How it Happened
SMU and Tulsa went back-and-forth early in the game. The Mustangs got scoring from three different players by the under-16 timeout and that was a sign of things to come. Sterling Brown and Ryan Manuel stepped up in the first half offensively for SMU. Brown and Manuel both had a tough time containing James Woodard, who got open for threes consistently. Woodard tallied 15 points in the first half, all on three-pointers. SMU needed to make major adjustments on defending Woodard and taking advantage of turnovers.
SMU stumbled out of the gate in the second half with sloppy defense, a few turnovers and Tulsa stayed hot. Cannen Cunningham’s dunk with over 13 minutes to go sparked fight from SMU. Markus Kennedy followed up with a layup and started his run of 11 points in the second half. Kennedy’s energy led SMU to the win, but it was Cunningham and the team’s ability to stop the rest of Tulsa that led to the win. Nic Moore made key free throws down the stretch to get the win for the Mustangs.
What it Means
SMU wins their first regular season conference championship since 1993 and will be the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament. The team also wrapped up its NCAA tournament bid with the win.
Player of the Game
Cannen Cunningham: It could be argued that with all the offensive fouls Cunningham drew, his 12 points, 12 rebounds and solid defense, Cunningham kept SMU in the game today. In his final game in Moody Coliseum, Cunningham went out with a conference championship. While Cunningham fouled out, the senior from Arlington pushed SMU to its championship.
SMU got beat 16-9 in the first half on points off turnovers and followed that up by limiting Tulsa’s points off turnovers in the second half to five, but wasn’t able to win the advantage. The team’s ability to stop Tulsa’s ability to turn turnovers into points was a huge difference.
SMU will play in the quarterfinal round of the American Athletic Conference Championship at the XL Center in Hartford on Friday, March 13. SMU’s first game is against the No. 8/9 winner at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2.