Coaches and players prosper and fail in dramatic situations with the three-point shot in college basketball.
And it was a three-point try by USC guard Brad Winslow that could have been the difference between victory and defeat against Tulsa Saturday at the Sports Arena.
As it was, Winslow missed with 11 seconds remaining. Tulsa's 6-foot 11-inch forward, Brian Rahilly, got the rebound and sent a pass downcourt to his brother, Jeff Rahilly, who scored on an uncontested slam.
His basket wasn't really needed in a 55-51 win for the Missouri Valley Conference team, which scored the game's final seven points after USC had taken a 51-48 lead with 3:44 left.
So, it was another close loss for the Trojans. Five of their 10 defeats have been by a margin of six points or less.
And of course, in any loss there is some second guessing. Why didn't USC call time out when it had possession after Tulsa guard Byron Boudreaux missed on the back end of a one-and-one attempt with 34 seconds left?
"If you call a timeout, you give the defense an advantage," USC Coach George Raveling said. "They'd have time to get a better rebounder into the game, or change defenses. We were trying to win the game. It's like kicking a field goal or going for the touchdown. We went for the touchdown."
Raveling said the play was set up in advance, adding that forward Derrick Dowell, USC's best inside player, wasn't having much luck when he got the ball near the end. Thus, USC, trailing, 53-51, went for the win, instead of forcing a probable overtime with a tie.
It was a physical game, to say the least, and USC freshman forward Bob Erbst came close to squaring off with some Tulsa players.
Erbst also said that the officials were allowing the rough stuff in the first half, then called a tighter game in the second half.
"It was Orange County ticky-tack calls," said Erbst, who played at Anaheim's Katella High School in Orange County.
Erbst said a call definitely went against him with 2:24 remaining and the score tied at 51-51.
"We got the ball inside; I went up for a shot, and Brian Rahilly got all of my arm. His fingerprints are still on it," Erbst said. "The ball came loose, and when I went for the ball, I hit him (Brian Rahilly) in the nose. I fouled him, but I was fouled first."
Rahilly missed on the front end of a one-and-one, so the Trojans still had an opportunity to go ahead.
But Dowell was called for charging with 1:33 left, and the Trojans lost possession. Boudreaux then made one of two fouls shots to provide his team with a 52-51 lead.
"I don't know about that call, but there were a lot of bad calls, some much more pivotal, such as the one that was called on Erbst," Dowell said. "I think we should have had instant replay (such as the NFL has to reverse some decisions) because some of the calls were really questionable.
"It's tough to lose when you're trying to establish some momentum. If we weren't competitive, it would be one thing. But we were competitive. I think we should have won because we played our hearts out."
Raveling said that Tulsa is as good a team as his Trojans will play in the Pacific 10, and he had no quarrel with his team's physical effort.
The Golden Hurricane improved its overall record to 14-3 and is leading the MVC with a 4-0 mark. USC is 5-10 overall and 2-6 in the Pac-10.
"We lost to a fine team," Raveling said. "I told my team afterward that I would be surprised if Tulsa wasn't in the NCAA playoffs. They're a better offensive rebounding team than I gave them credit for, and along with (David) Moss, they gave us trouble with their offensive rebounding."
Moss, a 6-7 forward, scored 23 points, mostly from long range. Dowell led the Trojans with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Tulsa out-rebounded USC by a 41-28 margin.
Winslow said his three-point try was designed to come from the top of the key. But that area was clogged, so he cast off from the baseline.
"The play was rushed," said Winslow, who had buried a three-point shot earlier in the second half.