Tulane men’s basketball coach Ed Conroy sat starters Jernard Jarreau and Melvin Frazier for the entire first half against Appalachian State to send them a message for transgressions they committed earlier in the week.
Their teammates sent a message to everyone they are going to play the rest of the way.
Recovering from embarrassing losses to Alabama A&M and Southern, the Green Wave leveled the Mountaineers with a strong first-half display, taking a 40-9 lead and cruising to a feel-good 76-48 victory it needed desperately Sunday in Devlin Fieldhouse.
This one became a rout right after it started. With Ryan Smith starting for Jarreau, whom Conroy disciplined for getting a double technical foul in Thursday’s loss at Southern, and Kain Harris replacing Frazier, who had minor team-related issues, the Wave (2-2) hit 18 of its 29 shots (62.1 percent) in the first half while limiting Appalachian State (1-3) to 6-of-29 shooting.
“It is gratifying because (the first-half suspension) doesn’t work, and it doesn’t happen unless everybody, including the young men who didn’t play, are great teammates,” Conroy said. “It was neat how everybody who came in gave us quality, solid basketball. It showed that maybe we are coming together as a team.”
Center Dylan Osetkowski followed his own miss with a basket in the first minute, and Tulane scored the first eight points to force Appalachian State coach Jim Fox to take a timeout with 17:09 left.
Nothing changed. By the time Fox burned his second timeout, Tulane was up 29-4 at the 7:49 mark on a breakaway layup by freshman point guard Von Julien.
That didn’t change the momentum, either. A little later, 310-pound freshman Taron Oliver hit a 3-pointer to spark a 10-0 run, delighting the announced crowd of 962.
Conroy said the shot was part of Oliver’s repertoire. On this day, just about everything the Wave tried worked in a surreal first half that allowed Conroy’s son, walk-on guard Riley Conroy, to check in before the midpoint.
Appalachian State was coming off a 21-point loss at Hampton on Friday. Tulane needed barely 10 minutes to match that margin.
“We wanted to come out and send a message that we know how to play and we know we’re a good team,” Osetkowski said. “It was good to see our guys come out strong and play well.”
Osetkowski, a sophomore who did not have 10 rebounds in any game last year, logged his third double-double of the season with a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with 10 points and three assists.
Senior guard Louis Dabney led a balanced effort with 13 points. Freshmen Von Julien came off the bench for 11 points and seven assists, but the Wave already was ahead 14-2 when he entered for the first time.
“The guys that started off gave us a great start,” Julien said. “They really put me in the flow of the game.”
Tulane, which led 45-17 at the half, did not let that advantage fall below 26 points. Frazier started the second half along with Jarreau and added 10 points, including an alley oop as he joined fellow freshmen Harris and Blake Paul with spectacular dunks.
“They had been a little frustrated trying to get out and go, but it takes defensive stops to be able to do that,” Conroy said. “That’s really what the difference in the game was. We got clean stops.”