Upset at lackadaisical transition defense that led to an early lay-up for Southern, Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy called a quick timeout, and the energy level increased rapidly.
An unlimited number of timeouts would not have helped the Jaguars respond to what the Green Wave hit them with a little later.
Closing the first half on a 23-2 run, Tulane cruised past Southern 95-76 in a Wednesday matinee at Devlin Fieldhouse. The Green Wave overwhelmed the Jaguars, scoring 54 points while draining eight 3s in a 17-minute span covering both halves.
Tulane (7-2) surpassed its victory total from year one under coach Mike Dunleavy, when it struggled through a 6-25 season.
“Our guys overall played a great game,” Dunleavy said. “We didn’t settle for 3s even though we made 3s, and we got to the free throw line 25 times in the second half. That was good for us. We want to play inside-out.”
Southern (2-6) remained winless on the road, losing for the 10th time in 11 meetings with Tulane.
“Once they get going, it’s tough to slow them down,” coach Morris Scott said. “They are a really good team. It was a tough match-up for us, especially with our size.”
It was a team effort for Tulane, which shot 54.0 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from behind the arc. Junior guard Jordan Cornish led the Wave with 18 points and a career-high nine assists, handing out eight of them in the first 25 minutes.
Forward Cameron Reynolds showcased his versatility on his way to 16 points, hitting back-to-back treys before scoring on three post-ups in a short stretch during the first half.
Post player Samir Sehic sparked the decisive spurt with four lay-ups in less than four minutes, finishing with 15 points in 19 minutes.
Swing man Melvin Frazier, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Player of the Month for November, added his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Point guard Ray Ona Embo contributed 10 points and five assists.
“My mindset was just getting my teammates involved,” said Cornish, a Brother Martin product and UNLV transfer. “I love to see them do great. I’ll pass up a good shot for a great shot anytime.”
Cornish also hit 4 of 6 3s after connecting on only 7 of 24 in the first eight games.
Guard Eddie Reese scored 18 for Southern, making back-to-back 3s from well behind the arc and driving for a lay-up to cut a 10-point deficit to 28-27 with 5:46 left in the half.
When he was not hitting, though, no one was. Forward Jared Sam, the Jaguars’ only double-figures scorer for the year, had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but was 6 of 18 from the floor. Southern, coming off final exams that made focusing on practice difficult, shot 38.0 percent overall and failed to convert even on possessions when it grabbed multiple offensive rebounds.
“That (taking exams) does play a factor, but luckily it is over with,” Sam said. “Now we can just focus on basketball.”
Tulane led by as many as 29 points before emptying its bench, wiping away the taste of a blowout loss at then-13th-ranked North Carolina on Sunday.
“We want to push the tempo, flatten the defense out and get wide open 3s and run in transition,” Reynolds said. “After playing North Carolina, we saw it takes a lot to do that. We can get to that point, but we have to keep on working.”
They worked harder after Dunleavy’s 30-second timeout at the 17:23 mark of the first half when Southern went ahead 6-5, beating the Wave down the floor after a turnover. He let them know the effort was unacceptable, and they went ahead for good 14 seconds later.
“Everything we’ve done has been about trying to play really hard with as much speed as we can play with,” Dunleavy said. “I didn’t feel like we were doing that. We were jogging in a lot of spaces.”
Next up for Tulane is a trip to Tampa, Florida on Sunday to play undefeated Florida State, which hammered fifth-ranked Florida 83-66 on Monday.
Southern plays at Central Florida on Saturday and at Iowa on Sunday.
“We still are trying to find a group of guys that can go out there and be consistent,” Scott said. “We are going to keep plugging away.”