TULSA, Okla. — Tulane played itself down to a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Memphis in the Conference USA tournament by losing its last four regular-season games in excruciating fashion.
There was nothing excruciating about the eighth-seeded Green Wave’s loss Thursday.
No. 20 Memphis was too strong, too relentless and too good, blowing the game open with a 16-0 run in the last six minutes of the first half and leading by at least nine points the rest of the way for an 81-68 win at BOK Center.
Tulane (19-14) lost to Memphis (28-4) for the 22nd consecutive time dating to 2000 and dropped to 0-7 against the Tigers in conference tournament play. Barring an unlikely bid to a minor tournament such as the CBI, the Green Wave will finish one win shy of 20. Still, its 19 wins are the most since 1999-2000, when it went 20-11 and played in the NIT.
Tulane hung around for most of the first half, getting nine points from first-team All-Conference USA forward Josh Davis and pulling within 30-27 on two free throws from Louis Dabney with 5:59 left.
That’s when Memphis took over. C-USA Player of the Year Joe Jackson scored a layup in transition after Ricky Tarrant had a shot blocked. D.J. Stephens had a dunk and a layup. Chris Crawford finished off the Green Wave with back-to-back 3-pointers and a dunk off another Tarrant turnover to make it 44-27 at halftime.
“With their depth and the energy they play with, they can explode on you in those three-minute, four-minute runs,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said.
Davis finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, going past 1,000 points in his two years at Tulane. Jordan Callahan added 18 points and tied a Green Wave single-season record with his 77th 3-pointer.
Tarrant missed all seven of his shots in the first half to go with three turnovers and finished 2 of 14 from the floor.
“I was just struggling on offense,” Tarrant said. “Overall Memphis did a great job kind of speeding us up.”
Memphis hit 55.4 percent of its shots compared to Tulane’s 38.1. The Green Wave made only 5 of 19 3-point attempts, while the Tigers sank 9 of 24.
Chris Crawford, the Conference USA sixth man of the year, led the Tigers with 24 points, sinking 6 of 12 3-pointers. Adonis Thomas added 17 points, and Jackson had 15.
Tulane, playing its second game in less than 24 hours after beating Marshall 66-64 in the opening round Wednesday night, could not handle Memphis’ size and on-ball aggression. Center Tre Drye did not even hit the rim on three consecutive layup attempts spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second, intimidated by the Tigers’ shot blockers.
Given one final chance to cut the margin under double digits with a little more than two minutes left, Callahan let Memphis’ D.J. Stephens catch up to him on a breakaway and stuff his layup attempt.
“Sometimes we are just real hesitant when we don’t get the shots we want earlier,” said senior Kendall Timmons, who scored 10 points. “Memphis is too good a team to have a drought that big, and it hurt us.”