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Tulsa 77, No. 5 UCLA 76, OT

November 21, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ With all the attention on UCLA’s rookie head coach, Tulsa’s young players stole the show by overcoming their inexperience in the clutch.

Zac Bennet, one of four freshmen in the Hurricanes’ lineup, converted the second of two free-throw attempts with two seconds remaining in overtime Wednesday night to help Tulsa upset No. 5 UCLA 77-76 in the opening round of the Preseason NIT.

``They didn’t play like freshmen,″ UCLA’s Kris Johnson said.

With former Bruins coach John Wooden looking on, 32-year-old Steve Lavin lost in his head coaching debut for UCLA. Jim Harrick, who led the Bruins to the national championship in 1995, was fired two weeks before the season.

``To lose in Pauley Pavilion in your debut is not what you have in mind,″ Lavin said. ``I’ll improve and we will improve every day.″

The winning point was just Bennet’s third of a game in which Tulsa star Shea Seals struggled to get free of UCLA’s defense. Seals finished with 19 points.

``We’re a young team, but we made enough plays at the end and showed the composure that enabled us to win,″ second-year Tulsa coach Steve Robinson said. ``Everybody stayed with it and hung in there.″

Tulsa will play host to a second-round game Friday against Oklahoma State, a 71-70 winner over St. Mary’s of California.

``A sweet win tonight, very big for the Tulsa program,″ Seals said.

With the game tied 76-76, Tulsa’s Jonnie Gendron missed a jumper from the right corner and Bennet was fouled by Johnson in a scramble for the rebound.

``I wasn’t even in the play, I was just watching,″ Johnson said. ``You can’t fault the ref. He saw a foul and he made the call.

On UCLA’s final possession, J.R. Henderson threw the ball out of bounds off Jelani McCoy to give Tulsa its second upset over the Bruins in three years. Tulsa surprised UCLA 112-102 in the first round of the 1994 NCAA tournament.

``I feel good,″ McCoy said. ``We did a lot of positive things and we’ll be all right.″

McCoy scored 19 points for UCLA, which made just one basket over a span of more than 14 minutes in the second half.

``No excuses not scoring more than one basket in 14-plus minutes,″ Johnson said. ``Maybe we just didn’t run any of our bread-and-butter plays.″

Michael Ruffin’s basket gave Tulsa a 72-70 lead at the start of overtime. He finished with 11 points.

Henderson scored four straight points to give UCLA its first lead since 9:31 of the second half.

Seals responded with two free throws and a basket as Tulsa led 76-74 with 1:30 to go. Bailey forged the game’s final tie on a jumper before Johnson committed his fourth foul to send Bennet to the line.

McCoy’s rebound basket with 1:24 to go in regulation ended a drought of 14:36 in which the Bruins failed to make a field goal. Seals fouled him under the basket, but McCoy missed the free throw to keep the Bruins trailing 70-68 with 1:24 to play.

Seals was short on a jumper from the right corner, and McCoy grabbed the air ball. At the other end, Johnson converted a layin with 46 seconds remaining to force overtime with the game tied 70-70.

``We lost our poise at the end of regulation, but we managed to regroup,″ Seals said. ``Coach was getting on me. I’m supposed to be the leader of the team, but I was tired at the end.″

Johnson finished with 14 points and Bailey added 13.

UCLA opened the second half with a 14-6 run, capped by McCoy’s dunk, to take its largest lead at 50-39.

But the Bruins committed two straight turnovers as Tulsa responded with 12 straight points to go up 51-50 with 12:37 remaining.

Johnson and Adrian Crawford traded baskets to forge a 52-52 tie.

Then the Bruins went cold. They didn’t make a field goal for the next 14:37, while trying to keep pace from the line.

UCLA managed to go up 59-56 on two free throws by Johnson.

Tulsa’s Jamie Gillin tied the game 59-59 on a 3-pointer.

His basket triggered 10 straight points, including five by Ruffin, as Tulsa took a 66-59 lead with 5:36 to play.

The Bruins hit seven of their next eight free throws to trail 70-66 before McCoy and Johnson teamed up with baskets that forced overtime.

Harrick, who was fired two weeks ago for lying about an expense report, wasn’t at Pauley Pavilion. But Johnson paid tribute to him by writing ``Coach Harrick″ in black ink on the back of his white shoes.

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