Jan. 7, 2009
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- The Tulane Green Wave rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to tie the game at 61-61 on a three-pointer from junior Asim McQueen with 2:19 remaining, but East Carolina hit eight straight free throws to come away with a 69-66 victory in the Conference USA opener for both teams in front of 4,928 at Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
Tulane (6-8, 0-1 C-USA) led by two points at halftime after putting together a solid first half. However, the Green Wave came out ice cold from the field in the second half and East Carolina (9-5, 1-0 C-USA) was able to run off a 6-0 spurt and build a four-point lead before senior Daniel Puckett scored TU's first points of the period on a pair of free throws with 3:07 gone by. In fact, the Wave did not register its first field goal of the second half until the 14:23 mark when junior Eric Vianney scored on a lay-up.
East Carolina used a combination of three three-pointers and a 19-of-23 effort from the free-throw line to build its lead in the second half. The Pirates also made the most of Tulane's miscues after the Green Wave was whistled three times for fouling on three-point field goal attempts, and ECU connected on all nine free throws attempts.
East Carolina's James Legan scored 12 of his team-best 15 points in the second half to spark the Pirates. His three-pointer near the midway mark gave the home team a 53-41 advantage and ECU looked to be running away with the game.
Facing its largest deficit of the contest, Tulane rallied and ripped off a 20-8 run over the next eight minutes. Senior Robinson Louisme began the run when he was fouled on a made jumper and he nailed the ensuing free throw for the conventional three-point play. Puckett then responded with back-to-back jumpers, followed by a free throw from senior Kevin Sims and another lay-up by Vianney.
McQueen scored on consecutive possessions and his basket with 5:17 remaining pulled Tulane to within three points, 58-53. Puckett drew the Wave to within two points, but ECU's Sam Hinnant drained a trey to extend the Pirates' lead back to five points. But once again, TU answered when Vianney drove down the heart of the East Carolina defense for a lay-up. Following a turnover by the Pirates on their ensuing possession, Sims found McQueen wide open on the left side of the floor and the forward swished his second trey of the year to tie the game at 61 apiece.
But just as it found itself back in the game, TU freshman Trent Rogers was whistled for a foul on back-to-back possessions and ECU's Brock Young connected on all four attempts to regain the lead for the home team. Sims broke free for a lay-up with 0:48 remaining that drew the Wave to within two points, but sophomore David Booker was called for a foul under the basket with 0:16 showing on the clock, and Jamar Abrams hit both attempts to give his team a four-point lead. Puckett brought Tulane to within one-point with a three-pointer with two seconds remaining, but TU was forced to foul Hinnant, who sank both attempts with one second left, and the Green Wave was able to get off a final shot.
"We have some growing pains that we are going through right now and we lost the game during the first seven minutes of the second half," Tulane head coach Dave Dickerson said. "Our guys fought the last eight minutes of the game and played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win, but we couldn't come out in the second half and play solid and being solid for the first 20 minutes. We're going to have to continue to work on that. There were some big rebounds we didn't go after, there was miscommunication on match-ups when we fouled the three-point shooters and we didn't come up with key rebounds in the lane that were big plays. If we can make those plays, we may go up by six or seven points, instead of being down by two or three points.
"We've got to learn how to win and we've got to do it on a daily basis. We're so close to winning with this team, but we just can't get over the hump for some reason. These last few games after final exams are a great example. We're playing better and harder, but we just can't get over the hump."
Puckett led all scorers with a career-high 22 points, while Vianney also notched a career-best with 13 points and dished out a team-high four assists. Booker came off the bench to notch his single game scoring mark with nine points.
Although Tulane was guilty of a season-low six turnovers, East Carolina won the battle on the boards, 38-31, and finished 27-of-33 from the foul line, compared to an 11-of-19 performance by the Wave.
Along with Legan, Hinnant finished with 14 points and Abrams grabbed a game-best 10 rebounds.
For the second straight game, Tulane opened contest with a solid effort and led for the majority of the first half with the exception of one tie. Puckett and Vianney combined for 18 of the team's 33 first half points. Puckett scored nine of TU's first 11 points and the Green Wave opened the game with a 16-7 run following a jumper from sophomore David Booker at 12:47 that led to East Carolina's first timeout.
Tulane got into foul trouble early and the Pirates took advantage by hitting 8-of-10 foul shots in the first period to stay close. ECU's Brock Young tied the contest at 20 apiece with a lay-up at 8:45. However, the Green Wave quickly answered on its ensuing possession when Vianney drilled a three-pointer from the left elbow to regain the lead for Tulane. Vianney then added back-to-back scores for his own personal 7-0 run that gave the Wave a 27-20 lead.
But during the final minutes, Tulane lost its shooting touch and East Carolina took advantage with an 11-6 run to close the half, but the Green Wave maintained a two-point, 33-31, lead at the break.