The American Athletic Conference did not do the Tulane men’s basketball team any favors with a schedule of Memphis and Houston on the road and No. 23 Connecticut and Tulsa at home in the first two weeks of January.
Then again, the Green Wave has not helped itself, missing one 3-point attempt after another in high-volume, low-productivity performances from outside while losing its first three conference games.
To have any chance to beat Tulsa (9-6, 1-2) on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse, Tulane (7-9, 0-3) must make more perimeter shots.
Most of the looks have been good. The results have been bad, with the Wave launching 53 3-pointers and hitting only 15 in the past three games.
“We’re getting open shots,” said guard Malik Morgan, who is 2-for-12 in that span. “We just have to get in the gym every night and get up extra shots like we always do. We do a lot of shooting drills before practice starts. Eventually it will carry over into the game.”
For the year, Tulane is averaging 19.8 3-point attempts, the second-most in school history behind 2010-11. But the Wave is hitting 30.3 percent of them, its worst accuracy rate since connecting on 30.2 percent in 2001-02.
Clearly, Tulane misses Jay Hook, who made 154 3-pointers the past two years before graduating, but the problems go past his departure. Louis Dabney, bothered by a sore wrist, is connecting on only 31.5 percent of his long-range shots after hitting 37.2 percent last year. Sophomore Cameron Reynolds and freshmen Melvin Frazier and Von Julien are a combined 18-for-73 (24.7 percent).
“We have better shooters than our 3-point percentage,” coach Ed Conroy said. “We’re still working hard at it. Other than the Houston game, I’ve been pleased with how we got the ball inside and had variety in the offense, but we have to step up and knock down those shots. It’s great to have those guys who can space the floor, especially when you get into league play and points become tougher.”
Another freshman, Kain Harris, is emerging as the best option.
His 3-point percentage of 38.8 is easily Tulane’s best among players who have made more than five 3-pointers, and he has hit four of his past six. The 20 minutes he logged against Connecticut last Saturday were his most since November, and his playing time should continue to increase as he becomes more comfortable in Conroy’s system.
Harris, from Chicago, recalls hitting nine 3-pointers in a high school game, one more than Hook’s Tulane record of eight.
“I feel like I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well as of late,” Harris said. “Growing up, I always had a good shot and made them at a high percentage.”
Tulsa (9-6, 1-2) ranks last in the AAC in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (37.3), but it held East Carolina to 2-for-16 in a 55-43 victory Tuesday. The Golden Hurricane’s mediocre record is a little misleading. Two of its losses came to the only remaining undefeated teams in the country (SMU and South Carolina), and the combined record of its conquerors was 70-18.
Tulsa has nine seniors, including almost all of the key players from a team that won Conference USA in 2013-14 and went 14-4 in the AAC last season.
“They are an aberration in college basketball these days,” Conroy said. “They have been through a lot of battles together and have won a lot of games. It will be a tough challenge for us.”
Center Jernard Jarreau, who was suspended for Tulane’s ugly 63-45 loss to Houston on Tuesday because of a violation of team policy, practiced the rest of the week and is expected to play. … Tulsa guard James Woodard, averaging 15.9 points, is questionable after missing the East Carolina game with a leg injury.