Dec. 21, 2007
HONOLULU - Senior David Gomez's long wait for his first collegiate game-winning shot is finally over. Gomez nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key with nine seconds remaining to lead Tulane to a 70-69 come-from-behind victory over Georgia in front of 6,077 in the consolation bracket of the 2007 Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Tulane (7-4) will close out the 44th Classic against St. John's (5-3) this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. HST/5:30 p.m. CST. The contest will mark the first meeting between the two schools since the 1992 NCAA Tournament first round when the Green Wave knocked off the then Redmen, 61-57, at The Omni in Atlanta, Ga., for Tulane's first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
Trailing by a single point, Tulane's Donnavan Stith was forced to foul Dave Bliss with 19 seconds remaining. Bliss, a 76 percent free throw shooter this season, connected on his first attempt, but misfired on his second, leaving Tulane with a two-point deficit (69-67), and the Green Wave called timeout to set up its last second shot.
On the winning play for the Green Wave, sophomore Kevin Sims took the inbounds pass and was immediately contested by UGA's players. Sims then dribbled down the right side toward the baseline and the Bulldog's defense quickly enveloped TU's 5'10" guard. However, Sims alertly looked back to the top of the key where Gomez was standing all alone with no Georgia player within eight feet. Sims popped a quick pass to Gomez and the Baton Rouge, La., native squared up and launched the ball in one motion, and sank his first game winner with nine ticks on the clock.
Georgia dribbled the length of the floor and did get a shot off, but the desperate attempt hit the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded.
"The play was called in the huddle and it could have gone either way (two-point or three-point attempt). Luckily, Georgia collapsed on Kevin (Sims) and he sent a good pass out to me and I was wide open. I don't think they (Georgia) were expecting me to shoot a three at the end of the game and I was lucky enough to hit it," Gomez said. "As a senior, when the games get close like this one, I always envision myself being able to take that last shot and that had not happened to me. At this point, luck was on my side and I hit the shot."
The game featured seven ties and 14 lead changes. Tulane trailed for much of the second half, but never by more than five points. The Green Wave stayed within striking distance and trailed by two points or less nine times during the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Senior Matt Wheaton tied the game at 54 apiece with a pair of free throws at the 8:16 mark. The teams then traded the lead twice heading into the final minutes. Tulane took its largest lead of the second half when Stith sank a three-pointer to give the Wave a 61-58 advantage with 5:03 remaining.
Georgia countered quickly and reeled off seven straight points in just over a minute to reclaim a two point lead when Billy Humphrey canned a three-pointer. Georgia maintained the lead for the next two minutes, but Gomez converted a tough lay-up on a fast break to bring TU to within a point with 1:44 showing on the clock.
On the ensuing possession, Georgia big man Jeremy Price missed a jumper and Tulane looked to have a great opportunity to take the lead, but Gomez misfired on a long jumper, which was ironically just a foot in front of where he would take his game winning shot.
TU was then forced to foul and UGA's Corey Butler converted both attempts to push the Bulldogs out to a three-point advantage with 33 seconds remaining. Tulane closed within a single point on junior Robinson Louisme's drop in with 0:21 left in the game.
"We wanted to give ourselves a chance to make the best play," Tulane head coach Dave Dickerson said. "Georgia is probably the biggest team we have played all year and they had taken away our inside looks the last five minutes of the game. We wanted to try and get the court spread and put the game in Kevin Sims' hands. He would either get fouled or make the right play for us and what a great find to find David Gomez wide open. Dave is a senior and our go-to guy and co-captain. He made an unbelievable play, but he made plays all afternoon for us and that's what seniors are supposed to do. My hat's off to Dave, Donnie Stith and Matt Wheaton because those guys led us to this win."
Tulane put together its best shooting performance of the year against the much taller Bulldogs. TU shot better than 55 percent in each half, including a sizzling 57.7 percent from the field in the second half. Tulane also knocked down its chances from long distance, hitting 7-of-13 treys for 53.8 percent, and the Wave only went to the free-throw line nine times, compared to 25 attempts for Georgia, but TU converted 75 percent of its opportunities.
Along with Gomez, Sims was hot all afternoon, hitting 4-of-8 field goal attempts, including all three treys and all four free throws. Sims, the team's leading assists leader with 4.6 per outing, handed out just one assist today, which came on Gomez's game winner. Louisme was once again a force inside, nailing 5-of-7 field goal attempts and finishing with 12 points.
One of the main factors that prevented Tulane from a victory over Saint Mary's was its 19 turnovers. Today, the Green Wave nearly cut its number in half with 11 for the game.
Price proved to be near unstoppable in the paint for UGA, scoring a team-best 22 points, while Humphrey added 14 points. Despite its size, the Bulldogs narrowly controlled the boards, 27-24, and committed just eight turnovers.
Tulane opened the first half on a promising note, scoring the first six points before Georgia could find its way into the scoring column. Gomez had the hot hand early for the Green Wave with 11 first period points, including a rare three-pointer.
Jeremy Price jump started the Bulldog offense with a bucket to put his team on the scoreboard. Following a Gaines three-pointer Price reeled off three more points on a jumper and a free throw to tie the game at 8-8. The teams then traded baskets and Georgia held a 14-13 lead at the 13 minute mark. Gomez and Louisme paced the Wave with six points each, while Price had already registered eight points.
The game was back and forth and Tulane led 16-15 when freshman Kris Richard drove into the lane from the left side for a tough lay-up. However, Troy Brewer drilled a three-pointer to give his team the lead and sparked an 8-2 run for the Bulldogs. Georgia eventually built its largest lead of eight points, 29-21, when Dave Bliss rolled in a shot from point blank range.
With UGA looking to put more distance between themselves and the Green Wave in the final minute, the Tulane defense stiffened and Sims, Tulane's leading scorer who was held scoreless for the majority of the first half, sandwiched a pair of long range treys around a turn-around jumper from junior Daniel Puckett and all of the sudden the game was tied at 29 apiece with 0:46 remaining.
Bliss helped Georgia regained the lead when he hit a jumper underneath the basket. Senior Donnie Stith brought the Green Wave to within a point when he hit 1-of-2 free throw attempts, and the Bulldogs held a narrow, 31-30, lead at the break.
Tulane's victory marked its first over Georgia since Jan. 6, 1962, when the Green Wave upended the Bulldogs, 76-46, at Fogelman Arena when TU was still a member of the Southeastern Conference. The Wave's win also improved its mark to 4-0 against UGA on neutral courts.