With point guard Ray Ona Embo no closer to returning than he was at the start of this season, Shakwon Barrett took over for Tulane on Wednesday night.
Barrett, a redshirt freshman starting in Ona Embo’s place while he sits out with patellar tendinitis, poured in a season-high 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting as the Green Wave beat UT Martin 87-74 at home, ended a four-game losing streak despite not fixing what ailed it during that tough stretch.
Scoring at will cures a lot of ills, and Barrett got to the basket whenever he wanted en route to Tulane’s high individual and team total for the year. All but one of his field goals came on layups as UT Martin (3-3) had no answer for his penetration.
For good measure, he drained the only 3-pointer he attempted, giving the Wave a 70-54 lead in the second half.
“They weren’t really helping off the screens, so that’s where I found my driving lanes,” he said. “They were hugging the 3-point line. I was just taking what they were giving me. If the score was there, I took the score.”
Sophomore guard Caleb Daniels added his first career double-double, scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds while hitting 7 of 11 shots. Thanks to him and Barrett, the Wave (3-5) sank a season-best 58.2 percent after not making half of its field goals in any of its first seven games.
UT Martin was not nearly as accurate, hitting 38.5 percent overall and a dreadful 4 of 29 from 3-point range.
“One of our main focuses was defending the 3-point line,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “They have guys who can really stroke the 3 and they can stroke it deep. The mindset was let’s not let them see the ball go in the basket easily.”
The ease with which Tulane scored masked plenty of flaws.
After committing 17 turnovers in a surprising loss to Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, the Wave upped the count to 19. Barrett had seven of them, and Daniels banged a press table with his fist after one errant pass went out of bounds in the second half.
After struggling to hit free throws down the stretch against Southeastern, Tulane missed nine of its first 18 foul shots before finally finding the range when the game already was out of reach late in the second half.
After giving up key offensive rebounds against Southeastern, Tulane allowed 15 more — even though UT Martin had only one starter taller than 6-foot-3.
“Obviously we have to do a better job,” Dunleavy said. “The 15 offensive rebounds and 19 turnovers culminated in 23 extra shots for the opponent. Very rarely do you see a double-digit win when you do that.”
After spotting UT Martin an 8-0 lead, Tulane went ahead for good 30-27 on Daniels’ 3-pointer with 5:40 left in the first half, extending its advantage to as much as 21 points in the second half.
At times, UT Martin played as if it thought basket values increased exponentially by the distance. Dere Hawthorne, Jr. (3 of 12) launched a shot from about 30 feet that banged off the rim. The next time down the court. Preston Parks (3 of 14) pulled up from 25 feet and missed the rim entirely.
Barrett kept scoring from point-blank range. The only thing that slowed him down was a Charlie Horse after he took a knee to the thigh down the stretch.