Tulane comeback effort falls short to SMU, 74-65

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NEW ORLEANS – The Tulane University men’s basketball team dropped its American Athletic Conference home opener, 74-65, to SMU Friday night inside Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse.

Tulane’s (4-10, 0-2 AAC) loss at home dropped the Green Wave to 3-4 at home. The setback was also the team’s first at home since Dec. 1.

“I am not happy about losing the game, but I was pleased, especially in the second half with our effort and the way we battled, especially on the boards, which gave us a chance to get back in the game,” head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. said. “Since we came back from winter break, we’ve put an emphasis on trying to get tougher in terms of rebounding, boxing out, taking charges and diving on the floor for loose balls and I think that showed in the second half.”

Redshirt junior forward Sami Sehic led the way for the Green Wave finishing with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He also pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds to record his fifth double-double of the season.

“I don’t think rebounding is about athleticism, it’s about toughness and I think we call all control that (from player) one through 15,” Sehic said. “We just have to keep at it.”

Joining Sehic in double figures was redshirt senior guard Jordan Cornish and sophomore guard Caleb Daniels as they finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively.

After opening up a 10-point first half lead (35-25), SMU (10-4, 2-0 AAC) came out of the locker room in the second half on a high note, as it outscored Tulane 13-3 over a five minute span to open up an 18-point lead (46-28) with just under 15 minutes to go in the game. The Green Wave trimmed SMU’s lead to nine with 11:41 remaining thanks to a 9-0 run, which was keyed by five points from Cornish during the stretch.

The Mustangs quickly responded and increased their lead to 16 points (61-45) with 7:57 to go and appeared to have the game well in hand, but the Green Wave had other ideas.

Tulane scored seven points in less than 30 seconds and forced turnovers on back-to-back SMU offensive possessions to find themselves down by just seven points with 4:21 remaining.

Over a five-minute span, Tulane outscored SMU 14-4 and climbed within six points (65-59) with just over three minutes to go in the game.

“I feel like our team needs to play like that all time,” Daniels said. “Whatever I can do to bring more intensity to the game and bring our team back – that’s my job every night and that’s what I tried to do tonight. We failed at that tonight, but it was a good try. We just have to keep at it.”

In the final three minutes, Tulane was outscored 9-4 as SMU went on to secure the win.

The Green Wave were outshot 40-34 percent but held a 43-39 rebounding advantage.

Tulane connected on six shots from beyond the arc to extend its streak to 157 with at least one 3-point field goal, but overall the Green Wave struggled from beyond the arc as it connected on just 6-of-28 shots from long range. Daniels finished 0-for-5 from 3-point range, which snapped his streak of 13 straight games with a field goal from beyond the arc.

SMU opened up a 10-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, 22-12.

Tulane hits the road on Wednesday to take on USF. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

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