Almost all of the losses for the Tulane men’s basketball team have boiled down to the same problem: an inability to put the ball in the basket.
Throw in a significant rebounding deficit plus some carelessness at critical times, and the result was inevitable against league-leading Tulsa on Tuesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Golden Hurricane built a 55-39 lead just under the 4-minute mark and held on to win 62-55 despite an 11-0 Green Wave run that came a little too late.
Tulane (13-8, 4-5 American Athletic Conference) lost at home for the third time in six days, falling under .500 in league play after a 4-2 start. Tulsa (15-5, 8-0) won its 19th consecutive league game dating back to last season in Conference USA.
“Nights like these, you hate them, but there’s nothing you can do,” said Tulane guard Louis Dabney, who had 11 points but was only 4-of-12 from the floor. “It was frustrating. We have to get back in the gym and practice. The games will come a lot easier if we start playing the right way.”
The Wave shot 35.6 percent, a slight improvement on its 33-percent efforts against SMU and Memphis during the tough stretch, but many of those baskets came in a furious flurry at the end that was too late. Reserve forward Payton Henson scored all of his team-high 12 points in the last eight minutes, but the normally high-scoring trio of Dabney, Jonathan Stark and Jay Hook combined to go 9-for-35 from the floor.
Tulane’s shooting woes canceled out an excellent defensive effort against Tulsa’s prolific guard combo of James Woodard and Shaq Harrison. The Wave limited Woodard to season-tying low four points on 1-of-5 shooting after he had scored at least 12 in nine straight games. Harrison had 16 points but committed a season-high six turnovers.
“That was the game plan,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “But I told our guys before the game tonight, plans don’t win games. You have to bring the energy and the effort.”
Tulane fell short in that department, getting outrebounded 42-31, tying its second-largest disparity of the year.
The most important missed rebound came with 1:52 left, when Tulsa’s Rashad Ray missed two free throws in a 55-48 game but got the ball back off a ricochet, allowing the Golden Hurricane to burn another 30 seconds off the clock.
“I’m surprised, disappointed, not happy. And our players know I’m not happy,” Conroy said. “That’s something we can control. Our effort on the boards tonight was inexcusable.”
Other mistakes were just as costly. Early in the second half, Tulsa’s D’Andre Wright blew a flying dunk attempt. After grabbing the rebound, Dabney threw a soft crosscourt outlet pass that was stolen easily, leading to a dunk from Harrison that made the score 35-28.
A little earlier, Tulane power forward Tre Drye had a chance to tie the score when he was fouled going up for a dunk. Instead, his jam rattled out, and he missed both free throws.
“There were some self-inflicted wounds,” Conroy said. “You hope you can get a team like Tulsa in a game like that, but we did not make shots and panicked a little bit when we had a chance to get out and go.”
Tulane’s last chance ended when Stark’s 3-pointer went in and out with 34 seconds left after Harrison missed two free throws. The basket would have cut the deficit to 57-54, and Tulsa hit five of its last six free throws to seal the victory.
Tulane’s final lead was 20-19 before Tulsa ended the first half on an 8-0 run. The Wave shot 8-for-28 before the break.
One of the Wave’s only attempts that went in was Dabney’s 40-foot heave after the halftime buzzer. It did not count, adding to the Wave’s mounting frustration.