Jay Hook rebounded from a dismal opening night, and so has the Tulane men’s basketball team.
The correlation between Hook’s hot shooting and the Green Wave’s seven-game win streak is hard to miss entering Tuesday night’s game with Savannah State at Devlin Fieldhouse.
He went 0-for-4 in 20 frustrating minutes as Wake Forest embarrassed Tulane 71-49 on Nov. 17. Since then, he has hit 20 of 42 3-pointers (47.6 percent), taking over the team lead in scoring (12.9 ppg) while picking up where he left off in a record-setting junior year.
His latest shot was his biggest — a deep trey that finished off Mississippi State on Dec. 6 before Tulane took a 10-day break for final exams. After setting a school mark with 83 3s last season, he in on pace to top that standard as a senior.
“If I can get him open, I know a 100-percent of the time he is going to make it,” said Louis Dabney, who fed Hook for that clinching basket. “Him shooting like that opens up the whole defense and makes everybody a lot better.”
It’s early, but Tulane (7-1) leads the American Athletic Conference in scoring (74.8 points) and field goal percentage (.488) in mid-December. With wins against Savannah State (3-8) and Jackson State (1-8) this Friday, the Wave can match its longest streak in coach Ed Conroy’s five-year tenure.
Hook figures to get plenty of defensive attention in both games, and he likes it that way.
“They won’t help as much off of me, and that helps my teammates out a whole bunch,” he said. “They’ll get more driving lanes. They have to pick their poison. If they help too much, then I’ll shoot it. If they don’t, we’ll drive those gaps.”
Hook would have finished fifth in the NCAA with his 3-point shooting percentage last year (.472) if he had made two more 3s to qualify under the sport’s rigorous standard. Opponents know what is coming, but they have not found a way to stop him yet.
“He has a very quick release and he’s got unlimited range,” Conroy said. “Those two things in and of themselves make it very hard (to defend Hook). And he’s not just a spot shooter. He can run into his shots, so you really have to defend him well coming off screens.”
Hook, a 6-foot-4 guard, is not one-dimensional, either. Last year he averaged 5.1 rebounds, the second highest total on the team. This season he already has grabbed nine rebounds twice, the second-most for any Tulane player behind power forward Tre Drye’s 11 against Wake Forest.
“Being able to shoot well allows me to be a better rebounder, too,” Hook said. “When somebody shoots, I can kind of see how it will come off the rim and be in the right spot.”
He and his teammates appeared to be in all the right spots before their time off. That interruption is Conroy’s largest worry.
“You always have concerns when you get out of rhythm after you’ve been in a pretty good one for a while, but it’s something everybody in the country has to handle,” Conroy said. “We’ve got to be mature enough to handle that as well.”