Having played well in a loss and poorly in a win, the Tulane men’s basketball (1-1) team will learn a lot more about itself in the Gulf Coast Showcase.
The three-day tournament in Estero, Florida begins Monday with an 10 a.m. tipoff against South Dakota State (3-1). The Green Wave will face UC Irvine (4-0) or Texas-San Antonio (0-3) on the second day, finishing against Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2), Colorado State (3-0), Toledo (2-1) or Florida Gulf Coast (2-2) on Wednesday.
Tulane freshman Kevin Zhang put on a show against then-17th ranked Florida State in the opener at Devlin Fieldhouse, scoring 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting while grabbing a team-high 7 rebounds in a competitive 80-69 defeat.
He struggled two days later in an 81-76 victory against Coastal Carolina that was not decided until the final seconds, scoring 5 points on 1 of 4 shooting while playing only 20 minutes. The Chanticleers played a variety of defenses, switching up constantly and affecting the comfort level of all of the newcomers, including Connor Crabtree and Moses Wood.
“Our young guys played really well the last game and gave us some good minutes (against Coastal Carolina) as well, but trying to call plays out versus what defense they were in, we had some blank looks out there and we just didn’t get in the right places,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We played a little bit of what I call “me” basketball and then finally got back to playing the way we want to play.”
Almost everyone who was up in game one was down in game two, and most of the players who struggled in the opener rebounded in the second game. Senior guard Jordan Cornish went from 3 of 9 and 7 points to 6 of 11 with 19 points, sinking six 3s.
Sophomore Caleb Daniels scored 22 versus Coastal Carolina after getting 5 threes against FSU.
Redshirt freshman Shakwon Barrett, subbing for the injured Ray Ona Embo at point guard, had 4 turnovers and 1 assist in the opener but 10 assists and two turnovers in his next opportunity.
“The confidence my coaches and teammates have in me is making it easy,” Barrett said. “They know I can make plays. I’ve been doing it in practice. I was just trying to make the right play, and guys were making shots.”
The lone constant was junior forward Samir Sehic, who followed a 19-point night against FSU with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds).
“Samir’s been a real anchor for us,” Dunleavy said. “He’s done it throughout our practice sessions and a couple of games.”
By the time the Green Wave leaves Florida, it will be clearer which players are ready to join Sehic.
“We had a lot of good contributors and a lot of good film to watch to understand the mistakes we made,” Dunleavy said. “This is going to be a learning process for a lot of our guys to integrate, but if we can get wins along the way, it’s going to be terrific.”
Ona Embo, out with patellar tendinitis, has practiced the last few days, but his playing status is uncertain. … South Dakota State, which has reached the NCAA tournament the past three years, features 6-foot-9 senior forward Mike Daum, an Associated Press honorable mention All-America selection who averaged 25.1 points as a sophomore and 23.9 points as a junior. He is the back-to-back Summit Conference Player of the Year. … Potential second-day opponent UC Irvine won at Texas A&M on Nov. 9.