Playing on a torn meniscus, Marlain Veal ripped Tulane’s heart out.
Veal, a 5-foot-9 New Orleans native and Helen Cox graduate, drained a contested 3-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds left as Southeastern Louisiana rallied to stun the Green Wave 62-61 on Saturday at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Lions (4-4), who had lost to the Wave (2-5) by 23 and 17 points the past two years, trailed 57-46 with 4:30 left but clawed back to set up Veal’s clutch game-winner. Southeastern called timeout in front of its own bench with 11 seconds left after Tulane’s Jordan Cornish missed a free throw, and Veal took over from there.
He faked a drive and sank the game-winner over Tulane’s Shakwon Barrett’s outstretched hand, giving the Lions their only lead of the second half.
“This being my city, it’s like a dream come true,” Veal said. “I used to dream about everybody in the backyard going 3-2-1, shoot. As the leader of the team, that’s the kind of shot you gotta take.”
Veal, a first-team All-Southland Conference selection as a junior, has been playing through the knee injury he suffered in a preseason scrimmage against Louisiana-Monroe. His numbers were down across the board through seven games, but he rose at the perfect time, scoring 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
The final three were not exactly how Southeastern coach Jay Ladner drew it up.
“They did a good job of taking away our action there,” Ladner said, smiling. “We told them if it broke down, just get it in Marlain’s hands and play. I was really wanting him to attack the basket because we were only down two at that point. The fact that he hit the 3, I’m not going to criticize that too much.”
Tulane, which dropped its fourth in a row, led the Lions by 11 in the first half after a 22-3 run and built the same margin in the second half before committing three critical turnovers and missing three crucial free throws down the stretch.
Cornish’s desperation pass was deflected and intercepted near midcourt after Veal’s dagger.
“We could have broken it open, but we didn’t,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We let them back in and gave them some confidence and put them in position to win.”
Cornish led Tulane with 18 points. Caleb Daniels added 14, and freshman Kevin Zhang contributed eight points and nine rebounds.
Southeastern had lost its first four road games by double digits, including a 69-59 defeat at Mississippi Valley State. The Lions won despite playing without forward Moses Greenwood, their leading scorer for the season, for the final 8:41. He left after a nasty cut that required stitches above and below his left eye.