Melvin Frazier saw an opening on the baseline, knifed to the basket and elevated for a thunderous dunk.
He slammed it off the rim for the most significant miss in a day chock full of them for the Tulane men’s basketball team. Failing to capitalize on a big conference-opening win at Temple, the Green Wave combined sorry shooting with even sorrier rebounding, losing 65-56 to Tulsa on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse in a game it led for only 30 seconds in the second half and never by more than two.
This one will sting. Tulsa (9-5, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) outrebounded Tulane (10-4, 1-1) by 22, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to account for much of its 52-30 advantage. The Wave finished finishing 21 of 59 from the floor, and the starters were even worse at 14 for 43.
“I really can’t find anything on the stat sheet that would make me thing anything positive,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We were clearly crushed on the boards. You do that, you should probably lose by 30.”
Instead of ringing in the New Year with unbridled optimism, Tulane will hit the practice floor trying to figure out why it cannot win at home in conference play. The defeat dropped the Wave to 4-24 in AAC games in New Orleans since joining the league in 2014-15 heading into Thursday night’s matchup with SMU at Devlin.
“We had a great win up at Temple and didn’t come back and validate it,” Dunleavy said. “Basically now it becomes a wash. If we had lost at Temple and won at home, everybody would have said, ‘nice job,’ but once you get that kind of a win, the mentality has to change. It doesn’t get easier. Now you have to get tougher, because people take notice of what you just did.”
Frazier’s failed dunk attempt would have cut Tulane’s deficit to 53-51 with 5:08 left, and the Wave missed its next four shots as well. Samir Sehic was off target on a jumper from the baseline. Point guard Ray Ona Embo was too long on a 3-pointer. Cameron Reynolds was too short on a put-back attempt. Jordan Cornish misfired from midrange.
Reynolds got wide open on the baseline but hit the front of the rim on a 3-pointer with 1:09 left that would have pulled the Wave within 58-56.
Tulsa sealed its victory by hitting eight of its last nine free throws.
“I just have to get more lift on my shot,” said Reynolds, who consistently came up short on his attempts while going 6 of 16. “I can’t really explain why. Maybe I have to bend my knees a little more, but I’ll take those looks any day. I make those all the time. I’m not even worried about it.”
Reynolds led Tulane with 15 points. Frazier added 11, and reserve forward Samir Sehic scored 8.
Tulane stayed close because Tulsa struggled to score, too. Center Blake Paul blocked five shots in the first half, and the Golden Hurricane blew several easier opportunities, connecting on only 36.2 percent despite breaking down the defense repeatedly in the second half with dribble penetration.
The alertness and aggressiveness that carried Tulane to its win at Temple were sorely lacking.
A Tulsa miscue in the second half left the ball on the floor with three Wave players around it and no one between them and the basket. No one went for it, leading to a tie-up with the possession arrow favoring Tulsa.
“We played soft,” Dunleavy said. “All three should have been on the floor. We didn’t react to it. We had a couple other situations where the ball was out there and people just looked at it. Where was our mind?”