Not even senior night or the arrival of last-place Houston could snap the Tulane men’s basketball team out of its funk.
The Cougars rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to win 68-63 in overtime Wednesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse, sending the Green Wave to its seventh consecutive home loss and 10th defeat in its past 11 games.
Tulane (14-15, 5-12 American Athletic Conference), which led 44-34 at one point, made only four field goals in the last 10 minutes of regulation and one more in overtime, suffering its fourth consecutive senior night defeat dating to 2010-11, coach Ed Conroy’s first year.
Houston (11-18, 3-14) won its first conference road game.
“We had too many errors and just let our guard down,” junior Louis Dabney said. “Houston kept playing and kept coming at us.”
Dabney and Payton Henson led Tulane with 15 points apiece. Dabney added five assists and five rebounds, but he came up empty on two 3-pointers in overtime and did not score again after giving the Wave its last lead at 59-57 on a driving basket with 1:40 left in regulation.
Houston did not make a field goal in overtime, but the Cougars sank nine of 10 free throws while the Wave went 2-of-6 from the foul line in the extra session. Eric Weary sealed the victory with two free throws with 1.3 seconds left after Dabney’s attempt at a tying 3-pointer was off target.
Devonta Pollard, who was perfect on all six of his foul shots in overtime, and Jherrod Stiggers paced Houston with 17 points.
The Cougars, the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the AAC, were only 4-of-13 from long range. Forward Danrad Knowles, who had 31 points in the teams’ first meeting, went scoreless while missing all four of shots from the field.
Still, Tulane could not figure out a way to win.
“I would have thought we were in a great position,” Conroy said when asked if he would liked his chances with those stats. “I would have told you that we did the job defensively.”
Both teams squandered opportunities after Pollard tied the score at 59 with two free throws with a minute left in regulation.
Dabney drove into the lane but had his leaning shot blocked by Pollard. Pollard missed a jumper in the lane, and Tulane’s Jay Hook stole the ball after the Cougars grabbed the rebound.
Hook then lost it out of bounds near midcourt when both he and the Tulane bench felt he was fouled, giving the ball back to Houston with 11.3 seconds left. The Cougars did not even get a shot to the rim on their final possession, but Hook, an 81-percent foul shooter, could have broken the tie if the referees had called it his way.
“I looked at the clock and was trying to be aggressive,” Hook said. “I thought I got fouled. Otherwise, I felt like I was going to win the game.”
Conroy said: “I was all over them (the officials). They just stared. I couldn’t go over and say much at that point because they weren’t going to reverse it, obviously. That ends the game with Jay Hook at the free-throw line.”
Tulane appeared to be in good shape after Henson’s layup with 12:25 left gave the Green Wave a 44-34 advantage, its first double-digit lead since Jan. 11 against South Florida. Instead, Houston responded with a 19-8 run to go ahead 53-52 on a pair of free throws with 3:13 left.
With Tulane trailing 18-17, Dabney found Kajon Mack for a thunderous dunk that gave the Green Wave its first lead in more than 78 minutes of basketball.
The Wave led for the rest of the half, and Hook drained a buzzer-beating 25-foot rainbow to make the score 27-22 at halftime.
It looked like part of a perfect send-off for one of the most prolific long-range shooters in Green Wave history. Hook hit three 3-pointers in the first half of his final home game, but he did not score the rest of the way, finishing 3-of-11 from the field.
Uncharacteristically, his last shot was an air ball from the corner in the final minute of overtime when he was wide open and had a chance to give Tulane a 66-65 lead.
“I got good looks,” he said. “I have to hit those.”
Tulane’s 27 points tied its most in the first half in 11 games. The last time it scored more was its previous meeting with Houston on Jan. 17.
Back then, the Wave improved to 4-2 in the AAC with a tough 68-65 victory. It’s been a tough slog the rest of the way.
“It’s kind of hard going out with a loss on your home court,” said senior forward Tre Drye, who stopped a personal 0-for-11 drought with a dunk for his only basket. “It would have big for the team and also for the fans.”