Cameron Reynolds had bad flashbacks when East Carolina's B.J. Tyson caught a length-of-the-court lob and banked in a buzzer-beating, tying layup as he fell to the floor on Wednesday night.
Reynolds, a redshirt senior, has been through plenty of rough losses in his Tulane career, and this had the potential to be one of the roughest.
"I was thinking it was just our luck," he said. "But it was a good test for us to show that we can battle. We weren't scared. No one got down, and we just kept fighting. Last year's team would have just put our heads down, but we have a good outlook right now."
It was not pretty, but the Green Wave gutted it out in overtime, holding the Pirates to two points and managing to score four in a 71-69 victory that kept hope alive for an upper-division finish in the American Athletic Conference.
Tulane (13-8, 4-5) will have to play better against resurgent Temple (12-10, 4-6) on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse to get back to .500 in the league. The Owls, who beat 11th-ranked Auburn and 20th-ranked Clemson in November before falling 85-75 to the Wave at home in the first of four consecutive losses to begin AAC play, upset 16th-ranked Wichita State on Thursday for their fourth victory in their past six games.
With leading scorer Quinton Rose on a hot streak (36 points in the past two games), Temple is much more formidable than South Florida, which notched its only AAC victory Jan. 25 against Tulane, and East Carolina, which has two conference wins, both against South Florida.
Tulane, though, is unlikely to shoot as poorly from the 3-point line as it did Wednesday, when it went 3 for 21.
"We had great shots," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "The good news is we're moving the ball better against zones. We had four or five buckets on the inside off of good spacing and good ball movement. A lot of those 3-pointers were good looks."
Instead of being shaken by blowing a 13-point second-half lead at East Carolina, the Wave hopes to gain confidence from finding a way to win after the Pirates' miraculous final play in regulation.
"I told our guys, 'We have to show our mental toughness now,' " Dunleavy said "I said, 'We can't let that play deflate us when we had this game won.' We had to go out and get it, and it started at the defensive end. I was proud of the way they responded."
Keep plugging away
Jordan Cornish worked on his shot following Tulane's practice at Devlin Fieldhouse on Friday, taking 3-pointers and shooting off the dribble from various spots. After going 2 of 9 in three consecutive games, he needed the extra session.
Still, he played through his struggles against East Carolina and made the most important pass of the game for the Wave.
With Tulane trailing by two in overtime, Cornish faked to Melvin Frazier while dribbling near the top of the key and threw a strike to Reynolds in between two defenders for a dunk. It was his only assist of the night but hardly a rare event.
Cornish's 68 assists are one behind point guard Ray Ona Embo's team-high 69 and one ahead of Frazier's 67.
"That was a pass we make every day in practice," Cornish said. "It's something we constantly look for. At the end of the day, I just wanted to contribute. We couldn't leave out of Carolina without a win."
Frazier leads active AAC players with a field-goal percentage of .589 despite having attempted 68 3-pointers, hitting 27. The two players closest to him entering Saturday's games, SMU's Jimmy Whitt (.579) and East Carolina's Dimitri Spasojevic (.571), have combined for two 3-point attempts. … The breakdown that left Tyson alone under the basket on an inbounds pass with 8 seconds left in overtime came when freshman Caleb Daniels and Ona Embo did not communicate a switch. Fortunately for Tulane, inbounder Isaac Fleming never saw Tyson. … Dunleavy said Ona Embo, who went 0 for 5 from 3-point range, had an injured hand that affected his shot.