For a half, it was newcomer night for the Tulane men’s basketball team in its exhibition against Loyola.
With guards Ray Ona Embo (patellar tendinitis) and Jordan Cornish (rolled ankle) sitting out because of injury, the touted freshman class of Connor Crabtree, Moses Wood and Kevin Zhang poured in 26 of the Green Wave’s 37 points in the first half.
When the freshmen stopped scoring, the returning players took over, allowing Tulane to hold off the Wolf Pack 85-74 on Thursday night at Devlin Fieldhouse despite several Loyola runs that made this one much closer than recent editions between the Division I and NAIA next-door neighbors.
Sophomore Caleb Daniels scored all 17 of his points in the second half, and junior Samir Sehic had 14 of his 17 after the break.
But the number coach Mike Dunleavy focused on was Tulane’s 18 turnovers and Loyola’s 18 offensive rebounds.
“That’s a bad combination to have bad nights in,” Dunleavy said. “It leads to a lot of opportunity points for the other team. Offensive boards and turnovers are really a sign of effort. Across the board we lost a lot of the hustle part of the game.”
It was not until the last few minutes that Tulane silenced a strong contingent of Wolf Pack fans who were going wild every time Loyola scored, particularly when Zach Wrightsil sank a 3-pointer from the baseline to cut the deficit to 62-61 with 8:48 left.
After a Tulane turnover, Joseph Ruzevich missed a floater that would have given Loyola its first lead, and the Wave finally pulled away.
Daniels dunked in transition off a Loyola turnover, then fed Zhang for a 3-pointer to stretch the advantage to 72-63 with 5:52 left.
Zhang’s basket provided the first points by a freshman in the second half, providing a dramatic contrast from the opening 20 minutes.
Zhang scored first, driving for a layup and hitting a 3-pointer to make the score 8-0 in the first two minutes.
Wood was next, scoring 8 points in a row as the Wave extended its lead to 21-7 near the midpoint.
Crabtree finished the half with his third 3-pointer in five attempts.
Just about everything else was sloppy. Redshirt freshman point guard Shakwon Barrett, playing 37 minutes in Ona Embo’s absence, committed eight turnovers.
Sehic, the American Athletic Conference leader in field goal percentage a year ago, was 1of 7 by halftime.