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NIT: William & Mary's late rally not enough as Tulsa advances

Tulsa nearly squandered a 20-point lead, but hung on to beat William & Mary, 70-67, in the first round of the NIT.

William & Mary Athletics

William & Mary might still be playing postseason basketball on a national stage if they could just stop putting themselves in big second-half holes.

For the second time in as many games, the Tribe let a single-digit halftime deficit balloon to over 20 points and couldn't quite make a full comeback, as Tulsa managed to escape and advance to the second round of the 2015 NIT.

Trailing by seven at the half, William & Mary came out flat to begin the second half and Tulsa took advantage, using a 16-4 run to build a 20-point lead on their home court.

It must have been deja-vu for Tribe head coach Tony Shaver, as just a week earlier he watched his team's manageable deficit in the CAA Championship turn into a 22-point Northeastern lead to begin the second half.

But just like in the CAA final against Northeastern, the Tribe had a late run in them.

Down by 21 with 13 minutes remaining, William & Mary went on an extended 24-9 run behind CAA player of the year, Marcus Thornton, to close to the Tulsa lead to three with under two minutes on the clock. Thornton scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half.

It was Thornton who calmly made two free throws with 27 seconds remaining to cut Tulsa's lead to 69-67. After Tulsa's Brandon Swannegan made one of two from the line, Thornton tried to tie the game with a pull-up three, but missed.

The Tribe had a final opportunity after Tulsa missed from the foul line, but a good look from Terry Tarpey was no good and William & Mary's season came to a crushing end.

Tulsa threatened to take control of this game early in the first half with William & Mary, and Thornton specifically, struggling on the offensive end. The play of Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt helped keep the Tribe competitive and enter the break down seven. The Tribe shot just 33 percent for the game.

Tulsa, fresh off an American Athletic Conference semifinal loss to UConn that doomed their NCAA Tournament hopes, was paced by guard Marquel Curtis who scored 21 points, which was a major uptick from his seven point average.

With the loss, the storied William & Mary career of Thornton comes to an end. The 6'4" guard set the all-time scoring record at the college this past season, cementing himself as the greatest player in William & Mary history.

The Tribe, minus Thornton, come back to the drawing board next year looking to break the infamous streak of being one of five original Division I schools never to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.