Four college basketball seasons came down to three seconds tonight in the NCAA Midwest Regional. Two last-second games produced a hall full of heroes and villains, not to mention drama, in Memphis State's last-shot victory over Boston College and Oklahoma's last-shot victory over Louisiana Tech.
Wayman Tisdale became the hero of Oklahoma with his turnaround jumper that beat Louisiana Tech, 86-84, with two seconds left in overtime. Andre Turner did the same for Memphis State, his 17-footer from the key with one second on the clock beating Boston College, 59-57.
The winners will play Saturday at 2 p.m. EST in the Midwest regional final, with the survivor going to the Final Four in Lexington, Ky.
There was drama to spare at Reunion Arena. Louisiana Tech (29-3) of the Southland Conference was ranked eighth in the nation but was an underdog against fourth-ranked Oklahoma (31-5). The same was said of Boston College (20-11), which seemed to be at an impossible height disadvantage against the fifth-ranked Tigers (30-3).
But both teams rallied from deficits. Louisiana Tech was down by 10 early in the second half. Boston College trailed by 12 with 9:09 left.
In a game with more turns than a Dallas freeway, Tisdale, with Louisiana Tech's Robert Godbolt in front of him and Willie Bland in back, sent up the toughest 6-foot turnaround of his life. It hung on the rim about three seconds, started to slide off, then fell in with two seconds left.
"I thought, in, out, in," said Louisiana Tech Coach Andy Russo. "That shot hung on the rim for about 10 minutes."
"It seemed like it took forever," said Tisdale, who had a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds. "I had two or three men on me. I just tried to turn and shoot a quick, smooth shot. I wasn't trying to run that much time off the clock."
Boston College had the ball with four seconds remaining and the score tied, 57-57. The Eagles held the ball two nerve-racking minutes, then called time with 14 seconds left. After two more timeouts, one of them Boston College's, they finally took the court again.
But Roger McCready lost Skip Berry's pass. Memphis State freshman Vincent Askew got the ball and passed to Turner, who scored with guard Michael Adams staring him in the face.
"I got the pass, dribbled once or twice, and shot it," Turner said. "I never enjoy it when it comes to one shot. I'd rather we were up by 10 or 12 and could rejoice."
Just last Sunday, he made a 17-footer with five seconds left to beat Alabama-Birmingham in the second round.
"It's probably the toughest loss I've ever had . . . " Boston College's coach, Gary Williams, said. "We knew what we wanted to do. We had run the same inbounds play all year. It didn't work this time."
Oklahoma's victory probably was the more thrilling. Tisdale's shot didn't end the drama. With one second left, Karl Malone (20 points, mostly against Tisdale) caught an arching inbounds pass at the top of Oklahoma's key and called time with one second left. On Godbolt's next inbounds pass, Malone went up for an alley-oop, and just missed.
"I got a hand on it," he said, "but I wasn't able to put it down. I figured it would hit the rim and even if it did, I figured I could get it in. But I couldn't get a handle on it."
Tisdale scored the first four points in overtime for an 82-78 lead. But Malone got inside twice, separated by Anthony Bowie's drive for Oklahoma, and it was 84-82. Godbolt went to the foul line with 18 seconds left and tied it at 84.
The Sooners' trouble started when, with a six-point lead, Tisdale got his fourth foul at 9:02 and went to the bench. The Bulldogs looked dead when they trailed by 10 with 11:39 left. But they then went on a 14-4 run. They cut it to two on Alan Davis' layup, and Davis tied it at 72 when his jumper from the corner rolled around, then dropped.
Tisdale scored on a turnaround jumper with 1:56 remaining to give the Sooners the lead, 74-72. Bland scored inside with 20 seconds left off teammate Wayne Smith's air ball. Oklahoma couldn't score, and the game went into overtime.
"I guess our kids figure if their scoring averages aren't where they want them to be, they should play five more minutes," Oklahoma Coach Billy Tubbs said.
The Eagles almost shut down Memphis State' top scorer, Keith Lee, who had three fouls in the first five minutes and finished with eight points. Their height disadvantage was like this: center Trevor Gordon is 6 feet 9, and no one else is bigger than 6-5. The Tigers had Lee and 7-footer William Bedford, who had a game-high 23 points.
Boston College went on a 12-point run over three minutes to turn around what had looked like a blowout. It became a heart-in-the-mouth thriller, and McCready tied it at 53 on a layup with 5:54 left.
The Eagles had trailed, 53-41, when they started the run with 9:09 left. They converted the Tigers' two straight turnovers, Terence Talley making a reverse layup off Adams' steal, and Adams making a jumper off Gordon's steal 30 seconds later. That made it 53-47.
Lee lost the ball on the next posession, and Gordon turned it into a three-point play. Talley made a foul shot for 53-51, then stole the ball and fed McCready, who tied it with 14 seconds left.
"We got ahead by 12 and then played like we were behind," Memphis State Coach Dana Kirk said. "But Boston College is just that kind of team. As quick as they seem out of it, they get back in it . . . you've got to win close ones like this to get here. We put ourselves in the situation and we got ourselves out of it."