Defense, ball-handling and composure.
Look no further than those three issues to figure out how the Tulane men’s basketball team lost to Southern for the first time in program history Thursday night despite shooting 52 percent from the floor and outrebounding the Jaguars 38-26.
If the Green Wave (1-2) does not improve in all three areas immediately, coach Ed Conroy said it could be staring at another loss against Appalachian State (1-2) on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse. The game starts at 3:30 p.m.
Southern scored 51 points in the second half alone en route to its 90-82 win in Baton Rouge, the most points Tulane has allowed in any half since 2013-14.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot because of foul trouble,” Conroy said. “We have to be more disciplined on the defensive end there, and then quite obviously we had a lack of focus.”
Tulane jumped out to a 20-12 lead on Southern before getting sloppy, committing six turnovers in the last 8:30 of the first half as the Jaguars rallied for a six-point lead. The Wave finished with 15 miscues, including four apiece by point guard Malik Morgan and small forward Melvin Frazier and three by post player Jernard Jarreau.
Still, the most maddening aspect of the defeat for Conroy was the way the Wave lost its cool. Jarreau was ejected after picking up back-to-back technical fouls with 6:47 left when he argued a foul call on teammate Kain Harris.
Southern hit all four technical free throws to go ahead 75-64, and Tulane did not quite catch up, coming as close as 84-82 with 25 seconds left.
“He (Jarreau) said some things he shouldn’t say, and we just can’t have that,” Conroy said. “We have to be stronger willed than that. And going forward, you’ll see a different response from him and the rest of our team.”
Jarreau’s outburst was the most flagrant example of a frustration overload.
“The entire game, we were getting caught up in the things that you can get caught up in on the road, whether it was the referee calls or the crowd,” Conroy said. “It wasn’t acceptable how we responded to those things. I thought we were going to put ourselves in position to get a road win, but we fell apart.”
Appalachian State, which last had a winning season 2010-11, is coming off back-to-back losses to Furman (79-70) and Hampton (82-61). The key for Tulane, though, is eliminating the self-inflicted wounds.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they understand how we hurt ourselves against Southern,” Conroy said “That won’t happen again.”
The Appalachian State game is part of the Music City Challenge. Tulane travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to complete the tournament with three games over the Thanksgiving weekend. … The Wave had 10 assists on its 11 baskets in the first half against Southern, something Conroy said was an encouraging sign.