will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
The Pirates held a 33-22 halftime lead and appeared to be in control of the contest with a 15-point lead at 42-27 with 16:14 left in regulation. Tulsa, however, outscored East Carolina 45-17 the rest of the way and went ahead for good at 59-56 on a 3-pointer by guard Kelsee Grovey with 2:51 on the clock.
After hitting just 8-of-23 shots in the first half (.348), Tulsa connected at a .591 clip after halftime (13-of-22) to finish with a 46.7 field goal percentage. Defensively, the Golden Hurricane held East Carolina to a .278 showing in the second half (10-of-36) and 33.8 percent for the game (23-of-68). A big reason for the second-half surge came from the free throw line where Tulsa was true on 21-of-26 freebies (.808) during the stanza.
Tulsa’s first-team All-C-USA honoree Taleya Mayberry led all players with 30 points, and forward Tiffani Couisnard posted a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Couisnard also led all players with five blocked shots and three steals. Mayberry, who hit 10-of-15 free throws and canned a pair of 3-pointers along the way, paced the Golden Hurricane with three assists.
The Golden Hurricane got off to a red-hot start, racing out to a 7-0 lead, and held a 19-14 advantage with 8:55 to play in the first half. East Carolina took its first lead of the day at 20-19 on a Celeste Stewart free throw and went up by 13 at 33-20 with 2:09 to go before the break. Tulsa got a pair of Grovey free throws over the final two minutes of the period to make it an 11-point affair at the half.
The Pirates stretched their lead to 15 at 40-25 just under three minutes into the second half and led by the same margin two possessions later at 42-27. The two teams traded buckets over the next five minutes, and Mayberry sparked the comeback run with a jumper to make it 49-37 with 10:53 to play. Guard Kadan Bray added a trey and Mayberry got the deficit down to six with a layup and an and-one free throw.
Stewart halted Tulsa’s 6-0 run with a layup to make it 51-43, but Tulsa scored 13 of the game’s next 18 points to tie the game and set up Grovey’s go-ahead trey. From there, the Golden Hurricane got consecutive layups from Couisnard, and after an East Carolina bucket with 48 seconds remaining, hit 9-of-10 free throws in the last 43 seconds to account for the final score.
Center Britny Edwards led three East Carolina players with double-digit scoring totals with 20 points as Stewart finished with 12 and guard Kyani White added 10. Colleen Marshall came off the bench to lead the Pirates with three assists, Edwards added three blocked shots and Stewart paced the defense with a pair of steals.