STILLWATER, Okla. — Senior Sei Paye hit a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer and UTSA rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit in a thrilling 78-77 victory against Oral Roberts on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
Junior Kannon Burrage scored 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second
half, while sophomore Jeromie Hill (12), junior Michael Hale III (11) and senior Stephen Franklin (10) also finished the game in double figures.
Steve Roundtree made 1-of-2 free throws for a 77-75 Golden Eagles lead with four
seconds to play. Hill grabbed the rebound on the missed second attempt and passed to Paye, who dribbled
across midcourt and drained a running three as the horn
sounded to lift the Roadrunners (2-0) to their first victory in three tries against Oral Roberts (0-2).
UTSA, the tournament’s No. 8 seed, trailed 46-31
at intermission but shot 63 percent (17-of-27) in the second half to advance to
the Midwest Regional Championship Game against second-seeded Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The Cowboys (2-0) defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 73-46, in the Tuesday's opening tilt.
The winner will advance to the semifinals on
Wednesday, Nov. 23, at New York City's "Mecca of Basketball," Madison Square Garden.
The Roadrunners held the Golden Eagles to 34.8 percent shooting (8-of-23) after halftime
and turned 15 ORU turnovers into 25 points in winning for the seventh
time in the last eight games away from the Alamo City.
The two teams traded baskets to open the second frame before UTSA went on a 16-2 run to cut the deficit to one.
A trey from the corner by sophomore Jordan Sims and a rebound follow by sophomore Igor Nujic made it 50-45 with 14:09 remaining. Burrage drained a jumper from the free-throw line and Hale found Hill all alone under the basket for a layup to make it a one-point contest.
Burrage knotted the score at 54 after he converted a 3-point play on spinning layup while being fouled. Roundtree answered with a baseline jumper at the other end, but Burrage drained a long trey from the top of the key to give UTSA its first lead since the 7:52 mark of the first half. The East Moline, Ill., native struck again from the same area, this time banking one in off the glass, to push the advantage to 62-56 with just over eight minutes to play.
Burrage continued his hot play, as he made three free throws and came up with a steal and fast-break layup that pushed the Roadrunners' edge to 67-60 with 5:35 left.
Senior Stephen Franklin, who had 10 points and a career-high five steals for the second consecutive game, converted a pair at the charity stripe to put UTSA up, 73-67, with 2:18 on the clock.
Oral Roberts then reeled off seven unanswered points, four coming off Roundtree free throws and three from a long distance connection by Warren Niles, to take back the lead, 74-73, with 1:11 remaining.
Burrage responded with a 15-foot jumper with 49 ticks left, but Dominique Morrison found the bottom of the net from the baseline 20 seconds later to put the Golden Eagles back on top, 76-75.
After Burrage could not convert on a running jumper with the clock winding down under 10 seconds, UTSA was forced to foul. Niles missed both, but Roundtree came up with a huge offensive board for ORU. He was fouled with 4.8 seconds left but only could convert the first of two free throws to give the Golden Eagles a two-point cushion and set up the heroic final shot from Paye.
Burrage finished 7-for-11 from the field, including 2-of-3 from downtown, and 6-for-8 at the line in just 20 minutes of action off the bench. Hill added a team-high eight rebounds, while Hale had five assists and a pair of steals. Paye finished with eight points, making 2-of-3 from behind the 3-point line, including the game-winner.
UTSA shot 55.1 percent for the game (27-of-49), including 7-for-16 (43.8 percent) from long range, and came up with 10 steals, their second straight game in double figures.
Roundtree matched Burrage with a game-best 22 points on the strength of a 6-for-8 night from the field and a 10-for-12 performance at the free-throw line. He also grabbed nine rebounds in logging 28 minutes. Niles poured in 20, while Morrison added 17.
UTSA built an early seven-point lead behind balanced scoring. Nujic converted a 3-point play and Hill had a pair of baskets to help stake the Roadrunners to a 15-8 advantage through the opening 6:28.
Oral Roberts fought back to take a 20-19 edge on a pair of Michael Craion free throws at the 8:53 mark. The two teams exchanged leads four times before the Golden Eagles used a 12-0 run as part of a 20-5 stretch to build a double-digit lead at the break.
A layup by Hill at the 2:32 mark pulled the Roadrunners to within 34-31, but ORU responded by making its last five shots, including a 3-pointer by Jake Lliteras at the buzzer that made it 46-31.
The Golden Eagles shot 62.1 percent (18-of-29) in the half and connected from downtown five times. Meanwhile, UTSA shot 45.5 percent (10-of-22), but it made just 2-of-8 from behind the arc.