The Tulane men’s basketball team is building a home in the American Athletic Conference cellar one brick at a time.
It really will not matter what else the struggling Green Wave (4-13, 0-5) does right or wrong until it improves its woeful outside shooting, and the challenge starts Wednesday night at 7 p.m. with preseason favorite Central Florida (14-3, 4-1) and shot-blocking 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall coming to New Orleans.
Points will be hard to come by in the paint. The problem is what keeps happening when the Wave lets its fly from behind the 3-point line.
Tulane ranks 318th out of 351 Division I teams in 3-point percentage (.308), and has hit only 23.9 percent of its treys in league games. The stats have been even worse in the last four, with the Wave going 6 of 28 against SMU, 5 of 21 against South Florida, 3 of 22 against Memphis and 3 of 16 against Connecticut for a combined 19.5 percent.
“We want to shoot 3s, but the 3-point shots that I want are feet set and in rhythm,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Those are the highest percentage shots you’re going to get. We’re shooting off the dribble and off the move and guarded.”
The slump has affected just about everyone. Leading scorer Caleb Daniels (22 of 63), who went 2 for 2 against UConn, is the only available player connecting on better than a third of his 3s.
Jordan Cornish is 28 of 94 (29.8 percent). Point guard Shakwon Barrett is 9 of 32 (28.1 percent). Freshmen Kevin Zhang (16 of 48, 33.3 percent), Connor Crabtree (13 of 42, 31.0 percent) and Moses Wood (6 of 20, 30.0 percent) are not exactly lighting it up, either.
The biggest offender is power forward Samir Sehic, who has a soft touch in practice but has gone 14 of 54 from long range (25.9 percent).
“Of course it’s frustrating missing those open 3s I know I can make,” Sehic said. “You want to see it go through the rim, but the only way I know how to get out of a slump is to outwork the slump. We have to trust our time in the gym. You can’t control if they go in. All you can control is if they are good shots.”
Sehic, who posted back-to-back double-doubles against SMU and South Florida, would be doubly dangerous if he got hot from outside. He has averaged 13.5 points in the last four games despite shooting blanks.
“He’s been hurried on his shots,” Dunleavy said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. Sometimes it may have been the defense, but sometimes it’s just him, too. As with any shooter, he could be thinking about it too much. Seeing the ball go in the basket can end it in a hurry.”
Two of the Wave’s other issues have disappeared.
Rebounding, a huge concern before Christmas break, has become a strength. The Wave has pulled down 22 more boards than its last four opponents.
Aside from a nightmarish outing at South Florida that resulted in Barrett’s benching, the Wave has limited the turnovers that plagued it in November and December.
Those factors help right up until the point that shots clang off the rim one after another.
“We have too many minutes in a game where we play too loose,” Dunleavy said. “We have to be disciplined enough to recognize what the good situation is and make a percentage play in order to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Redshirt freshman starting center Buay Koka, who hit 12 of 14 shots over the last five games, could miss up to six weeks after fracturing a finger in practice on Jan. 17. The Wave also will be without reserve sophomore power forward Bul Ajang (swollen knee), leaving Blake Paul and Sehic as the only frontcourt options to contend with Fall. … Tulane has lost 12 of its last 13 to UCF.