When Tulane’s trio of guards are in sync, the Green Wave has proven to be nearly impossible to stop.
There may never be a better illustration of Louis Dabney, Jay Hook and Jonathan Stark’s combustible potential than Wednesday night’s 72-64 victory over Florida Atlantic at Devlin Fieldhouse.
A dreadfully slow start gave way to a outright jailbreak as the trio cranked up the pace and converted from nearly every space on the floor, turning a 16-point deficit into a lopsided victory and proving just how quickly the Green Wave (15-13, 8-6 Conference USA) can turn from its worst to its best.
“It’s the best backcourt in America,” Hook said with a smile. “When we get going, we really get going.”
The guards combined to score 56 points, 41 in the second half, as Tulane overwhelmed the Owls (10-19, 5-9) despite shooting nearly 10 percentage points worse from the field.
Tulane made up for its 36 percent shooting by repeatedly attacking the rim to get layups, free throws while unloading a series of midrange jumpers. The Green Wave converted 26-of-36 free throws, and pulled down 21 offensive rebounds, taking charge of the paint.
The win allowed Tulane to take sole possession of the No. 6 spot in the C-USA standings and assured itself at least a .500 record in league-play for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Early on, it appeared the Wave would be sinking toward the bottom half of the standings.
After tying the score 2-2, Tulane suffered through a six minute drought which allowed FAU to race out on a 13 point run, 11 of which came from Pablo Bartone (who finished with a game-high 28 before leaving due to an apparent leg injury). By the time Tre Drye tipped a putback in to end the Owls’ early flourish, Tulane had already dug itself into a deep hole.
Even when the Green Wave pieced together some early offense, FAU answered back, maintaining a double-digit distance until the final minute of the half.
A pair of Stark layups was followed by the Owls’ Richard Morrow burying a jumper. Dabney knocked down a shot and connected on two free throws, but Jackson Trapp responded with an FAU 3-pointer from the wing.
“We were just mad about our defense,” Dabney said. “We weren’t worried about our offense, because we know that’s going to come.”
Just as he expected, something clicked.
Over the final two minutes of the first half and the opening minute of the second half, Tulane piled up 10 straight points. It converted seven of its first 12 shots in the second half, including three of its four 3-pointers and grabbed a 39-38 lead.
From there, Tulane raced out on a 25-14 run to take a firm grip on the game, as Stark, Hook and Dabney took control and reached a milestone in the process, becoming the first Tulane team to have three players score 400 points in a season since the 1995-96 campaign when Jerald Honeycutt, LeVeldro Simmons and Rayshard Allen each eclipsed 400.
While this team may not be as complete as that one from nearly 20 years ago, when the Green Wave’s three scorers are all clicking together, Tulane coach Ed Conroy knows it can change any game against any opponent. Even if it’s only for a half.
“There have been games where we haven’t had two of them going and most of the time we have lost those nights,” Conroy said. “This was a night where all three may have been going, but they weren’t going early. Our team, even though we scored 23 points in the first half and was in a little bit of a drought, I thought gained some maturity and mental toughness.
“We found a way to work our way out of it. I told them in the locker room after the game that this can be really good for us. We stared at something like that and stared it down and fought back.”