Given a much awaited, week-long break in between games, the Tulane men’s basketball team hoped to play with renewed energy against Memphis.
Instead, the Green Wave looked dazed and confused at the start.
Unable to cope with the Tigers’ pressure defense, Tulane went scoreless for more than a five-minute stretch as Memphis went on a 16-0 run to go up 25-6 before the midpoint of the first half. The Tigers cruised the rest of the way, beating the Wave 90-78 victory on Sunday at FedEx Forum.
Tulane (13-10, 4-7), which was picked third in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, dropped to ninth and already has lost one more league games than it did in a full 18-game schedule a year ago.
Memphis (18-6, 7-4) won its third in a row after a late-January free-fall.
“They went a little bit smaller and athletic, and that allowed them to get their pressure going,” Tulane coach Ron Hunter said. “We didn’t handle it well. It wasn’t a surprise because they’ve done that before, but we’ve handled the ball in a much better fashion than we did in the first five or six minutes.”
Particularly in the first half, this one bore more resemblance to the Tigers’ 40-point blowout in the semifinals of the 2023 American Athletic Conference tournament than the Wave’s three consecutive wins in the regular season—a home-and-home sweep last year and a court storming in New Orleans when Tulane handed then-10th-ranked Memphis its second of four consecutive losses last month.
“You could tell they were upset from the last time we played,” Hunter said. “They did not like us storming on the court and all that, so they had a little extra for this game. I wish we had the first four or five minutes back.”
Tulane was fortunate to be down only 17 at halftime after shooting 8 for 29 and committing nine turnovers. Typical of the struggles: point guard Kolby King floated a soft pass in the backcourt against a full-court press, allowing Memphis’ Jaykwon Walton to intercept it easily.
Even when the Wave beat the pressure early, it appeared discombobulated, spending more time trying to avoid turnovers than initiating its offense.
Poor shooting did not help. Jaylen Forbes hit the backboard on an errant 3-point attempt, finishing the first half 1 of 5 as he continued to struggle with his offensive form. Tre’ Williams went 2 for 9 before the break, although he put his finger to his mouth to shush the Memphis bench after hitting one of his two treys.
The Wave even failed to take advantage of typical Tigers lapses. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway called three timeouts when he was frustrated with a sequence of plays at various stages, but Tulane never came closer than 13 points in the first half after falling behind by double digits or 16 in the second half until the 4:15 mark, when the outcome had long since been decided.
Collin Holloway led six Wave players in double figures with 16 points, but none of them hit half of their shots. Sion James had 12 points, a team-high nine rebounds, five assists and a technical foul for arguing a foul call. Kevin Cross added eight rebounds and also had five assists, but his 11 points were his fewest since Jan. 6 against North Texas.
David Jones, who scored 32 points in the first meeting, hit all five of his shots in the first half on the way to a game-high 23 points for Memphis. He added 10 rebounds, matching his numbers in both categories from the Tigers’ win against Temple on Thursday. Jahvon Quinerly went 4 of 7 on 3s, finishing with 18 points, and Nae’Quan Tomlin contributed 16 points.
Tulane next play host to SMU (17-7, 8-3) on Thursday. The Mustangs beat the Wave 80-76 on February 1 in Dallas.