Despite a valiant effort and 23 points from Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa fell to Michigan in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.
TU won the tip but Michigan scored the first bucket with a three from Duncan Robinson to get the game rolling.
The Golden Hurricane answered with back-to-back threes from James Woodard a.k.a Juice and Harrison to give TU a 6-3 advantage just minutes into the game.
Rick Doyle quickly stepped up for the Wolverines with an easy layup and a couple free throws to cut the deficit and help his team reclaim the lead.
At this point, Tulsa was playing solid and confident on both ends of the floor, and the veteran leadership was evident. Having nine experienced seniors compared to Michigan’s two who are injured proved to be an advantage early.
Michigan struggled to get anything to fall at the 12:07 mark, not sinking a basket in over four minutes.
Harrison soon benefitted off the Wolverines inability to score using his body to record another two with a smooth reverse layup, elevating the Golden Hurricane lead 12-9. Another Shaq attack from Harrison made it 14-9.
And another missed three from Michigan, who was only shooting 24 percent from the field, turned into another Tulsa bucket.
Rashad Smith stepped up in the paint to add another two to the board for TU but rolled his ankle coming down causing him to be sidelined.
Luckily for the Golden Hurricane, Smith was back on the floor just minutes later.
Tulsa looked good defensively but needed to make something happen on the offensive end at this point.
Michigan took advantage of Tulsa’s cold streak to steal a two-point lead in the final stretch of the half. The Wolverines were finally realizing the deep ball wasn’t falling so they needed to dominate the paint, where much of their success was coming from.
Marquel Curtis put in an easy layup right before intermission, cutting TU’s deficit 25-20, but a 19-4 run helped the Wolverines close the first half with a 28-20 lead.
What went right for Tulsa:
- Good, sound defense.
What went wrong:
- Cold shooting in last 11:30 of the half (36 percent from the field)… Michigan outscored TU 19-8 during that time
- Turnovers (six)
- Outrebounded (23 to 16)
Tulsa entered the second half, playing intense and inspired, eventually taking a 38-36 lead with just under 13 minutes to play. The team was playing high-tempo and looking to advance. And it looked as if they were going to as long as they kept attacking.
By the first media timeout, TU had 16 points just four short of the 20 total they scored in the first.
Although TU was playing well, Woodard, the team's leading scorer only had seven points. Pat Birt, who's also a major contributor to Tulsa's scoring, was having a rough night as well.
With 4:17 before the final buzzer, Harrison found D'Andre Wright under the basket to help the Golden Hurricane steal a 54-53 lead.
With 3:35 to go, both teams went back-and-forth causing the 13th lead change after Adbur-Rahkman nailed a jumper.
A few missed shots from TU and a few made by Michigan led the Wolverines to a 67-62 win.
"Our defense was outstanding; we guarded them well," said TU Head Coach Frank Haith. "But obviously, it's going to be tough for us when Pat and James don't shoot the ball well. But I have to give our guys credit; even when those guys didn't shoot the ball we were right there."
Michigan will now advance to play six-seeded Notre Dame.
"[It's] just frustrating," said Harrison. "My team played hard from start to finish and there were lead changes back and forth, so I'm just real proud of my team's effort and my effort. And I can honestly say that we left it all out on the court tonight. We were on the losing end, but I'm real proud of our guys and I'm going to miss playing with them."
Harrison says for right now he can't fathom basketball without the brothers he made at TU.
"I've been around here nearly four, five years," Harrison stated. "Every time I think of basketball I think of Tulsa and I think of Smitty, Ray, Dre, Juice, everybody."
Smith says he'll also miss the brotherhood built during his tenure with the Golden Hurricane.
"It's God's gift. I mean when you come in as a freshman, you never dream of things like this," he said. "Something special happened here and I'll be able to say I have nine brothers for the rest of my life."
But for some, the season's end feels unreal.
"Honestly still feels like we have games to play," said Woodard. "It's going to hit us when we get back to school, but it's been fun and it's been a great career for all of us. You know, we love each other. We're always going to be in touch from now on."
Regardless of the finish, Haith is very proud of his team, especially his veteran leaders.
"They had three years of postseason experience as college players and I think that's something to be proud of," he said. "They had an outstanding year."