TULSA, Okla. (AP) — SMU’s tall, agile defenders gave Tulsa fits all night but it was its 5-foot-9 point guard who inflicted the most scoring damage.
Nic Moore had 23 and helped key a 15-0 second half run as SMU ended Tulsa’s unbeaten run in the American Conference with a 68-57 victory before a near sellout crowd on Saturday night in Tulsa.
“Moore was just fabulous, he played like one of the best players in the country,” said Tulsa coach Frank Haith.
Moore and reserve Cannen Cunningham did most of the damage in the decisive run, during which SMU held Tulsa scoreless for 7:21.
Cunningham had a career-high 16 while center Yanick Moreira scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for SMU (19-5, 10-2).
It was the first conference loss for Tulsa (17-6, 10-1) in 22 games, including 11 straight at the end of its Conference USA run last year.
After Rashad Smith tied the game at 43 with 11:57 remaining, Tulsa didn’t score again until two free throws by Brandon Swannegan with 4:36 left. Cunningham scored eight points, including the first six, and Moore added a pair of jumpers, including a 3-pointer, in the decisive run.
SMU’s length gave Tulsa fits all night and Moore dominated from the outset, scoring from outside or slicing through the Golden Hurricane zone to set up SMU’s tall front line for easy dunks and layups. His lob to Ryan Manuel for a jam with two seconds left in the half sent the Mustangs off the court with a 34-28 lead.
James Woodard kept Tulsa in the game with first-half 12 points, making 4 of 6 3-pointers, but was held without a basket in the second half until a last-second 3-pointer. He led Tulsa with 15, while D’Andre Wright and Shaquille Harrison scored 10 each.
The Hurricane shot a season-low 28.3 percent (17 of 60) and made only 9 of 28 3-pointers.
Yanick Moreira had 13 points and 13 rebounds for SMU, which shot 48.1 percent. Moore had seven assists, two steals and three rebounds.
SMU: Following a 62-54 home loss to Cincinnati, Moreira texted coach Larry Brown to tell him that the players would be bringing a much higher level of effort and intensity to the Tulsa game. “He had a great game and Nic was just fantastic,” Brown said. “Tonight we really finished in the paint.”
Tulsa: SMU’s bevy of talented post players bedeviled Tulsa, but Moore was the difference maker, according to Tulsa coach Frank Haith. “We lost to a very good SMU team. Their length bothered us all night. Nic Moore was fabulous. He played like one of the best players in the country. He controlled the game.”
With the score tied at 43, SMU took over, getting stops and finding seams in the Tulsa defense for shots around the rim. “When we tied it up, we were able to get stops,” Haith said. “In that stretch, we were not able to get any stops and then it affected our offense. They have four really good high-level post players and they just put a lot of pressure on you. Shots you would normally make feel forced.”
Brown said a key to the game was stopping the relentless driving of Harrison. “He’s one of the more fun players I’ve seen,” Brown said. “Ryan (Manuel) did a great job making it tough on him.” Harrison was 3 of 12 from the field, but did finish with eight rebounds and four steals.
SMU: At Houston Feb. 12
Tulsa: At Connecticut Feb. 12
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