TU Clinches First NCAA Tournament Bid Since 2003
Danny Manning is taking Tulsa back to the NCAA tournament.
James Woodard scored 27 points to lead the Golden Hurricane to its first NCAA berth since 2003 with a 69-60 victory Saturday against Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA tournament final.
"It's an indescribable feeling," said Woodard, who is from Tulsa. "Growing up as a kid, you can't wait for March Madness. To be a part of that, this time around, and for us being so young as a team, it's definitely a dream come true."
Woodard, who scored 18 points in the second half, made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to help Tulsa hold off the Bulldogs.
Tulsa (21-12), which was the No. 2 seed, will carry an 11-game win streak into the tournament. Top-seeded Louisiana Tech came up short, extending an NCAA tournament drought dating to 1991.
The Bulldogs (27-8) were led by Kenneth Smith with 16 points and Kenyon McNeail with 15. Alex Hamilton finished with 12.
The Bulldogs led 35-34 at the half in a game with 16 lead changes. Neither team led by more than five points until Tulsa took control in the final 5 minutes, pushing the advantage to 10 points on a free throw by Woodard with 1:12 left.
"This was a lot of fun," said Tulsa second-year head coach Manning, who won an NCAA title playing for Kansas in 1988. "It was a hard-fought game. Louisiana Tech is a talented team. We have three other teams in our league deserving of a bid."
Louisiana Tech, which made 7 of 10 3-pointers in the first half and shot 45 percent from the field, cooled off in the second half. The Bulldogs, limited by a stingy Tulsa defense, shot 32 percent for the game. They went just 4 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half and 15 of 23 from the free-throw line.
"Right now, I feel bad for the four seniors," Tech's Alex Hamilton said. "I just wish there was more could do. We came out on the short end. I feel bad for the guys."
Meanwhile, Tulsa shot 72 percent from the line (18 of 25), 55 percent from 3-point range (5 of 9) and 43 percent from the field.