Green Wave basketball rolling in February

Jake Blancher, Associate Sports Editor

tulane basketball
Courtesy of Parker Waters

The Tulane Green Wave men’s basketball team has yet to lose in the month of February.

The team looked to bounce back after a short slump that saw them lose two of their three previous in-conference games. On the first of the month, they took on the SMU Mustangs, a struggling squad that had lost twice as many conference games as they had won going into the contest.

After a tight first 13 minutes which saw three lead changes, a Jaylen Forbes jumpshot put the Green Wave ahead 25 to 23, en route to a 13-point unanswered run, sparking a lead which he never relinquished in the remaining 27 minutes of gametime.

From that point, our squad outscored the Mustangs by 22, ending in a 74-52 victory much to the delight of the impassioned home fans. Tulane had four players finish with double-digit points; Jalen Cook led the team with 22, Sion James delivered a baker’s dozen, Jaylen Forbes ended the evening with an even dozen and Kevin Cross put 10 on the scoreboard.

With a second win over the Texas team this season, the men’s basketball squad marked their first season sweep of SMU since Tulane arrived in the American Athletic Conference just under a decade ago in 2014.

Three days later, the team traveled up the Mississippi River to Memphis where they edged out the Tigers in a thrilling 90-89 overtime victory.

The Tigers jumped out to an early 10-point lead just five minutes into the game, a lead that they held for the entirety of the first half until it was cut to just 3 points before the halftime buzzer sounded. Thanks to a Tylan Pope triple three minutes into the second half, Tulane was able to take back the lead for the first time since the opening score.

Tulane and Memphis traded leads for the majority of the second half with neither team able to secure a lead of more than 5 points. After a roughly two-and-a-half minute period sans any scoring by either team and a quick exchange of 2-pointers, Memphis was able to build a 2-point lead off of a Kendric Davis jump shot and a Deandre Williams free throw with under two minutes remaining.

Reigning AAC most improved player Kevin Cross then connected on a clutch jump shot — which ended up being the last field goal of regulation — as the shot clock expired to tie the game at 79, sending it to overtime.

Jaylen Forbes got the early hot hand in overtime, scoring the first 5 points for the Wave. Then, once again Kevin Cross came through in the clutch with under a minute remaining.  The 6-foot-8-inch forward first went perfect from the free-throw line, sinking two high pressure shots to shift the game from a 1-point deficit to one-point Tulane lead.

Finding themselves again down a point following a Kendric Davis floater, Kevin Cross received an entry pass on the low block from Jaylen Forbes. Cross took one dribble, backing down the Memphis defender whilst simultaneously drawing attention from a second helping defender. Cross quickly and astutely assessed the situation, throwing a perfect pass over the Memphis defender’s head to a cutting Tylan Pope. Pope easily made the layup, proving to be the final shot of the game, ending with an enthralling 90-89 victory.

Tulane has just six wins in 41 games against the Tigers in this millennium. But this didn’t stop the squad from exacting a little payback and making history at the same time. With their overtime victory, Tulane men’s basketball enjoyed their first season sweep of the storied Memphis program since 2000.

And if that was not enough, with their win Tulane ascended to take sole possession of second place in the American, overtaking both Memphis and Temple.

Against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Tulane once again went into overtime but came away 101-94 winners. Cook, Cross and Forbes dominated in this intense game, all scoring over 24 points. Cross had a season high in points and rebounds, with 27 and 15 to go with his six assists. Cook tied his season high in scoring with 27 points, along with a whopping 14 assists. Cook set the Tulane single game assists record with his performance, breaking the record set by Cross last season.

The squad has six more games — including three at Devlin Fieldhouse — before heading to Fort Worth. In the Lone Star State, they will compete for the American Athletic Conference championship crown, a title that comes along with an automatic bid to the March Madness tournament.

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