Freshman James Woodard led Tulsa with 17 points, but after trailing by one point to SMU with 52 seconds to play, the Golden Hurricane faltered in the final seconds, losing 71-65 on Senior Night.
"This is a tough way to go out, to take a loss on Senior Night," said Tulsa head coach Danny Manning. "Give SMU credit tonight. They had a great game tonight. Coach (Larry) Brown drew up a great plan, and they executed their offense and made shots. We have to give them credit for that.
"For us, it's disappointing because we wanted to have a much better showing than we did tonight. We have to go back, watch film, and get prepared for our last game of the season. We have to do whatever it takes to get that last win of the season on the road. Losing tonight, on Senior Night, is a tough pill to swallow."
Nick Russell scored 19 points for SMU, and Cannen Cunningham had 17 points and five blocks. Shawn Williams added 13 points and Ryan Manuel 11 for the Mustangs (15-15, 5-10 Conference USA), who outscored Tulsa 40-18 in the paint.
"(SMU) did a very good job of getting the ball in to the paint," said Manning. "Even their guards were making shots in the paint. Our percentage from three wasn't terrible, but we seemed to settle instead of putting our heads down and getting shots in the paint. We had some opportunities in the paint, but we didn't capitalize. That is one glaring stat, and it is something that we will correct. Normally it isn't like that, but it is what it is tonight. Give SMU credit for capitalizing on it tonight."
Scottie Haralson added 13 for the Golden Hurricane (15-14, 7-8), who got within 64-63 on Shaquille Harrison's layup with 1:18 remaining.
Russell hit two free throws to push the lead back to three points, and Pat Swilling Jr. and Haralson missed 3-point attempts on Tulsa's next possession. SMU then began protecting its lead at the free-throw stripe.
"Some nights you just don't make that full comeback," said Harrison. "It's hard coming back in the first place and extending the lead like we did against Tulane is tough. We just couldn't do it tonight, but hopefully we learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward when we hit this conference tournament."
SMU shot 51.8 percent (29 of 56) from the floor and attempted just two 3-pointers, missing both. Tulsa shot 37.9 percent from the field overall and just 29 percent in the second half.
"We need to be more consistent and stay poised throughout the course of the game," said Haralson. "We need to trust one another. When we play well together and we're defending, rebounding, and eliminating our turnovers, we're pretty good. So we just have to do that."