DALLAS (AP) — Markus Kennedy scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and No. 22 SMU won its first league title in 22 years Sunday, rallying past Tulsa 67-62 in a game that decided the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
The victory gave Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown and the Mustangs (24-6, 15-3) another item for their NCAA Tournament resume a year after getting snubbed and reaching the NIT championship game.
SMU is looking for its first NCAA berth since winning the old Southwest Conference in 1993.
James Woodard scored all of his career-high 30 points on 3-pointers for the Golden Hurricane (21-9, 14-4), who settled for second place after starting 10-0 in the conference but finishing 4-4 under first-year coach Frank Haith.
Nic Moore, who scored 14 points and had several key baskets and free throws in the second half, batted the ball high in the air at the final buzzer after Woodard’s desperation 3-point attempt was off the mark.
Looking for its ninth straight win in Dallas in a streak dating to when the schools were in Conference USA together, Tulsa had a six-point lead early in the second half before Kennedy and Moore brought the Mustangs back.
Kennedy had a three-point play that put SMU ahead for good at 44-41, nodding slowly after the basket to a slightly smaller student contingent at Moody Coliseum, which was still loud despite the start of spring break.
Woodard kept the Golden Hurricane close until the final seconds by repeatedly hitting 3-pointers, finishing 10 of 16 from long range. The last pulled Tulsa within 65-62 with 8 seconds remaining before Kennedy made two free throws and Woodard’s final try from several feet behind the arc missed the rim.
The Mustangs handed Tulsa its first conference loss a month ago and completed a sweep to break a three-season streak in Conference USA of each team winning on the other’s home court. Both teams were coming off losses — SMU at UConn and Tulsa at home to Cincinnati.
SMU was the only one of the top five AAC teams left out of the NCAAs a year ago, while UConn went on to win the national title after joining the Mustangs in a three-way tie for third.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane dropped to 0-4 against ranked teams. … Shaquille Harrison was Tulsa’s other double-figure scorer with 10 points and added nine assists.
SMU: Cannen Cunningham, one of five seniors honored before his final home game, had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Sterling Brown had eight points and eight rebounds. … Moore was one of four SMU players with three assists.
Both teams will play opponents to be determined in AAC tournament quarterfinals on Friday in Hartford, Connecticut.
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