DALLAS – The Tulane men’s basketball team led 19th-ranked SMU through the first 30 minutes, but the Green Wave could not hold on in an 80-75 American Athletic Conference road defeat Wednesday evening at Moody Coliseum.
Cameron Reynolds scored a game-high 23 points and made five three-pointers to complement eight rebounds, while Malik Morgan added 18 points, six boards, six assists and a pair of blocks. Ray Ona Embo chipped in 12 points, while Melvin Frazier led all players with a career-high seven assists.
SMU (23-4, 13-1 AAC) placed five scorers in double-figures, led by Jarrey Foster’s 19 points. Semi Ojeleye had 18 points, Ben Moore posted a double-double comprising 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Sterling Brown and Shake Milton contributed 13 points apiece.
The Mustangs shot 18-for-32 (.563) from the field in the second half and owned a 40-22 scoring advantage in the paint.
The Green Wave got off to a hot start from the field by making four of its first five shots, including a pair of threes and eight points from Reynolds, to build an early 10-5 lead just over two minutes into the game. The Mustangs punched back and tied the game at 15, but 10-0 scoring run, keyed by a tactical passing game and a handful of deflections at the defensive end of the floor, gave Tulane a 25-15 advantage with 10:14 remaining in the first half.
SMU drew within eight points, 29-21, with 6:53 to go in the period, but a three by Kain Harris just seven seconds later and a one-handed poster-dunk at the 4:25 mark extended the Green Wave’s lead to 13 with the score 34-21.
The Mustangs would not reduce their deficit to single digits for the remainder of the half, as a basket by Reynolds with 42 seconds left established Tulane’s largest lead of the half, 15 points, and an Ona Embo layup just before the horn sent the Wave into the intermission with a 42-27 advantage.
The Green Wave shot 15-for-29 (.517) overall, 7-for-14 (.500) beyond the three-point line and 5-for-6 (.833) at the free throw stripe in the first half, while SMU went 12-for-32 (.375) from the field, 1-for-10 (.100) from deep and 2-for-3 (.667) at the foul stripe. Tulane outscored the home team, 16-4, off turnovers through the first 20 minutes.
The Green Wave continued to hit shots early in the second half, as an Ona Embo jumper with 15:45 kept the olive and blue in front, 52-38. A Morgan layup at the 14:45 mark made it 54-42, but the Mustangs took advantage of a Tulane scoring drought and raced out on an 18-2 run to take their first lead of the game, 60-56, with 8:44 left in the game.
SMU pulled in front by five, 68-63, on the second of a pair of dunks by Foster with 5:25 to go, but Reynolds came right back and knocked down his fifth three-pointer of the night on the next possession to cut the deficit to a pair. Following a Mustangs basket, a Ryan Smith layup kept it a two-point game, 70-68, at the 4:42 mark.
SMU scored seven-straight points over the subsequent three minutes to build its lead to nine, 77-68, with 1:46 left. Tulane cut the deficit to just four, 79-75, inside the final minute, but the Mustangs were able to hang on for the 80-75 victory.
Tulane will return home Saturday, Feb. 18 in search of a regular-season series sweep of USF. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., at Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNews.