Hunter earns 500th career victory, third seed in AAC Tournament

Jeremy Rosen, Sports Editor

tulane basketball
Courtesy of Parker Waters

Tulane men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter secured his 500th career victory as a head coach in the final regular season game of the year. In a tight and scrappy 83-82 victory over the Temple Owls, the Green Wave locked up sole possession of the third seed in this weekend’s American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. The team’s 12-6 conference record is the team’s greatest number of wins in conference play in a season since 1997 and their highest finish in the conference since joining the AAC.

Tulane got out to an early lead against Temple, thanks to an explosive first half from Jalen Cook. The Green Wave took a 44-32 lead in the first half, but the game turned chippy as the teams battled for conference positioning. A loose ball caused a scuffle between the teams, and the benches got up to stand by their players. After the dust settled, the referees gave offsetting technical fouls to both teams and ejected two assistant coaches from the game.

The Owls had a strong second half and cut the lead to 3 points in the final three minutes. Temple’s Damien Dunn gave them a 1-point lead with less than a minute left after making a huge 3-point shot. The Green Wave worked the ball around on their last position, until R.J. McGee was able to get a shot off in the paint before being fouled with 14 seconds left. He iced both free throw attempts to catch a 1-point lead. On the final defensive possession, Sion James made the game sealing block on the last shot attempt to secure the crucial home victory.

After the game’s dramatic ending, the Green Wave huddled around Hunter and watched a touching tribute video for their coach. The video featured kind words from Hunter’s coaching staff, his son as well as former college teammate and NBA player Ron Harper. 

The career milestone gives Hunter the 28th most wins among active Division I men’s basketball coaches and the ninth most wins in Tulane basketball history. His head coaching career spans over 29 seasons, dating back to his time coaching Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from 1994-2011. He guided the program as they rose from an NAIA school to an NCAA Division I program by 1997. Hunter spent the next eight seasons at Georgia State before joining the Green Wave in 2019.

Four Tulane players earned AAC postseason honors for their strong seasons. Cook earned his second-straight first team All-AAC selection, averaging 20.4 points and five assists per game. He was the second leading scorer in the entire conference, building off of his 18 ppg season last year. Jaylen Forbes earned a second Team All-AAC nod for the second straight year, averaging 18.8 ppg and five rebounds. Kevin Cross cemented himself as a strong all-around player with 14.6 ppg, 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists, earning a third team All-AAC selection.

The conference also awarded James with the AAC Sportsmanship award. He is well respected around the conference for his work as president of the American’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The Green Wave secured a first round bye in the AAC tournament for their top-four finish in the conference. Tulane will play the winner of the Tulsa and Wichita State matchup Friday at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

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