Tulane guard Jordan Cornish fed Melvin Frazier on the baseline in transition during the second half, watched him take flight for a thunderous jam and flexed his muscles before turning to run back down the court.
That was Cornish doing the flexing, not Frazier.
Passing has become contagious in the second year under coach Mike Dunleavy.
The Green Wave, which was among the top 30 teams in the nation in assists after four games, caught the fever again during the second half on Wednesday night, rolling past Miami (Ohio) 80-59 at Devlin Fieldhouse in a continuation of the Jamaica Classic.
Tulane (5-0) can equal its number of victories from last year’s 6-25 finish by winning at Georgia State on Sunday—four days before the end of November.
After Frazier’s dunk, Ray Ona Embo hit a 3-pointer from the wing off a pass from Cameron Reynolds and Frazier made a lay-up in transition on a feed from Ona Embo as the Wave finished an 11-0 spurt to go ahead 55-39.
A little later, forward Samir Sehic found Frazier for an open 3-pointer and Frazier passed to freshman Caleb Daniels for a lay-up, giving Tulane a 70-51 advantage with 5:29 left.
Eight different players had an assist, leading to a blowout victory that appeared inevitable from the start even as Miami, picked last in the Mid-American Conference, hung around for 30 minutes. The Red Hawks (3-2), who started five freshmen under new coach Jack Owens, did not have the experience or togetherness to match Tulane’s ball movement and teamwork.
Tulane handed out 10 assists with only two turnovers in the second half, leading by as much as 22.
“It’s great,” Dunleavy said. “If guys don’t do that, I kind of call them out. It’s not the way I ever played and it’s not the way I let my players play. You’ve got to feel like everybody’s going to share the ball. That’s the best way to play. If you have a mismatch, you’re going to get the ball. If you’re open, you are going to get the ball.”
The other reason for Cornish’s celebration: pretty much everything Frazier does is flex-worthy.
Building off his American Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors, he led Tulane with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, tied Sehic with a team-best eight rebounds, added a career-high five steals and joined Cornish with three assists.
Frazier’s stats through five games are startling. He is averaging 22.0 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 71.6 percent from the floor and 55.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I’ve been preaching it from day 1 from anybody who will listen to me,” Dunleavy said. “His ability to make plays with his left hand and his range on the 3-point shot now, it only happens one way, and that’s by putting the work in. He’s playing a great all-around team game, playing within what we’re doing and it’s coming along nicely.”
Tulane, which never trailed and led for all but the first 14 seconds, shot 53.2 percent. Reynolds scored 15 while hitting 7 of 11 shots, Ona Embo had 14 points, sinking three treys, and Sehic added 10 points.
“Coach said get the ball inside-out and we’d get good things,” Frazier said. “That’s what happened.”
Dunleavy’s only disappointments were a bad stretch when Tulane did not share the ball at the end of the first half and uncharacteristically poor free throw shooting (7 for 16) that led to a halftime lead of 37-30 that could have been twice as large.
Nike Sibande kept Miami within range, scoring 11 of his game-high 21 points in the first nine minutes of the second half, but the Wave held the Red Hawks to 38.8-percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.
“You’ve got to bank wins when you can get them,” Dunleavy said. “From our standpoint, it starts at the defensive end of the floor, then hitting the glass and then it comes to taking care of the glass and making free throws. We’ll get back to making free throws for our next game.”