South Florida guard Troy Holston elevated for a potential tying 3-pointer in overtime, lost the ball on the way up, scrambled to reclaim it and launched another one just before the shot clock went off.
Tulane got by with a lot of help from its enemies on Sunday afternoon, but the Green Wave did not care. A win is a win, and Tulane (12-4, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) is above .500 in league play after four games for the first time since 1996-97.
Louis Dabney scored six of his season-high 25 points in overtime as the Wave recovered from a rough end to regulation, blowing a 12-point lead in the final 12 minutes before outlasting South Florida 56-51 at Devlin Fieldhouse.
“It’s hard to have a bounce in your step after a win like that, but they should feel that way (elated),” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “The way they stepped up and the way they fought in overtime, they were playing fearlessly and they were playing tough.”
Some of the offensive numbers were tough to take. Tulane shot 5 for 24 in the first half and 13 for 43 in regulation, yet trailed only twice before overtime — 2-0 and 46-45 after South Florida’s Anthony Collins hit a driving shot in the lane with 22 seconds left.
The Bulls (7-10, 1-3) were equally brutal, committing 14 turnovers in the first half while connecting on seven shots and finishing 21 of 59 (35.6 percent) from the field.
In overtime, though, Tulane finally started executing. Dabney fed Jay Hook for a deep 3-pointer to erase South Florida’s final lead. Dabney hit a leaner the next time down the court and sank both ends of a one-and-one to put the Wave ahead for good 53-51 with 1:59 left.
Collins then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Tulane finished off USF at the foul line.
The Wave hit 22 of 27 free throws while the Bulls went 4 of 5.
“At the start of overtime, we all knew we just had to win these next five minutes,” Dabney said. “That was our mindset the whole time.”
The Wave won despite having no one in double figures other than Dabney, who hit 8 of 12 shots while his teammates went 7 for 33.
Point guard Jonathan Stark, the reigning AAC Player of the Week, went 0 for 6 from the floor and had six turnovers, getting benched for freshman Keith Pinckney for the first three minutes of overtime.
Stark also bricked the front end of a one-and-one with 40 seconds left in regulation, setting up USF’s go-ahead basket, but he hit the second of two free throws to tie the score at 46 after getting fouled with 16 seconds left.
USF missed a short jumper and two tip-in opportunities as time ran out.
“It was a pretty rough game for me, but we came out with the ‘W’,” Stark said. “There’s nothing too big about it. It was an off night.”
Corey Allen Jr. led USF with 13 points but was only 5 of 17 from the floor. Hook had nine points for Tulane, and Mack contributed a game-high seven rebounds off the bench. No one else scored more than five.
Somehow, the Wave survived, and Dabney stressed the positives.
“I know for a fact Jonathan Stark is the best point guard in the league,” he said. “This was just a minor setback for him. He’ll be ready, just like the rest of our team, to play better the next game.”