HARTFORD, Conn. – Seeded 10th, the Tulane men’s basketball team’s season came to an end in a 66-60 defeat to seventh-seeded Tulsa in the first round of the 2017 American Athletic Conference Championship on Thursday evening at the XL Center.
Cameron Reynolds led four Tulane (6-25, 3-15 AAC) players in double-figures with a game-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds and a career-high three blocks, as Melvin Frazier added 13 points and Malik Morgan scored 10 points. Blake Paul contributed 11 points and seven boards off the bench while going 9-for-10 at the free throw line.
Pat Birt led Tulsa (15-16, 8-10 AAC) with 15 points, while Corey Henderson chipped in 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. Sterlin Taplin added 10 points four assists and two steals.
Tulane owned a 19-11 advantage in points off turnovers and a 13-7 edge on second chances, but was outscored, 25-15, off the bench.
The Golden Hurricane made five of its first seven shots from the floor and opened up an early 13-4 lead following a Taplin layup at the 15:05 mark. A Green Wave free throw, followed by a Reynolds 3-pointer inside the subsequent 90 seconds of action, cut the deficit to five points. Tulsa would stretch its lead back to nine points, but a five-straight points by Morgan kept Tulane within four, 17-13, with under nine minutes left in the opening half.
Both teams were able to lock in at their respective defensive ends of the floor, but their shooting percentages suffered as a result. The Wave held Tulsa without a field goal for the final 12:27 of the half, but trailed, 26-23, at halftime.
Tulane shot 9-for-27 (.333) overall, 3-for-11 (.273) beyond the arc and 2-for-3 (.667) at the free throw line, while the Golden Hurricane shot 6-for-26 (.231) from the field, 1-for-11 (.091) from three and 13-for-14 (.929) at the foul stripe while owning a 23-15 advantage on the glass.
After cutting the deficit to just one on a Reynolds jumper, Tulsa broke a 14-and-one-half minute drought without a basket when it went on a 6-0 scoring run capped by a Birt 3-pointer to create a 34-27 lead with 16:47 remaining. Four-straight points by Frazier brought the Green Wave within three, 42-39, with 12:22 to go.
A 3-pointer by Henderson put the Golden Hurricane ahead by six on its next possession, but Tulane punched back with a 7-0 run that began with a Blake Paul layup and ended with a Morgan trey at the 9:15 mark to give the Olive and Blue its first lead of the game.
Henderson sunk another 3-ball to push Tulsa’s lead to seven, 57-50, before the lead grew to as large as nine, 60-51, with 5:09 on the game clock, before the Green Wave made several defensive stops and scored five-straight points, ending with Reynolds’ third 3-pointer, to cut the margin to four, 60-56, with 3:26 to go.
A pair of Reynolds free throws with 1:17 left kept the deficit at four, 64-60, but Tulane would not draw any closer before dropping the six-point decision.