James Woodard hit a school-record 10 3-pointers totaling a career-high 30 points, but Tulsa fell short at No. 22 SMU, 67-62, at Moody Coliseum Sunday afternoon in a dramatic and entertaining basketball game fit for deciding the American Athletic Conference champion on the final day of the regular season.
Woodard's 10 3-pointers also set an American Athletic Conference record. He was 10-for-16 from beyond the arc, and the Golden Hurricane finished 12-for-27 from downtown. Tulsa ends the regular season at 21-9 overall and 14-4 in American Conference play, while SMU improved to 24-6 overall and 15-3 in league play. TU will be the No. 2 seed at the American Athletic Conference Championship March 11-15 in Hartford, Conn.
Shaquille Harrison dished a career-high nine assists, and added 10 points and nine rebounds. The Hurricane shot 35 percent from the field (21-of-60) and 8-of-13 from the foul line, tallying 16 assists, eight steals and five blocks. TU scored 21 points off 18 SMU turnovers. The Mustangs were led by Markus Kennedy and Nic Moore, who scored 16 and 14 points, respectively. SMU shot 43 percent from the field (23-for-53), made just 2-of-10 3-pointers and 19-of-23 free throws, and held a 40-30 rebounding advantage.
“I'm really proud of how hard we came in here and how focused we were,” Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith said. “I thought that there was a stretch there in the second half where the game got away from us a little bit. Our post defense let us down a little bit. On offense we were driving with aggression, but they ended up being tough shots. Other than that, I'm really proud of how our guys competed. James had one of those games. He was outstanding. Congratulations to SMU, they played a great game. SMU is a terrific team. I thought our guys competed hard against one of the better teams in the country.”
SMU extended its 29-28 halftime lead to 31-28 on a tip-in by Cannen Cunningham, but Harrison connected on a 3-pointer to tie it at 31 apiece. The three sparked an 8-0 Tulsa run that gave the Hurricane a 36-31 advantage with 16:00 to play. The run was capped by a fastbreak reverse slam by Harrison off a pass from Woodard, after Harrison blocked a shot and got the rebound on the other end of the floor.
The Hurricane led 39-33 after a 3-pointer by D'Andre Wright, and 41-37 with 12:39 remaining after a layup by Rashad Smith. SMU, however, went on a 9-0 run, including seven straight points by Kennedy, to take a 46-41 lead with 8:16 left on the clock. The lead extended to 50-44 after a jumper by Moore with 6:41 to play. After SMU took the lead at 43-41, it did not allow TU closer than two points the rest of the way.
Tulsa closed the gap to 50-46 after a pair of free throws by Marquel Curtis, who finished with six points and two assists. The Mustangs took a seven-point lead at 53-46, their largest advanatage of the game, after a Moore three-point play with 5:28 remaining. TU then cut it to 53-50 with 3:55 remaining after a dunk by Harrison and layup by Smith.
With the score, 55-50, Woodard knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 55-53. TU cut it to two points again on a pair of free throws by Smith, making the score 57-55 with 3:02 left. SMU extended its lead to six points, 61-55, after a layup by Ryan Manuel with 1:00 on the clock. Woodard connected on two treys in the final :30 to cut six-point deficits to three points. His 10th basket of the game made the score 65-62 with :08.5 remaining. Kennedy then made two foul shots to make the final, 67-62.
The first half featured 10 tie scores, including eight ties by the under-12:00 timeout. Tulsa led, 11-10, early in the game, before SMU took the lead at 13-11. The Hurricane retook the lead on a 3-pointer by Woodard that made the score 14-13 with 12:17 left in the half.
SMU went ahead, 17-14, on a jumper by Kennedy, and 21-18 on a layup by Ben Moore. Tulsa cut the deficit to one point twice in that span, before tying the ballgame at 21-all on a trey by Woodard with 6:26 to play in the half.
A free throw by Wright gave Tulsa a 22-21 lead, and Woodard extended it to 25-21 with a 3-pointer. After SMU cut the lead to two points, Woodard's fifth trey of the half made the score 28-23 with 4:06 remaining. TU did not score for the rest of the period, as the Mustangs scored the final six points, taking a 29-28 lead into the break.
Both teams made 10 field goals in the first half, including five threes by Tulsa, but SMU made 7-of-8 free throws, while TU got to the line just six times, making three foul shots.
“These guys deserve so much credit for how they fought and competed,” Haith said on his team's regular season effort. “Every night, no one thinks that this team should be winning. This team kept fighting, competing and getting better. I'm really proud of these guys and our staff for how hard they worked.”