The first four minutes served as a warning.
The next 36 minutes were a dose of reality for Tulane in its final Conference USA home opener.
After Louisiana Tech held Tulane scoreless for the first three minutes, 48 seconds, the Bulldogs (15-3, 3-0 C-USA) proved the Green Wave’s struggles weren’t just the product of a cold start, but rather the short end of a dominant performance.
Louisiana Tech pummeled the Green Wave (10-10, 1-2) 73-45 on Thursday night in front of an announced 2,006 fans at Devlin Fieldhouse, many of whom fled midway through the second half when the Bulldogs extended their lead beyond 30 points, en route to serving Tulane its worst home loss since receiving a 77-37 thumping by Butler on Nov. 10, 2006.
A full-court press threw Tulane’s offense off from the start, disrupting freshman point guard Jonathan Stark at the beginning of many possessions and even when the Green Wave successfully broke the Tech press, Stark admitted he lacked the composure to slow back down and reset the offense at times. Instead, Tulane often found itself attacking the basket against a long and rangy Bulldogs defense, leading to a series of difficult off-balance layup attempts.
The frenetic pace helped silence Tulane from the perimeter as well. Despite entering the night as the No. 4 ranked 3-point shooting team in the conference, Tulane failed to convert a 3-pointer, coming up empty from beyond the arc for the first time since losing to VCU on Dec. 18, 2010.
“I thought we had good chances to get good looks, but we rushed and took off balance shots and took ill-advised plays at the end of the press,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “I think we let it affect us a little bit and then we started missing some shots we should make. All of those things kind of snowball on you.
“I thought there was one point in the second half where we showed a little poise, but other than that we did not shoot the ball well at all.”
The brief glimpse Conroy referred to occurred four minutes into the second half, when Tulane cut Louisiana Tech’s lead to 38-27. That’s when the Bulldogs stepped on the gas, jumping out on a 19-3 run over the next seven minutes, effectively pushing Tulane out of reach.
“It helps when you get a string of threes like we did there,” Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said. “Give credit to Kenyon McNeail and Jaron Johnson because we did it on the open floor off of stops and off of turnovers. That’s really where we are at our best, and we have a terrific passer like (Kenneth) Smith who allows us to get those type of runs and keep them going.”
The final stat sheet was nearly as lopsided as the scoreboard.
Tulane converted just 10-of-43 shots from the field, a meager 23.3 percent. It scored more points from the free-throw line (25) than from the field (20).
Louisiana Tech pulled down 21 offensive rebounds, leading to 16 second-chance points. The Bulldogs had a 53-27 rebounding advantage. Seven Bulldogs nabbed at least six rebounds, more than every Green Wave player except forward Tre Drye (who had seven rebounds).
The Bulldogs racked up 20 assists while committing just four turnovers. Tulane managed to dish just four assists while surrendering 17 turnovers.
“I thought overall we had a very good defensive performance,” White said. “We didn’t allow their guards to get their averages and we forced a bunch of turnovers and when you combine that with the work we did on the offensive glass, that’s going to be enough to win the game. I was proud of the way we handled both of those things.”
Tulane finds itself in the familiar position of trying to bounce back from a blowout loss, as it prepares to face Rice in Devlin on Saturday night . Last week, it turned around successfully following a 97-71 loss at Tulsa with a 73-62 victory at North Texas.
“That’s what’s good about this team because no matter what we always come back with a fight,” junior guard Jay Hook said. “We’ll go out to practice, and we need to focus on getting past this.”