Two weeks ago, East Carolina nearly beat the Tulane men's basketball team after a miraculous length-of-the-court pass and shot at the end of regulation.
The Green Wave had two chances to duplicate the feat from closer to the basket at Devlin Fieldhouse on Wednesday night but came up empty both times.
Ray Ona Embo's shot from the baseline at the buzzer was about a foot short of the rim as the Green Wave fell to the Pirates 82-80, losing for the eighth time in 10 games. Ona Embo had six-tenths of a second to release the ball after catching an inbounds pass from Melvin Frazier, so he rushed it and did not get a good release.
Right before that attempt, East Carolina's B.J. Tyson deflected a crosscourt inbounds pass out of bounds from just inside midcourt, taking five-tenths of a second off the clock.
Ona Embo's hurried attempt was one of the few shots either team missed in the second half. Both of them connected on 16 of 27 attempts after the break, combining for 98 points in an entertaining up-and-down display between two teams near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference standings.
After the Wave rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to tie the score at 80 on Cameron Reynolds' 3-pointer with 27 seconds left, freshman Caleb Daniels was called for a foul as he blocked Tyson's shot from just outside the foul line with 2.4 seconds left. Tyson sank both free throws to provide the victory margin.
"It looked like it was a foul," Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Not to say I agreed with all the calls in the game, but I thought that was a foul."
Tulane (13-12, 4-9) has not won since beating East Carolina (10-14, 4-9) on the road 71-69 in overtime Jan. 31, surviving a buzzer-beating basket by Tyson as he fell to the floor after catching a full-court pass. The Wave outscored the Pirates 4-2 in an ugly overtime when neither team could score.
This time, neither team could get a stop in the second half.
The Wave could not handle East Carolina freshman Shawn Williams, who scored 29 points while sinking 9 of 10 shots and all six of his attempts from 3-point range, or Isaac Fleming, who scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, primarily off of drives. When the Wave tied the score at 40, Williams responded with a four-point play, sinking a 3 and a free throw after being fouled.
"I'm disappointed how we defended tonight," Dunleavy said. "We just gave them too many opportunities."
Reynolds led Tulane with 23 points and six rebounds. Ona Embo added 14 points and was one of five players in double figures.
Tyson added 22 points for East Carolina.
The Wave fought an uphill batter almost all the way, leading only twice-1-0 and 19-18.
"I thought we were going to pull it out the whole time because we just kept on fighting," Reynolds said. "It was a toss-up call at the end."
The problem was covering the streaky Williams, who hit only 1 of 4 shots in the Pirates' overtime loss to Tulane two weeks ago but has been on fire lately. He sank all four of his trey attempts in the first half, including three from about 25 feet, exhibiting the same form he had in a 30-point outburst against Memphis on Feb. 3.
Those haymakers kept the Pirates in front, 34-30, entering halftime.
"We just have to do a better job in the first half," Reynolds said. "It's been our downfall all year."