Tulane edges Memphis in AAC opener, 85-84
NEW ORLEANS – The Tulane University men’s basketball team opened American Athletic Conference play in the win column Wednesday night as it defeated Memphis 85-84 inside the Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse. With the victory, the Green Wave snapped a 12-game losing skid to the Tigers. The Wave’s last win over Memphis was on February 13, 2016.
The Tulane offense was in rhythm on its home floor as it shot 55 percent from the field and shot a scorching 45 percent from beyond the arc. The Green Wave also dominated the paint outscoring the Tigers 42-32 around the rim.
Four players finished in double figures for the Green Wave as freshman Jalen Cook led all scorers with 25 points. This marks the fourth time this season Cook has reached the 20-point plateau. Kevin Cross followed with 15 points while Sion James and R.J. McGee rounded out the top scorers for Tulane with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
On the defensive end, Tulane forced the Tigers into 15 turnovers and 10 steals. The Green Wave converted those Memphis turnovers into 21 points on the other end of the floor.
Tulane got off to a strong start in the first half going shot for shot with Tigers before a fastbreak dunk by McGee sparked a 7-0 run for the Wave to go in front 17-12 with 9:50 on the clock. Memphis responded to knot the score at 17, but the Green Wave scored four quick points to reclaim the lead.
With just over six minutes to play, the two squads began a stretch trading three-point buckets as Cook and Scott Spencer each knocked down a triple for Tulane. After the Tigers tied the score at 27 with 4:56 to play, the Green Wave responded with a 12-5 run to close the half and hit the locker room with a 39-32 advantage.
The Wave held the Tigers to just 30 percent shooting in the first half while also forcing eight turnovers. Offensively, Tulane took advantage of transition buckets and paint points outscoring Memphis 22-10 around the rim.
Memphis came out of the locker room on a mission promptly cutting the Tulane lead down to two. However, James stifled the rally with a corner three and Cross followed with a tough bucket in the lane to push the Wave’s advantage back out to seven with 16:40 on the clock.
The two teams traded buckets over the next few minutes until the Tigers brought the score to a tie at 59 with 11:34 to play. A triple from McGee capped a 7-3 run by Tulane to go back in front with an advantage it would not relinquish. The Green Wave lead would be cut down to one with six minutes left, but six straight points from James pushed the lead to 78-71. With just over four minutes another James three-pointer gave Tulane its largest lead of the second half at 81-73.
Over the final few minutes of the contest, Memphis chipped away at the Tulane advantage to make it a one-point game with just 36 seconds remaining. The Green Wave defense stepped up in the final moments forcing the Tigers to take a pair of contested shots on the last possession and walk away with the 85-84 victory.
-Cross surpassed 500 points for his career. He now sits at 513 career points at Tulane.
-Cross has now scored in double figures six times this season.
-Devon Baker played in his 80th career game.
-Nobal Days surpassed 200 career rebounds at Tulane.
-The Green Wave had three-or-more players score in double figures for the eighth time this year.
-Six of the opponents the Green Wave have faced this season have had winning records.
The Wave will be back in action on Saturday, January 1, for its first road test in conference play. Tulane will face Cincinnati at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+.