Tulsa's James Woodard knocked down a three-pointer with four seconds on the clock to break a 53-53 tie and send the Hurricane to a 58-53 victory over Middle Tennessee in front of 4,179 fans at Donald W. Reynolds Center Thursday night.
Tulsa improved to 4-1 in Conference USA play and 9-10 overall, as Middle Tennessee fell to 12-7 overall and 2-2 in league action.
Woodard ended the game with 16 points, while Lew Evans chipped in with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds to pace the Hurricane. Middle Tennessee's Shawn Jones led all scorers with 22 points and added nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
"Tonight was a very exciting game to say the least. James (Woodard) came out and played exceptionally hard. We had some guys who had some good individual performances," said Tulsa Head Coach Danny Manning. "We were just fortunate enough to make a couple of shots, make a couple of plays on our home court, with our energy, feeding off the fans and the crowd to get the win. That's a really tough team to beat and we are really fortunate."
Tulsa led 34-26 at halftime, but came out of intermission cold from the field making just 2-of-14 shots as Middle Tennessee out-scored the Hurricane 13-3 in the first nine minutes to take a 39-37 lead with 11:43 left on the game clock. MTSU connected on 10-of-28 field goals through the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Tulsa knotted the score at 39 on two D'Andre Wright free throws and took a 42-41 lead at the 8:34 mark when Pat Swilling knocked down a three-pointer. From there, MTSU took the lead at 43-42 on a Tweety Knight free throw at the 7:22 mark and held the advantage until Rashad Ray's two free throws tied the score at 46 with 5:26 on the clock. The game was tied again at 48, 50 and 51.
With 1:29 remaining in the contest, Evans tipped in Tim Peete's second missed free throw to give Tulsa a 53-51 lead. MTSU's Knight knotted the score for the ninth time in the game at 53-53 on a layup. After a Tulsa timeout and the game clock down to 0:04, Woodard launched a 22-foot trey from in front of the Tulsa bench to secure the Hurricane victory.
The three-pointer was Woodard's third of the game and the first since making his first two of the game. He had missed seven straight up until his game-winning shot. Woodard added two free throws with just one second left on the clock to give Tulsa the five-point victory.
"He got a wide open court, a clean enough look in that situation. It reminded me from the Indiana State shot that he made except that it was on the other side of the court," said Manning. "For James to display the patience that he displayed in the second half was, I was very happy to see that because that was his only field goal in the second half and he continued to stay focused and defend and rebound and do the little things to stay involved in the game."
The teams swapped the lead four times and had eight ties in the final 20 minutes. The Hurricane was just 5-of-20 from the field in the second half for 25-percent and ended the game shooting 40-percent, while MTSU ended the game at 39-percent from the field.
Woodard was on fire early in the contest, scoring Tulsa's first nine points by knocking down his first two treys, getting a fast-break layup and free throw in the first 17:25 to put the Hurricane ahead 9-5.
MTSU took a two point lead, 11-9, on free throws by Shawn Jones before the Hurricane went on a 12-3 lead for a 21-14 lead at the 8:16 mark of the first half. The Blue Raiders out-scored Tulsa 6-0 over the next 90 seconds and sliced the Hurricane lead to one point at 21-20 with 6:33 remaining on the clock.
With the score tied 24-24 at the 4:54 mark, Tulsa closed out the remainder of the first half on a 10-2 run, holding the Blue Raiders to just two free throws over that time span, and taking a 34-26 lead into the intermission.
Woodard had 11 points to lead a Hurricane team that shot 52-percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. Jones had a high of 13 points and four rebounds to lead Middle Tennessee in the first half.
The Hurricane continues their three-game home-stand this Saturday, January 25th at 3:05 p.m. against the UAB Blazers. Tulsa then hosts North Texas a week from Saturday on February 1st, for another 3:05 p.m. tip-off.