Tulane men’s basketball coach Ed Conroy’s bleak future got even bleaker on Wednesday night.
Two days after new athletic director Troy Dannen gave him the opposite of a vote of confidence in a television interview, Tulane fell into a last-place tie with East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference, losing to the Pirates 79-73 at Devlin Fieldhouse.
On Monday, Dannen spoke candidly about Conroy’s lack of success on Fox Sports 8.
“There isn’t any question it’s not meeting anyone’s expectations,” Dannen said when asked about the state of the program. “If it’s meeting someone’s expectations, then that person needs expectations that are significantly higher, because mine are. For me, if we’re not in the top half of the league, then it bears a careful evaluation of why not, and what it’s going to take to get there. That’s where I’m at with basketball right now.”
Under Conroy, Tulane finished 3-13, 3-13, 6-10 and 8-8 in four years of Conference USA play before going 6-12 in the American Athletic Conference last season.
The Wave (10-18, 3-12) will finish even worse this time barring a three-game win streak to close the regular season. Tulane beat East Carolina 100-92 in triple overtime on the road two weeks ago but could not complete the sweep, falling to 1-7 in conference games at home with only the regular-season finale against Temple remaining at Devlin Fieldhouse.
East Carolina (11-17, 3-12) went 16-of-25 from the floor in the second half, scoring on an array of open outside shots and wide-open layups as Tulane went small with Dylan Osetkowski at center and four perimeter players on the court. The Pirates extended a 2-point halftime lead to as much as 12 before Tulane cut the deficit to 2 in the final minute.
One last open 3-pointer by B.J. Tyson closed out the Wave.
Osetkowski and Louis Dabney paced Tulane with 18 points, but Dabney limped off the court in the final seconds with a leg injury. Osetkowksi added 12 rebounds, registering his 11th double-double. Freshman Melvin Frazier scored 10, including a pair of treys during the Wave’s late rally.
Tyson led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, getting 16 in the second half. Lance Tejada added 18 points off the bench and hit his first six attempts.
East Carolina was 10-of-20 on 3-pointers while Tulane went 9-of-28.
Tulane trailed 38-36 at the half despite having excellent ball movement. Seven different players had assists in the first 12 minutes, providing a stark contrast to the rest of the conference season, when the Wave had seven or fewer assists as a team five times.
Center Ryan Smith fed Osetkowski for a layup on the Wave’s first possession. Osetkowski dunked a Dabney pass with one hand a little later and had another dunk in transition off a nice feed from freshman point guard Von Julien.
When Cameron Reynolds dunked on a pass from Dabney to make the score 27-20, Tulane appeared on the verge of pulling away.
But defensive lapses hurt the Wave, as did the surprise emergence of Tejada, a little-used guard.
Tejada, who averaged 3.4 points and had scored nine in East Carolina’s last seven games combined, sank all four of his 3-point attempts in the first half. His 13 points by the break were a season high and one off his career best, which he surpassed quickly in the second half.