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TU Basketball: Etou, Henderson lead Tulsa past SMU

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Junior Etou recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, while Corey Henderson Jr. added 18 points to lead Tulsa to a 76-67 win over SMU on Thursday night at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.

Etou and Henderson combined for 26 points in the second half as the Golden Hurricane (12-10, 5-5) pulled away from the Mustangs (15-8, 5-5) with a 19-4 start to the second half. Etou also had 10 of his 15 rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, they were joined in double-figures by Martins Igbanu (12 points), Jaleel Wheeler (11 points) and DaQuan Jeffries (11 points). TU outrebounded SMU 42-35, while the Hurricane enjoyed a 24-2 advantage in bench points.

“I thought it was a big win for us,” TU head coach Frank Haith said. “There is no question about that with the way the league stands. Everybody is right there, kind of in the middle of the pack. In terms of the back nine, I talked about this with our team since it was game one of the back nine. We protected our home court. (Junior Etou and Corey Henderson Jr.) were big, particularly in the second half.”

SMU was led by Ben Emelogu’s game-high 24 points and Jahmal McMurray added seven 3-pointers on his way to 22 points. The Mustangs were held to just 38.5-percent shooting.

Jimmy Whitt’s jumper at the halftime buzzer gave SMU a 31-30 lead at the break, but TU came out firing on all cylinders with 12 straight points as part of a 19-4 run to start the second half.

Etou got things started with a layup before Henderson Jr. connected from outside and Igbanu scored another bucket down low. Two free throws from Wheeler followed and Etou’s triple caused an SMU timeout with the Hurricane ahead 42-31.

The Mustangs only briefly slowed the momentum with a pair of baskets, but another Henderson trey and a running jumper from Jeffries gave Tulsa a 49-35 lead, its largest of the night, with 12:19 remaining.

After the Mustangs countered with an 11-2 run to pull within 51-46, Henderson Jr. and Etou hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Igbanu scored inside for a quick 8-0 spurt and a 59-46 cushion.

From there, TU lead never dipped below six points as the Hurricane answered every SMU push with points of its own. Tulsa put the game away with 12 free throws in the final four minutes to record the 76-67 final.

Tulsa found success inside early against the Mustangs, but McMurray scored the first 13 points for SMU on his way to 16 in the first half to help the visitors keep pace. A 7-0 spurt put SMU on top 17-11 and the Hurricane responded with seven straight points of its own to reclaim the lead.

The Mustangs regained a 22-18 advantage with the help of McMurray’s fifth 3-pointer of the half before Tulsa went on a 10-0 run for its largest advantage of the period.

Etou got the run started with a pair of jumpers in the paint, finding the soft spot of the SMU zone. Henderson Jr. then drained a triple and Sterling Taplin set up Jeffries with an alley-oop dunk. Wheeler capped the spurt with a free throw that had the home squad up 28-22.

But the Mustangs outscored TU 9-2 in the final two minutes, including a pair of buckets in the final seven seconds, to take a 31-30 lead to halftime.

Tulsa will be back in action at noon (CT) on Sunday, Feb. 4, when it will head to Tampa, Fla., for a matchup at USF (8-15, 1-9).

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