The last time the Southern Miss men’s basketball team played at Tulane, its fans took over Devlin Fieldhouse and unfurled a large celebratory banner as the Golden Eagles clinched a share of the 2013-14 Conference USA title.
If they had bothered to show up this time, they would have raised a white flag.
The Green Wave routed the hapless Golden Eagles 59-40 on Tuesday night, leading 51-24 early in the second half and holding an opponent to its lowest output since beating Centenary 77-36 on Nov. 19, 2010.
The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series, but it’s not much of an accomplishment beating Southern Miss (2-8) these days.
Second-year coach Doc Sadler is still trying to pick up the pieces from the mess Donnie Tyndall left behind when he headed to Tennessee two years ago. Bereft of talent with multiple NCAA allegations of violations committed under Tyndall looming over their heads, the Golden Eagles have been noncompetitive all year.
Tulane’s primary task was to maintain focus and execute well, which it accomplished in between a slow start and a sluggish finish. Trailing 10-9 at the 13:30 mark, the Wave (7-6) outscored the Golden Eagles 28-9 the rest of the first half to go up 37-19 and ran off 14 of the first 19 points after halftime.
“This team had great focus,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “We played 11 guys double-figure minutes tonight, and we just had the right intent about how we wanted to play the game. Get the ball inside first, play good defense and rebound.”
Malik Morgan had 12 points for Tulane in the first half, finishing with a game-high 15. Cameron Reynolds came off the bench to score five in each half, joining Morgan in double figures, and Louis Dabney chipped in nine.
Tulane outrebounded Southern Miss 50-26, held the Golden Eagles to 31.3 percent shooting, limited them to two fast-break points and shut them out on second-chance points. Dylan Osetkowski led the Wave with nine rebounds, adding seven points, three steals and two assists.
The Wave won easily despite struggling from the floor, hitting 21 of 59 shots (35.6 percent) and 8 of 14 free throws. Tulane took 27 3-pointers and made nine, with Morgan and Dabney each going 3-for-5 and Reynolds shooting 2-of-4.
Reynolds also turned in the play of the night, driving the baseline and elevating for an emphatic dunk to give Tulane a 49-24 lead.
“I was just reacting to what was there,” he said. “They left the baseline wide open. The previous play I turned it over, and everybody told me to lay the ball up. The next time I got it, I just had to dunk it.”
A little later, Osetkowski was triple-teamed after an entry pass and found Reynolds in the corner for a 3, making the score 54-29 with 9:35 left.
Tulane scored only five points the rest of the way, but it didn’t matter. Southern Miss never came closer than 18; forward Eddie Davis III was its only double-figure scorer with 12.
Fittingly, the Golden Eagles’ Keljin Blevins missed an uncontested layup at the buzzer.
Tulane will find out where it really stands when it opens American Athletic Conference play at Memphis next Tuesday.
“I definitely feel like all the pieces are coming together,” Morgan said. “We are playing as a team, and tonight it looked like we were all on the same page. It was great to play that way.”