Louis Dabney, Malik Morgan and Dylan Osetkowski came up large against Houston as the Tulane men’s basketball team tried to win three conference games in a row for the first time since 2009.
Unfortunately, they got very little help, and the Green Wave was equally helpless staying in front of the Cougars’ quick guards, losing 82-69 in men’s college basketball Wednesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
Dabney scored a game-high 23 points, Osetkowski contributed 19, and Morgan added 18, with the big three combining to shoot 17-of-36. The rest of the roster managed nine points on 4-of-23 shooting.
Houston (19-7, 9-5 American Athletic Conference) by contrast, placed five players in double figures while winning its fifth in a row. The Cougars outscored Tulane 24-13 in the final 10:06, getting a series of layups and dunks down the stretch as the Wave relaxed defensively.
Dabney, Morgan and Osetkowski wore down after all three played at least 36 minutes coming off a triple-overtime win at East Carolina last Wednesday and an overtime victory against Memphis on Saturday.
“We did a lot of good things and played real hard, but it’s a shame we weren’t able to keep up the effort and intensity we were expending toward the end there,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “With some of those guys having a tough night on the offensive end, it made it tough to take these guys (Morgan, Dabney and Osetkowski) off the floor.”
Tulane (10-17, 3-11) dropped to 0-8 against AAC teams currently above .500 in league play. The Wave entered the year 2-41 under Conroy against opponents that finished with winning conference records.
After matching Houston for 30 minutes, Tulane could not keep up the rest of the way. The Cougars scored 42 points in the paint despite having almost no post-up action.
“We kind of fell apart on defense,” Morgan said. “They got some good looks at the rim, and we just lost focus.”
A season-long problem returned in the first half as Tulane could not make shots, but unlike some earlier blowout losses, the Wave hung tough.
At one point, the Wave was 6-of-23 from the floor, but a running hook by Morgan sparked a 13-4 run to give Tulane a 35-33 lead with 1:36 left in the first half. Morgan fed Osetkowski for a 3-point play, Dabney sank a 3-pointer from the corner, and the Wave converted four straight free throws when Houston’s Kyle Meyer drew a technical for arguing a foul call.
Tulane hit 14 of 17 free throws in the first half, doubling Houston’s output at the line.
Houston ended the half with six straight points and extended the run to 12 by scoring three quick baskets to start the second half.
Again, Tulane recovered.
Morgan hit from everywhere in one torrid three-minute stretch, scoring 12 points on two 3-pointers, a step-back jumper, a short bank shot and a driving layup.
At the end of that streak, though, he tried a deep 3-pointer that would have given Tulane a 59-58 lead and watched it glance off the backboard, missing the rim entirely at the 10:49 mark.
The Wave never came as close again.
Houston went on a 6-0 run to go up by 8 and led by at least 7 the rest of the way.
Tulane held AAC Player of the Week Devonta Pollard to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting but struggled to contain Houston’s perimeter players.
Damyean Dotson paced the Cougars with 19 points, hitting nine of his 12 shots. Ronnie Johnson came off the bench to score 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Freshman Rob Gray, Jr., who had missed the past four games with a sprained ankle, played 18 minutes and scored 13 points.
Osetkowski was dominant early, posting 15 points and nine rebounds in the first half. He finished with 12 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double and had two beautiful assists, feeding Blake Paul for an alley oop and finding Melvin Frazier for an emphatic jam.
Still, it was not enough.
“Obviously I always feel like I can do more,” Osetkowksi said. “I’m trying to do whatever it takes to get a W for the team, so obviously I didn’t do what that took tonight.”