DALLAS (AP) — Pat Birt envisioned beating SMU when he sat behind the Tulsa bench a year ago for the Golden Hurricane’s loss to the Mustangs with the American Athletic Conference regular-season title on the line.
Birt had a big hand in making that happen Wednesday night, hitting a crucial 3-pointer and scoring 12 of his 17 points after halftime to help Tulsa overcome an eight-point deficit in the second half of an 82-77 victory against No. 16 SMU.
“But you know, it’s just another win,” said Birt, who spent a year in junior college in West Texas coming out of the Dallas suburb of Plano. “Obviously, a big win, but we’ve got to just keep it going try to get first place.”
Shaquille Harrison scored 21 points, and James Woodard added 20, including six free throws in the final 1:04. The Golden Hurricane (16-8, 8-4 AAC) won for the eighth time in 10 games since an 0-2 league start.
Nic Moore scored 27 to lead the Mustangs (20-3, 9-3 American Athletic). They lost for the first time in 13 home games and dropped to 2-3 since their 18-0 start to a season that won’t include postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
Moore twice hit 3-pointers to pull SMU within a point in the final minute, but Birt answered the first with a 3 and James Woodard followed the second with a pair of free throws after the Mustangs almost stole an inbounds pass with 20 seconds remaining.
“Our offense was good enough,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “But we didn’t get stops.”
The Mustangs, who can’t play in the conference tournament but can win the regular-season title, are a half-game ahead of Temple atop the AAC.
“You’ve got eight games left in the season,” said SMU forward Markus Kennedy, who had all 13 of his points in the second half. “It’s real easy just to get complacent and just to be nonchalant about the rest of the season. We can’t let that happen.”
SMU had its biggest lead at 60-52 with about 9 minutes remaining was still up six with 6 minutes to go when Woodard hit a 3-pointer, Harrison scored inside and Birt made one of his three second-half 3-pointers to put Tulsa ahead 69-68 with 3:25 left.
D’Andre Wright put the Golden Hurricane ahead for good at 73-71 on a layup.
STOP THE BLEEDING
Brown and second-year Tulsa coach Frank Haith traded timeouts before the first media break in the second half to try to stop opposing runs, starting with SMU’s Hall of Fame coach after a 9-0 Tulsa spurt broke a 36-all tie.
Hatch had to match it when Kennedy scored inside twice and blocked a shot before a floater in the lane by Moore pulled SMU to 45-42. The SMU run reached 11-0 — all the points by Kennedy and Moore — on Moore’s 3-pointer for a 47-45 SMU lead.
“Showed a lot of resiliency out here tonight,” Haith said. “Second half we got up eight or nine and we lose the lead.”
BACK TO FORM?
Tulsa ended a four-game losing streak against SMU. Before that, the Golden Hurricane had won 13 of 15 meetings with the Mustangs. They now lead the series 31-17.
Tulsa: Brandon Swannegan was called for a flagrant foul after a review when the 6-foot-9 forward backed into Moore and knocked the 5-9 guard to the floor. ... Harrison and Birt had five rebounds to lead Tulsa along with Rashad Smith.
SMU: Bryson DeChambeau, one of five golfers to win NCAA and U.S. Amateur titles in the same year, was honored during a timeout in the first half. DeChambeau left the golf team in the fall after it was banned from postseason play along with the basketball program. He is expected to turn pro after the Masters. ... Ben Moore had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Tulsa: At Connecticut on Saturday.
SMU: Host Gonzaga on Saturday.