Men’s basketball shines in AAC play despite trip overtime loss against UCF

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Tulane men’s basketball huddles before the exhibition game against Loyola. Counting the two graduating seniors in guard Jay Hook and forward Tre Drye, eight players are leaving head coach Ed Conroy’s program. 

Mackenna Barker, Associate Sports Editor Oliver Grigg

Tulane men’s basketball lost a thriller against Central Florida 103-100 in triple overtime Wednesday night in Orlando, Florida to fall to 12-5 overall and 3-2 in American Athletic Conference play. 

Senior guard Jay Hook led the Wave with 25 points and 9 rebounds but missed a three-pointer to tie the game as time expired in the third overtime. Junior guard Louis Dabney scored 26 points and sophomore guard Jonathan Stark dropped 10 assists and 18 points.

The Wave shot 48.1 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point territory. Tulane hit 16 3-point shots.

Despite the loss against UCF, Tulane has won three of its last five games, as it continues to make a statement in its first season in the AAC. Predicted to finish last in the preseason poll, the Green Wave is rising to the challenge with three conference wins already. The 3-1 record in conference play prior to Wednesday night’s game against UCF was its best start since the 1996-97 season. 

Tulane’s guard trio of Hook, Dabney, and Stark returned to the court this year and have led the Wave’s offense. The scoring powerhouse trio each have each scored over 400 points. Dabney, Stark and Hook lead the Wave in points again so far this season, averaging 13, 11.8 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.

Senior forward Tre Drye is averaging 5.6 points per game, as well as recording the team high of 4.7 rebounds per game. Freshman center Dylan Osetkowski has been a pleasant surprise and has shown great ability to score and defend. Osetkowski averages 4.6 boards per game this season.

Tulane picked up its third conference win last Sunday over South Florida in a gripping overtime finish. The Wave demonstrated its defensive ability in overtime, as it held USF to 2-for-7 shooting from the field as well as blocking a shot and forcing two turnovers. Dabney scored 25 points to help secure the 56-51 win. 

“The first half was a game of physical toughness and our guys stepped up to that challenge,” Tulane head coach Ed Conroy said after the win against USF. “The second half was a mental toughness thing. We had to get a stop at the end of regulation to get into overtime and then we had to get a stop at the end and forced a shot clock violation. It was really impressive by our guys who really dug down through 45 minutes in order to feel the way they do right now after a win.”

Most impressive, however, was Tulane’s 74-66 victory against Memphis on Jan 3. The win helped the Wave break its 15-season, 22-game losing streak against Memphis. Even more impressive was that the Tulane defeated Memphis without scoring leader Dabney, who left the game early with an ankle injury.

Stark, Hook and Drye stepped up to fill his spot, as Stark poured in 24 points.

As impressive as the first half of the season has been for the Wave, it still faces tough AAC opponents, including two match-ups against last season’s National Champions Connecticut.