Despite decades of memories and storied battles between the two schools, the basketball rivalry between Tulane and UNO has almost become a thing of the past.
So much so, Tulane guard Malik Morgan — a former John Curtis standout — said he wasn’t even aware the schools had such a long-standing rivalry when he was being recruited out of high school.
“I had no idea they played each other so many times throughout the years,” said Morgan, who attended LSU out of high school before transferring to Tulane. “I was more worried about just getting into a good school, but I’ve been hearing over the past few days how a lot of people are looking forward to this one.”
Tulane and UNO will try to remind people of the old New Orleans rivalry Wednesday as the two schools square off at 7 p.m. at Tulane’s Devlin Fieldhouse for the first time since 2011 and the 48th time overall.
The Green Wave holds a 24-23 edge in the series.
“I think it’s really important for the city and both of our alumni bases,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “It’s a tradition that we hope people around the city can get excited about, and playing a really good team like Tulane should be a great experience for us.”
Both schools agreed to a home-and-home series before the season that will begin Wednesday and end next year when the Green Wave play at UNO’s Lakefront Arena.
Both coaches said they are open to continuing the series going forward, assuming all goes well.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “I think we play in an extremely tough league, and playing against schools with different styles and different personnel can do a lot to prepare us for that.”
The Green Wave (4-3) won its last two games at the Challenge in Music City tournament after starting it off with a loss to Mercer. With seven of last season’s top 10 players in minutes logged gone, Conroy said he knew it would take some time for his team to gel and figure out its new identity.
One positive he’s seen during the Wave’s past two victories is improvement on the defensive end.
Tulane was giving up 70 points per game over the first four games of the season, but dropped that number to 60 during its three games in the Music City tournament.
“We’ve definitely improved with our communication and playing as one unit on that end,” Conroy said.
UNO, which hasn’t defeated Tulane since 2009, will be playing its third game of a four-game road stretch after splitting games against Bradley and Northwestern last week.
The Privateers (2-3) will counter Tulane’s high-scoring backcourt of Morgan and Louis Dabney with their own potent guard combination of Nate Frye and Christavious Gill.
Both teams’ starting backcourts double as the top two scorers on their teams, with Morgan and Dabney combining for 23.4 points per game, while Gill and Frye come in at 22.2 per contest.
“They have very good guards, and it will be a test for our guys,” Slessinger said. “So many of their guys know our guys and vice versa, so it will fun to watch them compete and see who comes out on top.”