The No. 16 SMU Mustangs fell to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 82-77 in front of former President George W. Bush and a home crowd at Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs got off to a slow start and played flat in the first half. They shot just 35 percent from the field and were outscored 24-14 in the paint. They also turned the ball over seven times, leading to 10 fast break points for the Golden Hurricane. It was an uncharacteristic performance for a team that usually takes care of the ball and controls the boards.
Shaquille Harrison led Tulsa with 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. James Woodard added nine points of his own en route to a 36-33 lead at the break. As a team, the Golden Hurricane shot almost 58 percent from the field but did not capitalize on its opportunity to build a larger lead.
Nic Moore led the way for SMU with 10 points but was forced to sit with two fouls for the last few minutes of the half. He picked up his third foul less than two minutes into the second half and had to be smart on defense the rest of the way. He was forced to sit again because of a fourth foul with seven minutes left in the game. His absence ended up making a big difference down the stretch.
Tulsa came out of the break with energy, going on an early 9-0 run. However, Markus Kennedy provided a spark for the Mustangs, who went on an 11-0 run of their own to regain the lead. Kennedy had 6 points, a steal, and took a charge during that push. He finished with 13 and six rebounds. Nic Moore added 27 points on 6-10 shooting from behind the arc.
The Golden Hurricane played a similar second half, continuing its 58 percent shooting. Shaq Harrison finished with 21 points to go along with Woodard’s 20, which included some key free throws late, and Pat Birt’s 17. The team managed to make a comeback with Moore on the bench.
The game ended with an exciting last couple of minutes. After a Nic Moore three, Birt hit a three-pointer with 33.1 seconds left to make it a two-possession game again. The Mustangs couldn’t overcome that deficit despite another late three by Moore and a desperation three by Kennedy that would have tied the game.
“When he [Nic Moore] is out of the game, they are much less potent offensively,” said Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith. He went on to say how proud he was of his team for getting the win against “one of the best teams in the country.”
“We didn’t guard very well tonight,” said SMU Head Coach Larry Brown. “Our defense was really bad and that’s on me.”
This was the Mustangs’ first loss at home since February of last season. They remain in first place in the American Athletic Conference and will host Gonzaga on Feb. 13 at 9 p.m.