Tulane shook off the blues of a four-game skid to get in position to beat UConn on Saturday evening at Devlin Fieldhouse, but the Green Wave men’s basketball team could not shake the shooting woes that have plagued it in recent weeks in a 62-50 loss to Connecticut.
Trailing 44-39 past the midpoint of the second half, UConn (13-9, 6-4 American Athletic Conference) went on a 16-2 run to take control while Tulane (13-10, 4-7) missed an opportunity to beat a defending NCAA champion for the first time in school history.
Louis Dabney converted a 3-point play off a backdoor cut and a perfect feed from freshman center Dylan Osetkowski to give the Wave its five-point lead with 6:49 left. Tulane then went nearly six minutes without a basket as the game slipped away.
The final numbers were eerily familiar.
Tulane shot 32.7 percent from the floor (18-of-55) after hitting 32.4 percent in the previous four games, and the Wave connected on only 8-of-28 attempts after halftime.
“We were real stagnant,” Dabney said. “We let the ball sit in players’ hands and made the game harder than it needed to be. Doing that type of stuff, we can’t beat good teams.”
UConn had not played well recently either, entering with a four-game road losing streak. After the Huskies went without an offensive rebound while committing 10 turnovers in the first half, they appeared very beatable.
But they turned it up several notches at the end.
Rodney Purvis started the spurt with a 3-pointer, cutting the deficit to 44-42. Daniel Hamilton grabbed a rebound, raced down the court and pulled up for a foul-line jumper to tie the score.
Ryan Boatright gave UConn the lead for good , 48-45, on a 3-point play when he drove to the basket and was fouled after a Tulane turnover.
Purvis then drained another 3 to make the score 53-46 with 2:57 left.
Tulane had two points-both on free throws—in eight possessions during the critical stretch after also going more than five minutes without a point earlier in the second half.
“We really tried to manage the minutes to keep our energy up,” coach Ed Conroy said. “But I don’t think there’s any doubt we looked a little fatigued.”
Dabney led Tulane with 13 points while connecting on only 4 of 14 shots. Jay Hook added 11 points, but none of his baskets came in the last seven minutes.
Playing in front of season-high home crowd of 3,548, Tulane dropped to 0-13 when facing a defending national champion.
“Whether it was the defending national champion or anybody else, the loss would feel the same,” Hook said. “We did miss an opportunity. We didn’t take care of the ball. We have to go to practice and get this worked out.”
Ryan Boatright, the lone returning starter from last year, led UConn with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Purvis added 17 points, including his huge late 3-pointers, and UConn shot 50 percent.
“The last five minutes were exceptional,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We wanted to not play in so many spurts, but I really like our guys coming together and playing with effort and intensity those last five minutes and just turning it up to a level five.”
Tulane also struggled to contend with seven-foot sophomore center Amida Brimah, who blocked a career-high eight shots despite playing only 15 minutes due to foul trouble.
“There were maybe two of those that I thought were poor decisions by our guys,” Conroy said.
“There were three or four where he made a sensational play coming from behind.”
Tulane led 27-24 at the half, getting offense from unlikely sources as nine players scored but none had more than five points.
Josh Hearlihy, a sophomore averaging 1.5 points, matched his career high with five points on a reverse layup and a long-range shot.
Reserve forward Payton Henson fed reserve guard Kajon Mack with a perfect bounce pass that led to a 3-point play. Osetkowski scored a quick basket after an inbounds pass with one second left on the shot clock. Backup point guard Keith Pinckney cut to the basket along the baseline and scored off a nice pass from Henson.
The Wave did not get the same contributions in the second half.