For the first time in 12 years, Tulsa is a conference champion on the basketball court.
That came after Rashad Ray and James Woodard each put up 18 points to lead TU to a 79-68 win over North Texas Thursday night in Denton, Texas. Shaquille Harrison and Rashad Smith also scored 15 and 14 points respectively for the Golden Hurricane.
As a result of the win, TU (18-12 overall, 13-3 in Conference USA) wins a share of the Conference USA title and will be a No. 2 seed in the league tournament next week in El Paso, Texas. It finished in a four-way tie with Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee.
It’s the first time Tulsa earned a league title since it won the Western Athletic Conference in 2002 season.
"Piece of the conference championship. It feels very good," Tulsa coach Danny Manning said. "Our guys have shown a lot of perseverence, they're very resilient, especially early on. We got out of the gate slowly, that's no secret. We had a lot of discomfort as a team, growing and trying to figure out how we needed to play, what we needed to do to be successful. I think our guys have kind of bought into it. Tonight, there was a stretch during the game that kind of summed up who we are as a team. I think we went almost a 10-minute stretch where they didn't score, and whenever you can guard like that and hang your hat on the defensive end, I think you give yourselves a chance to be successful. That's what worked for us."
Brandon Walton and Alzee Willaims each scored 20 points to lead North Texas.
TU led 37-31 at halftime but later found itself in a tie, then clinging on at 61-59 with 5:27 left. The Golden Hurricane responded with a 12-4 run capped by a layup from Tim Peete to lead 71-63 with 1:10 left.
The Golden Hurricane shot 44 percent (23-of-52), 31 percent (4-of-13) from 3-point range and 67 percent (29-of-43) from the free throw line.
The Mean Green fired 37 percent (22-of-60), 33 percent (7-of-21) in 3s and 77 percent (17-of-22) from the free throw line.
The rebounding battle was an even 37-37 mark.
TU will meet either North Texas, Rice or Tulane at noon in the quarterfinals of the tourney next Thursday.