Tulane freshman guard Connor Crabtree had a rough time in his first career start against Memphis on Sunday, heading to the bench after picking up two quick fouls, missing what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:59 left and finishing 1 of 5 from the floor.
Still, no one is worried about his game as the Green Wave (4-12, 0-4 American Athletic Conference) heads to Connecticut (10-8, 1-4) for a Saturday matchup that has been moved to 1 p.m. from 6:30 p.m. because of an impending snowstorm.
Although coach Mike Dunleavy had not settled on a starting lineup by the end of Thursday’s practice, Crabtree figures to be a fixture there in the future if not now.
“He has the size (6-foot-6) for the position, strength and athleticism and can shoot,” Dunleavy said. “That’s all real solid from a physical standpoint. Most of (his development) is really more in terms of understanding the timing of plays and reads.”
Crabtree appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough for a team that needs firepower. The ball just needs to start going in the basket more often again.
After hitting 17 of 31 shots off the bench in a seven-game span, he made only 2 of 11 in two conference losses last week, earning the start at point guard against Memphis because senior Jordan Cornish and redshirt freshman Shakwon Barrett were banged up.
“I’ve gotten some open looks, and they felt good but just didn’t go down,” Crabtree said. “I’m still confident to shoot them next game. I feel comfortable.”
Originally committed to UNC Asheville, Crabtree opted to attend Hargrave Military Academy for 2017-18 in an attempt to upgrade his recruitment after he graduated from high school. The decision worked, with Tulane fighting off a late push from Memphis and new coach Penny Hardaway last spring to get him.
He averaged 21.4 points and 4.8 assists at Hargrave after earning second-team all-state honors a year earlier as a senior at Orange High in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He scoring average at Tulane is 5.7 in 18.3 minutes per game.
“I’ve learned to take advantage of all the minutes I get,” he said. “Every time I go in, I control what I can control. I’m going to miss shots and I’m going to make shots, but at the end of the day I just play as hard as I can.”
That part is evident every time he steps on the floor. Making the same effort on defense as offense usually takes time for a freshman, but Crabtree harasses guys right after they cross half-court, getting right in front of them.
“He’s going to be really good,” Cornish said. “He produces. When he comes in, he defends the other team’s best player. That says a whole lot.”
Crabtree acknowledged he has plenty to learn as he adapts to the faster, stronger college game, but his biggest adjustment has been handling all the losing this year.
Tulane’s last win came Dec. 17, and the Wave will be entrenched in the AAC cellar if it cannot upset UConn.
“It’s really difficult,” he said. “Losing stinks bad, but in college basketball you’ve got a lot of games. You’ve got to be able to move past it.”
The UConn game, which was supposed to be on CBSSports Network, will be available live only on CBSSports.com due to the time change. CBS Sports Network will replay it in its entirety at 6:30. … Tulane is 0-6 against the Huskies since joining the AAC. … Cornish, who played through a bothersome hamstring against Memphis while coming off the bench for the first time, said he was 90-to-95 percent healthy after Thursday’s practice.