Taleya Mayberry had 25 points, eight rebounds and four steals as Tulsa defeated Central Florida 75-66 Saturday in the championship game of the Conference USA tournament.
The sixth-seeded Golden Hurricane (17-16) earned their second berth in the NCAA tournament (the other came in 2006) and pushed their record over .500 for the first time this season. Tulsa has won 10 of its past 13 games, including four straight in the tournament.
Neither team led by more than three until Mayberry came up with steals and layups on consecutive possessions to give Tulsa a 28-23 lead. She scored again on a rebound and another full-court drive to give Tulsa a 34-27 lead and the Hurricane maintained that advantage to lead 41-34 at the break.
Gevenia Carter led eighth-seeded Central Florida (16-18) with 22 points, including a jumper that pulled the Knights within 70-66 with 2:02 left. But it turned out to be UCF's final basket. Brihanna Jackson added 16 points.
Tulsa became the lowest seed to win the C-USA tournament, with the previous low being a No. 5 seed twice (UCF in 2009 and TCU in 2003).
Ashley Clark scored 14 points, including four free throws in the final 28 seconds to preserve the lead for Tulsa. Loren McDaniel had 14 points and six rebounds and Kelsee Grovey had 12 points, including a drive that gave the Hurricane a 70-59 lead with 3:20 left.
Tulsa shot 48.3 percent while limiting Central Florida to 38.5 percent shooting. Mayberry, a senior point guard, hit 10 of 17 from the field and controlled the game with just two turnovers despite heavy pressure from the Knights.
Mayberry is the daughter of former NBA and University of Arkansas star Lee Mayberry, a Tulsa native and current resident.
"She was not willing to let this be her last game," said Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman. "UCF did a great job and played their hearts out. There was just one difference in this game and that was we had Taleya Mayberry and they did not."
Mayberry knew it was her night when a second-half shot came to rest on the flange behind the rim for nearly five seconds before dropping through. That put Tulsa ahead 49-37 and the lead reached 60-45 with 10 minutes left before UCF began chipping away.