Jay Hook saw Louis Dabney cutting to the hoop and tried to feed him with a bounce pass for a layup. Dabney was not anticipating the play, though, got caught in traffic and watched the ball skip out of bounds under the basket.
It was yet another empty possession for the Tulane men’s basketball team in a season full of them.
Hoping to give the home fans something to celebrate for the first time in 48 days, the Green Wave suffered through the same offensive woes that have killed it all year, losing 63-47 to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon at Devlin Fieldhouse.
It was the Wave’s ninth loss in 10 games and sixth in a row at home. Once 4-2 in its American Athletic Conference debut, Tulane (14-14, 5-11) would be seeded ninth out of 11 teams if the league’s tournament started today.
“Putting the ball in the basket is a big part of basketball, but at the same time we have to play with the same intensity on defense,” Hook said. “We let them score early, and they made shots.”
This week’s two losses have been more lopsided than the rest. After falling 76-55 at Tulsa on Wednesday, the Wave never had a chance against Cincinnati (20-9, 11-5), which avenged a 50-49 Valentine’s Day defeat that ended on Jonathan Stark’s long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bearcats led 18-4 at the midpoint of the first half, 30-16 at the break and kept that double-digit advantage the rest of the way, going ahead by as many as 23 points.
After going 0-for-11 from long range in the first meeting, Cincinnati hit six 3-pointers in the first 25 minutes, including a season-high-tying four from reserve guard Kevin Johnson.
“The coaches showed us that clip of the buzzer-beater approximately 20 times in the last few days,” Johnson said. “But it wasn’t just that shot. It was just bad basketball in general the first time we played them, and we took that personally.”
Cincinnati, chasing an NCAA tournament at-large berth, was simply quicker to the ball and more alert than Tulane. The Bearcats beat the Wave 40-26 on the glass, turning two offensive rebounds into 3-pointers early in the second half.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, because that’s what their identity is and they’ve done that for years,” coach Ed Conroy said. “I’m disappointed because in the first game, our guys were really physical, and we made them shoot over our chest. Today, we gave them lanes to the basket.”
The Bearcats even won the battle in the stands. A student group that bills itself “Rally Cats” made the long bus trip to New Orleans and filled one corner of Devlin Fieldhouse, chanting when Cincinnati took the court and keeping the noise level high throughout the rout.
The low point came on an inbounds play in the first half when Tulane was called for a five-second violation. No one made a hard move to get open, and Stark did not even attempt to get rid of the ball.
By that time, the Green Wave had committed seven turnovers and hit four field goals, trailing 28-9.
Tulane then showed some brief life. Stark found Dabney for a 3-pointer in transition that cut the deficit to 28-12. Dabney scored on a layup, and Stark hit a midrange shot to make the score 28-16 with 1:15 left in the half.
That was as close as the Wave came.
“Cincinnati played great ball today,” Dabney said. “Unfortunately they were the better team. We didn’t play our best ball.”