Jalen Cook, men’s basketball start conference play hot

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Tulane men’s basketball started American Athletic Conference play by winning three of their first four games. Led by the electric LSU transfer point guard Jalen Cook, the Green Wave showed no signs of rust after the program was suspended for most of December due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Green Wave resumed their season on Dec. 29 with an 85-84 victory against the Memphis Tigers. The victory snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Tigers which dates back to February of 2016. Memphis was without freshmen Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates, due to COVID-19 protocols and a finger injury, respectively. Bates was a five-star recruit for the Tigers and won Gatorade Player of the Year in 2020.

Cook led scoring for Tulane, with 25 points on 56.3% shooting. Sion James also had a great game, with 14 points along with 5 assists. However, Tulane played much better as a team. The Tigers committed six more turnovers than the hosts and had three fewer blocks and six fewer steals.

On New Year’s Day, Tulane traveled to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bearcats. Tulane’s guard tandem of Cook and Jaylen Forbes propelled the Green Wave to a 68-60 victory. James and Kevin Cross had good games on the glass, with the duo pulling down nine and eight rebounds respectively.

On Jan. 5, Tulane lost a tough road game to East Carolina University in overtime, 88-80. Offense for the Green Wave came from Forbes, Cook and Cross, with Forbes in particular scoring 24 points on 43.8% shooting.

Pirates guard Tristan Newton had a brilliant game, scoring 32 points on 57.9% shooting, including five 3-pointers. With two seconds remaining in the game, Newton nailed a long 3 to force an overtime despite having a defender contesting his shot. Tulane could not convert with the last shot of regulation, and the Pirates dominated in overtime to take the win.

The Green Wave rebounded three days later at home, with a 68-54 victory over the South Florida Bulls. R.J. McGee, Cook and Cross all had 17 points in the win, with Tulane’s defense forcing 17 turnovers. The defense limited the Bulls to 39.6% shooting, including an abysmal 20% shooting from three point range.

Tulane will look to improve their bench production, as it has currently been inconsistent through this restart. Against Memphis, McGee had 13 points off the bench, with the unit as a whole scoring 21. The bench put up 14 against Cincinnati, but only 6 against the Pirates and the Bulls. Tulane must also improve their rebounding, as they were out rebounded in all four contests.

Tulane does do a good job defensively. Opposing teams this season average over three more turnovers than the Green Wave, and Tulane averages 2.2 more steals than their opposition. Cook’s play this season has also been electric, with the young guard seemingly scoring at will.

The team will next travel to Kansas to play Wichita State on Jan. 12, before hosting the SMU Mustangs on Jan. 15.