Men’s basketball falls to Houston Cougars, out in semifinals

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Tulane men’s basketball was eliminated by the Houston Cougars in the semifinals of the AAC championship (Parker Waters)

Tulane University men’s basketball was eliminated from the American Athletic Conference Championship in the semifinal round against eventual champions Houston Cougars. This loss ended the season for the Green Wave, which included a rough non-conference start, a temporary program shutdown due to COVID-19 and success in conference play.

Before the Houston game, the Green Wave began the AAC Championship with a tough matchup against the Temple Owls in the quarterfinals. The Owls ranked as the fourth seed in the tournament, while Tulane was the fifth seed. Earlier this year, Tulane won a thrilling overtime victory in New Orleans, before being bested in Philadelphia 75-70.

Tulane was without the electric point guard Jalen Cook for the duration of the tournament. Cook has been averaging 18 points per game for the Green Wave.

Although the game remained close, Tulane stayed in control the whole time. The Green Wave shot 52% from the field, while limiting the Owls to just 28%. Sion James in particular was brilliant defensively, contributing five blocks. DeVon Baker had four steals to go along with his 15 points.

Tulane would go on to prevail 69-60, its largest margin of victory in the AAC tournament.

Following this win, Tulane would face the No. 1 Houston Cougars. The Green Wave lost both previous matchups against the Cougars. Houston once again showed why they were the class of the AAC with a dominant 86-66 victory

Ranked 18th in the nation, the Cougars’ 3-point shooting proved the difference between the two sides. Houston hit 11 3-pointers on 38% shooting, in contrast to Tulane’s six 3’s on 30% shooting.

Houston also dominated the glass, with more than twice the number of rebounds than Tulane managed. The Cougars had an astonishing 17 offensive rebounds this contest. The Green Wave managed 21 total rebounds for the game.

Jaylen Forbes led the way in scoring for the Green Wave with 19, followed by Kevin Cross and Baker with 13 and 12, respectively. Houston’s Kyler Edwards led all scorers with 20 points. 

The AAC will have two representatives in the NCAA National Championship. The Cougars are the fifth seed in the South region and will face the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, while the ninth seed in the West, the Memphis Tigers, will square off against the Boise State Broncos.

As for Tulane, the season gave the program both ups and downs for the future. The team proved it is competitive within the conference, and Cook is an exciting young player who will be a centerpiece of the team for years to come. However, the Green Wave struggled with rebounding all season long, which proved to be the downfall of the team against Houston.