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(Saturday, March 15th)
Final Score: Tulsa 69, Louisiana Tech 60
El Paso, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Danny Manning has guided the Tulsa Golden Hurricane to the NCAA Tournament in his second year at the helm.
James Woodard poured in 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting as Tulsa captured its first Conference USA Tournament title Saturday with a 69-60 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
Tulsa (21-12), which began the season with a 1-6 record, is riding an 11-game winning streak into its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.
Rashad Ray added 15 points for the Hurricane, who held the Bulldogs to 23.3 percent shooting (7-of-30) in the second half.
"The last 11 games, we have been playing at a pretty good clip defensively. We hang our hat on the defensive side of the ball," Manning said. "I'm very happy for all of these guys and I'm looking forward to our season continuing."
The postseason fate for Louisiana Tech (27-7) now rests in the hands of the selection committee. Kenneth Smith and Kenyon McNeail both made four 3- pointers and finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively, in the setback.
The top-seeded Bulldogs, who have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1991, had won 10 of their last 11 coming into the title game and were 24-0 this season when leading at halftime.
They led by one at the break Saturday and were on top 51-50 with just over eight minutes to play following the second of two McNeail 3-pointers, but then went the next five-plus minutes without scoring.
After Ray put in a go-ahead layup, the second-seeded Golden Hurricane added five straight from the foul line for a 57-51 advantage.
Two Smith free throws ended Louisiana Tech's drought with 2:57 remaining, and Tulsa countered with the next six points to essentially put the game away.
Louisiana Tech missed 10 straights shots following McNeail's triple.
"We didn't make all the best decisions in terms of shot selection late or in terms of overpressuring defensively when we got behind there," Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White said.
It was no more than a two-possession game the entire first half, which featured 10 lead changes and saw the Bulldogs take a slim 35-34 edge into the intermission.
Louisiana Tech, after connecting on 45 percent from the field in the first half, including 7-of-10 from behind the arc, missed nine of its first 11 shots after the break and trailed 50-45 with just over nine minutes to play.
McNeail's two 3-pointers gave the Bulldogs the lead, but another cold stretch sealed the outcome.
Woodard was named the tournament MVP ... Tulsa's last loss came on Feb. 6 at Louisiana Tech ... Tulsa won the battle in the paint by a 26-6 margin ... This was Louisiana Tech's first year as a member of Conference USA, while Tulsa was 0-2 in the league's title game ... Chris Anderson scored 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting for the Bulldogs ... Shaquille Harrison logged 10 points and eight rebounds for Tulsa ... Tulsa made 43.4 percent of its shots.
03/15 16:37:45 ET
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