Defense was Tulsa’s biggest weapon Wednesday night.
The Golden Hurricane allowed just 31 percent (16-of-51) shooting as they defeated UTEP 45-42 in a low-scoring battle at the Reynolds Center. The score did not reach the 40s until the last three minutes of the contest.
“That was our mindset coming into the game,” said guard James Woodard, in reference to the defense. “We knew it was going to be a hard fought, grind-it-out kind of game. It was going to come down to the wire because UTEP is a good team. They run their offense very well. That’s what the coaches stressed as we prepared for them. Defensive rebounding was ur main goal."
Tulsa finished with a 35-33 rebounding edge against the Miners, but had more turnovers, 16 compared to UTEP’s 12.
Feeshman Zeldric King’s dunk with 20.6 seconds left put the exclamation point for Tulsa. He made it after taking a pass from Shaquille Harrison.
He was also fouled and was allowed to make a 3-point play, which he made the free throw and gave the Golden Hurricane a five-point lead on UTEP at 45-40. The Miners did get one more bucket, but Tulsa hung on.
Tulsa (11-7 overall, 3-1 in Conference USA) shot 40 percent (18-of-45), 29 percent (2-of-7) in 3-pointers and 64 percent (7-of-11) from the foul line.
The Miners (9-7, 2-1) made 20 percent (4-of-20) from 3-point range and 55 percent (6-of-11) in free throws.
“Tonight’s game, according to the stat sheet, was a battle of two really good defensive teams, in terms of the defensive field goal percentage,” Tulsa coach Danny Manning said. “For awhile, there offensively, we struggled to get good looks and you have to give UTEP credit defensively, but I thought we also guarded them fairly well and that gave us a chance to win the ball game.”
Kauri Black was TU’s scoring leader with 11 points. Woodard was next with 10.
The game was close throughout as the teams traded leads eight times. Largest margin was seven by Tulsa. That came with 5:03 remaining as Pat Swilling Jr. drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to make the score 38-31.
Swilling’s 3 capped a 15-1 TU spurt that spanned less than six minutes.
It wasn’t the first run for the Hurricane.
They went on an 8-0 run in nearly three minutes to take an 18-13 lead against the Miners. The spurt forced UTEP to call time out. The Miners responded with a 10-3 run and Tulsa was up 21-20 at halftime.
Next for the Hurricane is a road trip to Tulane at 1 p.m. Saturday.