It may not have been demoralizing, but Tulane senior Jay Hook admitted it was a missed opportunity.
After climbing out of a 10-point deficit with less than five minutes remaining, it appeared the Green Wave (11-4, 2-1 American) was on the cusp of its second head-turning victory in five days. However, Tulane couldn’t recapture the magic it used to beat Memphis on Saturday, instead bowing out to Temple 64-56 at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Owls (12-4, 3-0), who entered the night rated No. 35 in ESPN’s RPI index and positioned as an at-large selection for the NCAA tournament, found themselves in a struggle against the Green Wave in front of a hostile 2,875 fans.
“I’m not a bit discouraged about how we played,” Hook said. “I’m encouraged by what we could have done. If we had played our best game, then we would have been OK. But it wasn’t our best game, and we have a lot of stuff to work on.”
Most of the focus will surround what transpired in the final four minutes. Once the score was knotted, it was Temple that found ways to pull away.
With the game tied at 51, the Owls rattled off a 7-0 run capped by a back-breaking sequence that saw Hook drive in for an uncontested layup only to have it rattle off the rim. Temple scooped up the rebound and caught Tulane flat-footed in transition, allowing Jesse Morgan to bury a 3-pointer, stretching the lead to 58-51.
Tulane didn’t recover.
“I just need to convert that or the other thing wouldn’t have happened,” Hook said. “It would have been minus-two instead of plus-three. We still kept fighting and put ourselves in position to win, so that wasn’t the end-all and be-all, but it certainly didn’t help.”
Tulane converted just 37 percent of its shots from the field, allowed 19 offensive rebounds and 18 points off turnovers. Still, Tulane coach Ed Conroy said he thinks his team played well enough to win, even on a night where everything wasn’t clicking.
“I think we could play the game 10 times and I don’t know how many we would win, but we would win some of those playing the same way,” Conroy said. “We did get some good shots. We got some looks. We got some stops. But again, some shots didn’t go in, and we missed a call here or there.”
At the onset, it appeared the Green Wave would be the one having its way. Tulane opened the game by pounding into the paint, allowing centers Ryan Smith and Dylan Osetkowski to score eight of Tulane’s first 15 points, and jumping out to an early six point lead.
Although Hook buried his first three 3-pointers, it was Temple’s perimeter offense that came into play to even the game. Despite entering the night as ranked No. 326 nationally in field-goal percentage and making just 8-of-31 shots in the first half, the Owls connected on five 3-pointers to buoy them.
The shooting was much-needed, considering Tulane outscored Temple 16-6 in the paint and entered halftime with a 27-25 lead.
Styles took a distinct turn in the second stanza, when Temple took its offensive game into the paint and piled up points on layups and off of offensive rebounds — part of 15 second-chance points. Its 9-2 run out of the locker room provided an early five-point cushion.
Then Tulane tried to crank up the defensive pressure, using the rangy and athletic Kajon Mack in a full-court press. Despite tipping passes on three consecutive possessions, the Wave couldn’t nab a steal. Instead, Temple found open shooters to extend the lead to 45-35 midway through the second half.
The Green Wave chipped away from there, thanks largely to six points by Lou Dabney, who had missed seven consecutive shots after missing nearly all of Saturday’s win in Memphis because of an ankle injury. It helped Tulane reel off a 13-6 run to tie the score at 51, capped by Tre Drye’s layup and free throw with 4:48 remaining.
“We were in a little bit of a trouble, there’s no question,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We made a couple of big plays and a couple of big foul shots, and Jesse Morgan hit a huge three to put us up seven.”
Morgan’s 3-pointer proved to be the dagger that cost the Green Wave a chance at starting 3-0 in conference for the first time since 1997. Instead, it will look to regroup when it hosts South Florida on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“There are all kinds of things that determine the outcome of a game, and we didn’t get them,” Conroy said. “But we can’t let ourselves off the hook that easily because of where we want to go as a team and a program. We have find ways to win when shots don’t go in and things don’t quite go our way. But I’m proud of our guys and know they’ll come back to work on Friday.”