Memphis spoils Wave’s only game at the Smoothie King Center, loses in waning seconds

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Memphis redshirt freshman Markel Crawford dunks over senior guard Jay Hook in the Tulane 55-57 loss to Memphis Saturday at the Smoothie King Center. Tulane turned the ball over 16 times in the loss. 

Oliver Grigg, Sports Editor

Saturday night had the perfect ingredients for Tulane men’s basketball to make a statement.

Tulane was facing a recognized Memphis program on an ESPNU national broadcast at the Smoothie King Center in downtown New Orleans. New Orleans Pelicans stars Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans were in attendance. A win would help the Wave establish itself as a force in the American Athletic Conference.

The Wave, however, could not answer the bell, as it lost a nail bitter 57-55 when Memphis forward Austin Nichols hit a game-winning jumper with 3.1 seconds left. Tulane fell to 13-7 overall, 4-4 AAC with the loss. 

“I thought we were in good position [to defend the final shot],” head coach Ed Conroy said. “There are not a lot of players who can make that shot.”

Junior guard Louis Dabney opened the scoring with a three-pointer 1:20 into the first half and the Wave later opened a five point lead, but it was the largest lead Tulane would hold in the first half and all game. The Wave hit just eight of its 25 shots (32 percent) in the half and turned the ball over nine times.

“A lot of our turnovers were forced,” senior guard Jay Hook said. “We just have to make better decisions.”

Hook paced Tulane in the first half with his hot three-point shooting, as he hit two of his three shots from outside the arc and scored 6 points.

“I think our guys had a hard time getting going tonight,” Conroy said. “Our decision making wasn’t the best.”

Senior forward Tre Drye opened the second half with a thunderous dunk and reenergized the offense after a stagnant first half. The Wave cut its deficit, which grew to as much as 12 to just two points with 6:16 left to play in the second half and continued to trail by two until the 2:32 mark, when Dabney sunk a jumper to tie the game at 51.

“I knew I needed to light a fire under myself and I came out [strong to start the half],” Drye said.

Memphis (12-7, 5-3 AAC) responded and took the lead, but a Hook three-pointer and a Dabney free throw with 25 seconds left to play tied it at 55.

“The game of basketball [depends on] runs and how you manage the runs is what makes you a good team,” Hook said.

Despite the resilient effort, Tulane could not overcome Memphis’ consistent clutch shooting, as Nichols hit a game-winning jumper to open a 57-55 lead with three seconds remaining. A buzzer-beating half court toss from Dabney missed and sealed the game.

“The best defense was played on [Nichols],” Hook said. “It was a great shot.”

Drye tallied 4 points and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes, and sophomore guard Jonathan Stark had 10 points and 1 assists in 32 minutes. Hook led all scorers with 13 points, as the Wave finished the night shooting 36% from the field and 35.3% from three-point land.

Memphis finished the game shooting 43.4% overall and 5-17 from three-point territory.

“Tulane is a good team,” Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said. “Tulane is a good team this year, and they’re going to be a good team next year and they’re going to be good [in the future.] [Conroy] is a big-time coach. Don’t lose him.”

Tulane will look to end its two game losing skid when it returns to Devlin to face AAC leader Tulsa (14-5, 7-0) 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

“Our guys have to take care of their bodies and get ready for another game,” Conroy said. “We’ve proven we compete with the best and now we get to play the best.”