Springfield, Ill. — Junior guard Gerald Fulton drove down the lane and flipped in a layup with less than a second left Thursday evening, to lift the University of Missouri-St. Louis men’s basketball team to a thrilling 72-70 win over the University of Illinois-Springfield, in an important Great Lakes Valley Conference game at UIS’s TRAC Arena.
Fulton’s final second heroics saved the day for UMSL, which had blown an 11-point lead in the game’s final five minutes.
The Tritons led 70-59 and seemed headed to an easy victory over the 5-11 Prairie Stars. But UIS rallied with a stunning 11-0 run, capped by with two free throws by guard Steffen Spinks with 10 seconds left that tied the score at 70.
Fulton was almost the goat. Spinks stole the ball from him with 12 seconds left and was in position to tie the score with a bucket, or possibly give his team the lead with a three.
But UMSL’s Justin Hightower fouled Spinks before he could get a shot up, sending him to the line for two free throws that could only tie the game.
After Spinks made both foul shots, UMSL put the ball in Fulton’s hands and asked him to make a play. And the 6’2″ junior transfer from Hazelwood East High and Mineral Area College delivered.
Fulton got past his man and with several UIS defenders bearing down on him, he flipped a short shot off the glass and through the rim with half a second left on the clock to give the Tritons a 72-70 lead.
UIS inbounded the ball, but could only fire a desperation shot at the rim that was nowhere close, giving UMSL the win.
Fulton, the second-leading scorer in the GLVC behind Indianapolis’ Darius Adams, finished with a game-high 20 points, 13 in the second half, for the Tritons.
Fellow junior Justyn Watkins contributed 14 points, while senior Ryan Lawrence added 12 points and 14 rebounds, as UMSL won its third straight and ended a four-game road losing streak.
For the season, UMSL is 12-5 overall and 6-3 in conference play. The Tritons are also 3-0 all-time against UIS.
UMSL’s 12 overall and six conference wins this season equal last season’s final totals, and allow UMSL to remain in first place in the GLVC West Division, one game ahead of preseason favorite Drury, which is 5-4 in league play.
The Tritons will visit Drury in the final game of their current four-game road trip, on January 29.
UMSL’s next game though, will be Saturday afternoon, when it will travel to Rensselaer, Ind., to take on the first place team in the GLVC North, St. Joseph’s College, which is 9-8 on the season.
Saturday’s contest will tipoff approximately at 3 p.m., following a women’s basketball game between the two schools, which will tipoff at 1 p.m.