Sophomore post player Dylan Osetkowski set the tone for Tulane’s trouncing of Appalachian State on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse, scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds in the first three minutes as the Green Wave jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
His toned-down body is allowing him to do things he never accomplished as a freshman, giving the Wave some much-needed confidence heading into a three-game stretch in four days at the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tenn. Tulane (2-2) faces Mercer (3-1) on Thanksgiving at 7 p.m., Stephen F. Austin on Friday at 7:30 and Liberty on Sunday at 1.
Working out constantly with team trainer Dan Rickaby, Osetkowski (6-foot-8, 245 pounds) shed 10 pounds in the offseason, replacing body fat with muscle mass.
“He changed my body and changed what I did in the weight room conditioning-wise and lifting-wise,” Osetkowski said. “I was in the gym every day during the offseason and during preseason just getting shots up, lifting, conditioning, whatever it was to try to get my body in the best shape it can be.”
The difference has been just as dramatic on the court. After registering the first double-double of his career in the season opener against Alabama A&M, Osetkowski followed with two more last week, shattering his personal best with 16 rebounds against Appalachian State.
He is averaging 11.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. His high for rebounds last year was nine, and he scored 10 or more points only seven times.
“I’m quicker off the ground,” he said. “I definitely notice being more active with a quick first step. I have a mindset of trying to get every rebound I can. It’s not letting my guy or any player on the other team get a rebound.”
Tulane rebounded from disappointing losses to Alabama A&M and Southern against Appalachian State, racing to a 45-17 halftime lead on the way to a 76-48 victory. Beating Mercer, which stunned Duke in the 2014 NCAA tournament, would allow the Wave to put its rough start further into the rearview mirror.
“It would have been very easy for us to get down on ourselves, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Osetkowski said. “We just focused on doing what we have to do to get better, and this last game showcased our abilities and talents. We just have to show that every game.”
Tulane received 38 points from its touted freshman class against Appalachian State. Guards Louis Dabney and Malik Morgan combined to shoot 9-of-15.
But Osetkowski was the catalyst. Although he exhibited good court sense and terrific vision as a passer a year ago, he was not ready to handle a heavy burden. This season, the Wave will count on him every night, using him at both the high post and the low post because of his versatility.
“Even though he’s improved a lot, he has a lot of upside to his game,” coach Ed Conroy said. “He has the size to go in there and post up some, but yet he’s skilled enough to play on the perimeter. As he gets his footwork down and adds that physical element, he can be pretty unstoppable.”
Mercer, Stephen F. Austin (which beat Virginia Commonwealth in the round of 64 at the 2014 NCAA tournament) and Liberty have combined for two Division I wins — both by Mercer against George Mason and Alabama State. … Tulane’s victory against Appalachian State was part of the Music City Challenge. Western Michigan is also part of the field but will not play the Wave.