The Tulane men started off hot against Tulsa, hitting two early 3-pointers to take a 12-3 lead.
The Golden Hurricane responded by blistering the nets pretty much the rest of the way.
Junior guard Pat Birt nearly doubled his season high with 28 points as Tulsa (10-6, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) hit 18 of 27 (66.7 percent) shots in the first half and sank 13 of 20 (65 percent) 3-pointers for the game, running away from the Green Wave 81-67 on Sunday afternoon at Devlin Fieldhouse.
Birt went 7-of-10 on 3-pointers, and James Woodard, who missed the East Carolina game Tuesday with an ankle injury, was 5-of-6.
“Once they got it rolling, they were feeling really good about themselves,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “We had a tough animal on our hands then.”
Tulane (7-10, 0-4) was on pace for 100 points near the midpoint of the first half, but the Wave inevitably slowed down when its season-long shooting woes returned. Matching each Tulsa swish with a clank, Tulane missed 21 of its last 22 3-pointers to finish 4-for-27 from long range.
Considering those contrasting stats, the Wave’s dominant 45-22 advantage in rebounding and good ball-handling (nine turnovers, tied for its second lowest of the year) were irrelevant.
Tulsa, which led 45-39 at the break, hit eight of its first 12 shots in the second half to go up 64-47 and led by double digits the rest of the way.
“I thought we were in great shape at halftime,” Conroy said. “I thought we’d taken their best shot, and we were right there with them. Quite frankly, if you had told me before the game we were going to outrebound our opponent by 23, turn the ball over less than 10 times and get to the free throw line seven more times than them and get 12 more shot attempts, there’s no way we could possibly lose the game.”
Dylan Osetkowski posted his sixth double-double of the year with 18 points and 14 rebounds, leading Tulane in both categories. He even hit a 3-pointer to give the Wave its 12-3 lead with 16:49 left, but that’s when Tulsa stopped missing.
Birt made his second, third and fourth 3-pointers — tying his career high for a game at the 12:23 mark of the first half — as Tulsa tied the score at 20. After 15 lead changes, The Golden Hurricane went ahead for good, 36-35, on a layup by Brandon Swannegan with 3:55 left before halftime.
Tulane failed miserably at playing catch-up the rest of the way. Freshman Kain Harris had 11 points, his most since November, but missed his last four 3-pointers after sinking his first one. Guard Louis Dabney, a second-team All-AAC performer last year, went 3-of-14 overall to lower his percentage in conference play to .227 (10-for-44) and could barely speak after the game, mumbling through his anguish.
“We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth game,” Osetkowski said. “They just made shots and got some defensive stops. It’s a process. We just have to come to practice and keep shooting, and the shots are going to start falling.”
One possession in the second half symbolized Tulane’s day. Malik Morgan missed two foul shots in a row but grabbed the rebound of the second one in the lane before his uncontested 3-foot banker rolled off the rim.
Frustration mounted from there. After hitting mostly tough shots in the first half, Tulsa converted four straight layups. Tulane center Jernard Jarreau, back from a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, then picked up his fourth technical of the year for something he said to an official and got benched for the last 6:40.
Tulsa, which went 14-4 in the AAC last year and returned almost everyone, was ninth in the 11-team league in shooting and last in 3-point percentage through three conference games.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen them shoot like that,” Conroy said. “And they did it really from start to finish.”