When he left the locker room after a depressing loss to South Florida last Thursday, Tulane senior forward Cameron Reynolds headed right back to the court at Devlin Fieldhouse and began taking jump shots.
He made almost all of them, trying to get back into a good rhythm at the end of another hard-luck night.
Charley Eckman, the coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1950s and then an NBA referee, is credited with the line "There are only two great plays: 'South Pacific' and 'put the ball in the basket.’ ”
Lately, Reynolds and most of his teammates have not been able to throw it into the ocean, particularly early in games.
Since surprising Temple on the road in its American Athletic Conference opener, Tulane (12-8, 3-5), has hit only 36.5 percent of its shots in the first halves of seven league contests. Its 8-of-26 performance against South Florida matched its numbers against Tulsa and aligned closely with its stats versus SMU (8 of 22), Memphis (10 of 29), Connecticut (8 of 27) and SMU again (9 of 22).
Reynolds, Tulane's best pure shooter and a proven scorer, is 37 of 105 (35.2 percent) overall in that span. Suddenly, the Green Wave's early-season optimism will be replaced by the reality of another lower-division finish if it cannot win at East Carolina (8-12-2-7) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"A lot of times with shooters, it's just a little bit in your head with confidence," coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. said. "There's not a guy you can name, Steph Curry included, who hasn't gone through it. You've got to work your way out of it, and the best way to do it is see the ball go through the basket, get a layup or two, take good shots and try not to press."
Reynolds is worried less about his own issues than with a team-wide fix, beginning with the start of games. Tulane had 10 points against South Florida nearly midway through the first half, giving the Bulls the boost they needed to get their lone conference victory.
"USF came out gunning and we came out sluggish," Reynolds said. "We can't get it back, so we have to come out ready for the next one. We can't let them (East Carolina) punch us in the mouth first. We've got to punch them and start well and try to find the inside shots first rather than settling for outside shots."
It would help if someone other than junior swingman Melvin Frazier (17.1 points, 59.9 percent shooting) would get hot against the Pirates, whose only conference victories are a sweep of South Florida. ECU has been outscored by 153 in its seven losses.
UNLV transfer Jordan Cornish is an ice-cold 23 of 68 in the last seven games-and 19 of 64 (29.7 percent) discounting the four 3s he made in the last 75 seconds of a defeat at Memphis.
"At times, his shooting comes down to fundamentals," Dunleavy said. "He drifts instead of going straight up and being locked in and getting a good rhythm."
Starting center Blake Paul, who hit 5 of 7 shots against Temple, has made three baskets in nine attempts since then, averaging a point a game.
"At times he's just not aggressive when he catches," Dunleavy said. "He shoots a high percentage. We're telling him to shoot and be more aggressive with the ball."
Even point guard Ray Ona Embo, who shot 50 percent in the last six games, wants to be better early. He missed both of his 3-point attempts in the first half against South Florida, contributing to Tulane's glacial start.
"We only had 22 points in the first half-we couldn't get a bucket to go in," he said. "We have to start strong, push the pace, rebound and get the ball in transition. We can't fall behind again and have to catch up at the end."