Already beaten down by a series of demoralizing losses, the Tulane men’s basketball team got beaten up by South Florida in a battle of American Athletic Conference cellar dwellers.
The Bulls scored 24 of their 36 first-half points in the lane and outrebounded Tulane 44-34 in a 73-60 victory Wednesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse, snapping a three-game losing streak in the series and leaving the short-handed Green Wave in last place in the league.
Tulane, which won 81-70 in Tampa on Jan. 12 behind 19 points from Louis Dabney and three blocked shots from center Jernard Jarreau, played without both of them in the rematch.
Dabney sat out with a knee injury, and Jarreau has been sidelined by a leg problem for the past three games.
In their absence, the Wave (8-14, 1-8) could not find a consistent way to score from anywhere or stop the Bulls (5-17, 2-7) inside.
Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray, who scored a season-high 30 points in USF’s first conference win Saturday at Houston, led the Bulls with 23 points, but they already were in control before he heated up.
Senior Jaleel Cousins, the 6-foot-11 younger brother of Sacramento Kings star DeMarcus Cousins, did a pretty fair imitation with 17 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three assists.
Forward Angel Nunez added 16 points and eight rebounds as Tulane had no answer for either one of them.
DeMarcus Cousins and teammate Rajon Rondo were in the arena to watch the younger Cousins play.
Dylan Osetkowski paced Tulane with 16 points, but he did not get much help.
The Wave was 23-of-73 from the floor and 7-of-30 from behind the arc.
Malik Morgan was the primary offender, going 6-of-20 overall and 3-of-13 from 3-point range on his way to 15 points. Freshmen Melvin Frazier, Von Julien and Kain Harris combined for a 6-for-27 shooting performance.
The reeling Wave has lost four in a row, all by double digits, and has to travel to Tulsa on Saturday to face a team that beat it 81-67 at Devlin Fieldhouse on Jan. 10.
The first half was a broken record for Tulane, which launched 15 3-pointers despite being last in the AAC in 3-point percentage and hit only three. The Wave led 14-10 before Morgan, Julien and Harris took and missed long-range shots on consecutive possessions as South Florida went on a 10-0 run.
The Bulls did their damage from much closer range, taking advantage of the absence of Jarreau, by far Tulane’s best interior defender.
Cousins surpassed his season average (7.8 points) with 10 points in the first half, scoring twice on dunks, including a one-handed slam off of his own miss.
Tulane tied it for the last time, 24-24, on a shot from Cameron Reynolds, but South Florida responded with four consecutive buckets. McMurray hit two tough fall-away shots during the stretch.
Osetkowski kept Tulane within range, scoring 11 points in the first half. He had back-to-back dunks on a nice feed from Morgan before dribbling coast to coast for a jam when no one picked him up after he made a steal, cutting the deficit to 34-28.
The highlights ended there.
Tulane came within 50-45 midway through the second half, but Reynolds missed an open 3-pointer, and the Bulls went on a 12-0 run to seal the win.