The Tulane men’s basketball team rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit and stood toe-to-toe with Connecticut athletically down the stretch.
The only place the Green Wave could not match the Huskies came when they were unguarded at the foul line.
Dylan Osetkowski missed two free throws that would have tied the game with 2:25 left, part of a finishing stretch when Tulane clanked eight of 12 foul shots as Connecticut pulled away to win 75-67 on Saturday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
That’s what made this loss, the Wave’s fourth in its last five games, more painful than the others. One game after blocking 10 shots against Memphis — its highest total since 2007 — Tulane (7-8, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) swatted 12 and used a spectacular 17-0 spurt early in the second half to create a raucous home atmosphere.
UConn (10-3, 1-0) hit the last 11 free throws it attempted, including six in the final minute.
“We put ourselves in position where the free throw line became really big,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “We just have to have the confidence to step up and knock those down.”
Otherwise, the Wave played with tremendous confidence after the Huskies hit three treys early in the second half to go up 51-32. Center Jernard Jarreau blocked a series of shots, Osetkowski scored five quick points and freshman Kain Harris sank a pair of 3-pointers as Tulane cut the deficit to 51-49 with 10:31 left.
The Wave went ahead 60-59 on Louis Dabney’s free throws at the 4:08 mark but then left UConn’s Sterling Gibbs wide open for a 3-pointer as the Huskies took the lead for good.
His look was almost as easy as a free throw and was one of three 3s he hit in the last seven minutes, including a deep buzzer-beater that extended the lead to 67-62 at the 2:00 mark.
“We had been playing really good, and we just turned our head,” Conroy said. “They came in and hit 11 of 21 3s, and a lot of the other ones were contested.”
Dabney led Tulane with 14 points but shot 3 of 12. Jarreau had 13 points, five blocks, three assists and two steals. Malik Morgan added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Rodney Purvis led UConn with 20 points, getting 15 of them in the last eight minutes of the first half.
Jarreau kept the Wave close with nine points before the break, but he also made one critical emotional mistake.
Right after completing a three-point play off a driving layup to cut Tulane’s deficit to 31-27, he drew a technical foul while walking up the court. UConn’s Daniel Hamilton sank both free throws, and the Huskies ended the half on a 7-1 run to go up 38-28.
Earlier this year, Jarreau was ejected for arguing a call against Southern, prompting Conroy to sit him for the next game.
“It’s always tough walking away with a loss, but I think we really got better tonight,” Morgan said. “We showed a lot of intensity on defense and some good things on offense, too. We just have to be able to close games out.”