Tulane men’s basketball climbs AAC rankings

Will Piho, Contributing Writer

February treated the Tulane men’s basketball program right. 

Tulane currently sits in third in the American Athletic Conference, sporting a 10-5 record in conference play and a 17-9 record overall, in arguably their most successful season as a member of the AAC.

The Green Wave began the month with a three game winning streak, punctuated with a massive win on the road against tournament-bound University of Memphis. However, unfortunate news struck when the home game against East Carolina University, scheduled for Feb. 11, was canceled due to the tragic death of longtime East Carolina radio voice Jeff Charles. Because of this tragedy, that game was rescheduled for March 3 in Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse. 

The Wave then traveled to Tampa to take on the lowly South Florida Bulls, currently eighth in the AAC

Tulane would not let them improve their record, as the Green Wave went on a run to end the first half that generated a lead that proved to be insurmountable. The Bulls led as late as 3:29 to play in the first half after a three from Ryan Conwell, who had 20 points in the loss to lead the Bulls in scoring for a 29-28 advantage.

From there, the Green Wave took over. Tulane’s star guard Jalen Cook, who had an impressive 30-point showing, went on a 5-0 run by himself and then punctuated it with an assist to Kevin Cross. This big bucket moved the score to 35-29 and from there, the Bulls remained behind.

Cook’s big night was obviously the headliner, but Cross and Jaylen Forbes also had massive games for the Green Wave. Cross scored 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Forbes had 15 points as Tulane silenced the Yuengling Center, winning 84-66.

The next game against now top-ranked University of Houston would not go nearly as well. 

The Green Wave needed a win to keep hope alive for their first ever regular season or postseason AAC championship. This matchup also doubled as the last scheduled meeting between Houston and Tulane before the Cougars move on to the Big 12. The Cougars delivered an emphatic wire-to-wire victory in front of their home fans in the Tilman Fertitta Center.

Every Houston starter scored in the double digits — highlighted by 26 points from J’Wan Roberts — except for NBA-projected lottery pick Jarace Walker, who had nine points to go with 13 rebounds. 

Sophomore Cook and Junior Forbes were the only starters to reach double figures for the Green Wave as they scored 23 and 14, respectively. The bench only managed a single free throw from R.J. McGee.

The Cougars clinched their second consecutive regular season AAC championship in their 89-59 victory. 

Tulane head coach Ron Hunter reflected on the loss.“We get out of character. We never turn over 19 times. Whatever we don’t do, when we play them we end up doing it,” he said. Hunter also stressed the importance of getting ready mentally, as they prepared for a brutal season ending stretch of four games in eight days.

Tulane entered Feb. 26 needing a big bounceback win in front of their home fans. 

The Wave took on the 14-13 Wichita State Shockers, who have had a tough year in conference play. However, they jumped out to a quick lead, rattling the crowd at the nearly-packed Devlin Fieldhouse. This hot start was capped with an and-1 layup in transition from Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler of the Shockers to get the lead out to 21-8. 

Forbes did most of the heavy lifting in the first half for Tulane, as he had 12 points before 12 minutes elapsed from the game clock. However, the Shockers continued to roll, until Cook took matters into his own hands, single-handedly taking the lead from 41-29 to 43-38 after burying three 3-point attempts on consecutive possessions.

Coming out of halftime, the Green Wave cut the lead to three with a pair of big dunks, but an 8-0 run for the Shockers stopped the bleeding. The margin held steadily around 10 for the first 12 minutes of the second half until the Wave made one last run.

Cook once again put the team on his back and nailed several big shots to pull the Green Wave ever closer. They finally pulled within one after Collin Holloway assisted a Sion James 3-pointer, forcing Wichita State head coach Isaac Brown to burn a timeout with 5:58 to play.

The timeout worked, because that was as close as the Green Wave ever got to a win. The Shockers shot an astounding 16 free throws in that last 5:58, as they managed to close out a Green Wave team that lost its composure down the stretch. The final score was 83-76 Wichita State. 

New Orleans native Jaron Pierre Jr. had a huge night for the Shockers, pouring in a career high of 28 points, while Craig Porter Jr. became only the sixth player in Shocker history to record a triple-double. 

For the Wave, Cook and Forbes played the whole game and led the way with 30 and 17 points, respectively. 

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