Tulsa got the best win in the history of its home arena on Tuesday night when it knocked off No. 5 Houston in dramatic fashion. Brandon Rachal, who led all scorers with 22 points, scored his final two points at the free-throw line with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Golden Hurricane to a 65-64 victory over the previously unbeaten Cougars.
After Houston’s Caleb Mills made a go-ahead jumper with six seconds left, Tulsa was forced to go the length of the floor while out of timeouts. But Rachal got into the paint and drew a foul on Brison Gresham, and he completed an 8-for-8 night at the charity stripe once he got there. That sent the Tulsa sideline into a scene of jubilation while the Houston players walked off the floor.
For Tulsa (5-3, 2-1 AAC), it was reminiscent of last season’s 63-61 victory over Houston at its home venue of the Reynolds Center that required some last-minute heroics. But this one carries more significance for the Golden Hurricane, because of Houston’s status. The Cougars (7-1, 2-1) ascended to No. 5 in this week’s AP poll, their highest ranking since 1984.
It was the first time in the 22-year history of the Reynolds Center that Tulsa beat a top-five team. The win was also validation for the program after it was picked to finish sixth in the AAC’s preseason poll, despite sharing the league crown with Cincinnati and Houston last season. Houston was picked to finish first and validated that prediction with an impressive win over Texas Tech and a 2-0 start in AAC play. But Tuesday showed that, despite being the only ranked AAC team, Houston’s path through conference play will not be easy.