Playing its first basketball game in 10 days, Tulane looked every bit like a team coming off of final exams. Fortunately for the Green Wave, Savannah State did not present much of a test.
An erratic practice schedule during exam week led to a sloppy performance, but Tulane (8-1) still won 75-67 against the toothless Tigers on Tuesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse in a matchup that was not as close as the score indicated.
Savannah State (3-9) which has the fourth-lowest scoring average (53.1) out of 351 Division I teams, lost to Louisville 87-26, Miami 70-39, Indiana 95-49, Winthrop 68-47 and Marshall 66-47.
In other words, the Wave did not have to be sharp, surviving a nearly seven-minute scoring drought in the first half, a season-high 19 turnovers and a stretch in the second half when it missed seven of 10 free throws.
Tulane, which never trailed, took control with a 12-3 run early in the second half to go up 43-30 on Payton Henson’s layup at the 13:44 mark. The Wave led by double digits until the final 75 seconds, and Savannah State never came closer than seven.
Henson, who did not score from the field in the first 26 minutes, took over down the stretch. He pumped in 12 straight points on a pair of 3-point plays and two 3-point shots as the Wave extended a 51-40 advantage to 63-47.
Henson finished with a career-high 20 points, six more than his previous best and more than 13 above his season average of 6.8. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, another personal best.
Stark added 17 points and Louis Dabney contributed 12 for Tulane, which shot 59.5 percent and still rarely appeared crisp offensively. Coach Ed Conroy stomped his feet after Stark tried a fancy alley oop pass and got stuffed right away, leading to a bucket and foul for Savannah State at the other end when the game wasn’t totally out of reach.
It was that kind of night for the Wave, which took a whopping 36 free throws but hit only 22.
Alante Fenner paced Savannah State with 18 points. The Tigers, who entered with no one averaging as many as 10 points, placed four players in double figures.
Tulane led 15-6 early but struggled to score for the rest of the first half, losing its rhythm after wholesale substitutions. Conroy replaced his entire starting lineup by the 14:22 mark, then brought most of his starters back in with 11:29 left.
The Wave went scoreless for nearly seven minutes, committing five turnovers and missing five shots from the floor as Savannah State pulled within 15-13. The Tigers had a couple of chances to tie before Jay Hook finally ended the drought with a catch-and-shoot from the foul line.
Stark scored Tulane’s final six points of the half to keep the Wave in front, 27-23, but it was an ugly 20 minutes all the way around.
Tulane had 11 turnovers and only two assists while allowing Savannah State to score 14 points in the paint. The Tigers threw up bricks from everywhere else, shooting 9 of 25 in the first half.