The Golden Hurricane men’s basketball team bolstered their NCAA tournament resume this week, with a road victory against No. 16 ranked SMU.
Tulsa’s dynamic duo of Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard paced the team with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Pat Birt added 17, and the team shot an incredible 58 percent from the field.
In the first half, the teams traded the lead a few times. Tulsa pulled ahead by 7 at one point, but couldn’t sustain the lead as SMU fought back. At halftime, Tulsa held a three point lead, 36–33.
The Golden Hurricane pushed the lead back up to seven early on in the second half, but SMU pulled back into the game again. This time, they opened a lead of their own, and pushed it up to eight with ten minutes remaining in the game.
Tulsa wouldn’t go down quietly, though. They slowly chipped away at the Mustang lead, and eventually tied the score at 71 apiece with less than three minutes left in the game.
Pat Birt hit a big three with thirty seconds left, James Woodard was perfect from the free throw line down the stretch and the Golden Hurricane pulled out the road win, 82–77.
The loss was only the third of the season for SMU, which will make Tulsa look in the eyes of the selection committee come March.
After the signature win, Tulsa travelled to UConn. The first half was not kind to the Golden Hurricane. While the score was close for the first ten minutes, the Huskies used a 17–2 run to take a large 34–21 halftime lead.
Tulsa did their best to dig their way out of the hole in the second half. UConn managed to push the lead up to twenty a few minutes into the half, but Tulsa started to chip away at the lead after that.
The Golden Hurricane used an 8–0 run to bring the lead back down to single digits for the first time since the first half.
In the final two minutes, Tulsa managed to bring the Husky lead down to three. However, UConn converted their final six free throws, preventing the Tulsa comeback and sealing their victory, 75–73.
Tulsa now sits at 16–9 (8–5 American Athletic Conference), good for a fifth place tie with Houston in the conference standings.
The win against SMU bolstered the Golden Hurricane’s NCAA tournament resume, but they will need to win almost all of their remaining games and make a deep run into the conference tournament to garner serious consideration for the tournament.
And, with a team that has a strong veteran core with this much experience, that is very much within the realm of possibility.