Tulane guard Jordan Cornish raced down the court after committing a sloppy turnover, blocked a lay-up attempt and watched helplessly as Nicholls State grabbed the rebound and scored for a 17-point lead with 12:07 left.
His mistake became the sparkplug for a dramatic turnaround.
Angry at himself, Cornish took over the game, playing with controlled fury as the Green Wave men outscored the Colonels 36-12 the rest of the way for a wild 76-69 win at Devlin Fieldhouse.
First came a 3-pointer from the baseline. Then a post-up move for a 3-point play after he was fouled. Next, a contested 3-pointer after receiving an inbounds pass in the corner.
Just like that, Tulane (8-3) cut what had been a double-digit deficit since the 16:35 mark of the first half to 3, and Cornish was not done.
His driving lay-up gave the Wave its first lead, 60-59, with 5:18 left. He fed Melvin Frazier for a dunk that capped a decisive, rousing 20-0 run for a 65-59 advantage.
Cornish helped seal the victory with a blocked shot that led to another dunk by center Blake Paul. The sequence was one of 17 consecutive missed shots for Nicholls (5-6), which fell to 1-20 all-time against the Wave and went nearly 11 minutes without a basket before scoring with 1:10 left.
Cornish committed four of his career-high nine turnovers down the stretch, but he led Tulane with 18 points and four assists.
“We couldn’t lose in our house,” he said. “We have to protect our house, and I just wanted to do whatever I could to give the team a lift.”
Cameron Reynolds added 16 points, with Frazier and Ray Ona Embo contributing 12.
Paul was a huge factor defensively, swatting away two shots during the dominant spurt. His plus-minus of 12 was the best of any Tulane player.
After a horrendous first half, coach Mike Dunleavy stuck with his five starters for all 20 minutes of the second half.
It became obvious very quickly on Monday night that Nicholls State was much readier to play than Tulane.
Playing its first game in eight days after final exams, the Green Wave fell behind 14-2 in three-and-a-half minutes, trailed by 19 late in the half and fell behind 50-30 early in the second half.
Tulane shot 8 for 25 before the break and committed 13 turnovers while Nicholls hit 19 of 31 shots and scored 28 points in the paint, getting to the basket at will.
The Colonels then went 8 for 31 in the second half. Tevon Saddler led them with 24 points.
“I really felt like we got good looks,” coach Richie Riley said. “Playing a really good team like Tulane, you’ve got to be able to make those shots.”
The reversal for both teams was remarkable.
“We grew up as a team tonight,” Dunleavy said. “You never want to have to learn that lesson, but when it presents itself, there are a lot of teams that would have folded. It tells me something about these guys.”