James Woodard scored 17 points to help Tulsa record its ninth straight victory with a 66-64 defeat of East Carolina Saturday afternoon at Minges Coliseum.
The Golden Hurricane also won its fifth straight on the road to improve to 14-5 overall and stay perfect with a 7-0 mark in league play. Shaquille Harrison tallied 13 points, five assists and two steals, and D'Andre Wright grabbed 10 rebounds and added seven points. Terry Whisnant scored 22 points, and Michel Nzege had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pirates (8-11, 1-5 American).
Tulsa turned a five-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead within the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second period. ECU tied the score at 61-61 with just more than 2:00 remaining, but the Hurricane made five free throws down the stretch and held the Pirates scoreless until the final second to hang on for the win.
Tulsa trailed 35-29 at halftime, but used an 11-5 spurt to open the second half and take a 40-39 lead on a Wright layup at the 15:06 mark. Woodard hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the period to pull the Hurricane into a 37-37 tie. ECU retook the lead with a layup, but a free throw and layup by Wright put TU ahead, and the Hurricane would not trail again in the game.
Rashad Ray, who finished with eight points and two assists, then knocked down consecutive threes to extend the advantage to 46-39 with 13:44 left. The Hurricane lead grew to eight, 55-47, with 9:04 on the clock, before Whisnant hit a pair of threes to reduce the lead to 55-53.
With the score knotted 57-57 after a Whisnant 3-pointer with 5:02 remaining, Marquel Curtis sunk a pair of free throws and a layup to give the Hurricane a 61-57 lead at the 3:48 mark. ECU pulled back into a 61-61 tie on a dunk by Nzege with 2:09 to play, but that was the last basket the TU defense allowed until the last second of the game. Harrison made a free throw a minute later, and Ray hit two foul shots with :28.5 left to make the score 64-61. Wright then iced the game with a pair of free throws with :03 remaining that made the score 66-61. Antonio Robinson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to reach the 66-64 final.
For the game, Tulsa shot 42 percent from the field (20-for-48), including 50 percent in the second half, and made 20-of-29 free throws. After making just 1-of-12 3-point attempts in the opening period, TU knocked down 5-of-9 in the second. TU held a 36-34 advantage on the board, 26-16 in paint scoring, and scored 16 points off eight ECU turnovers. Tulsa also tallied 10 assists to just six turnovers. East Carolina shot 41 percent for the game (23-for-56) and made 12-of-28 threes.
Tulsa took a 9-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game, and led 13-8 after a Curtis layup at the 11:26 mark of the first half. East Carolina then cut the lead to 15-14, and took a 21-20 lead on a jumper by Nzege with 5:13 left in the half. ECU's lead grew as large as 29-22 at the 3:48 mark. A layup and free throw play by Smith, and a pair of foul shots by Harrison cut the deficit to 29-27. ECU then built its lead up to 35-27 with 1:19 left, before a Woodard jumper at the buzzer made the score 35-29 at the break.
The Golden Hurricane is back in action Tuesday for a 6 p.m. contest at Tulane.