Jan. 10, 2009
NEW ORLEANS - Junior Eric Vianney scored a career-high 18 points and set a school record for three-point field goal percentage by hitting all five attempts, while sophomore Kris Richard finished with 16 points off the bench in Tulane's 65-54 Conference USA victory over Rice in front of 2,114 at Fogelman Arena.
Tulane (7-8, 1-1 C-USA) and Rice (5-9, 0-1 C-USA) fought to a 28-28 standstill at halftime and the contest remained in question with the score knotted at 38 apiece with 12:08 remaining in the game. Richard, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Green Wave a brief two-point advantage. However, Rice tied the game on the ensuing possession when Connor Frizzelle nailed a jumper with 10:57 remaining.
Facing the possibility of a tight game during the final 10 minutes to determine which team would capture its first league win of the year, Tulane opted to seize control when Richard broke the contest open and ignited a 14-4 run with a timely three-pointer from the right side. The Green Wave's defense held the Owls to just two field goals for nearly six minutes, while the offense rolled behind lay-ups from senior Robinson Louisme and junior Kevin Sims, a tip-in from junior Asim McQueen and free throws from both Sims and senior Daniel Puckett.
By the time Rice's Lucas Kuipers recorded his team's first field goal since Frizzelle's jumper near the midway point, Tulane had built a 10-point. Following Kuipers score, Lawrence Ghoram brought the Owls to within six points with a pair of free throws with 3:33 remaining.
However, Tulane quickly answered with jumpers on back-to-back possessions from Richard and Puckett to extend its lead back to 10 points. Rice managed to scrape its way back to within six points one final time on a Kuipers three-pointer with 0:44 remaining, but the Owls were forced to foul and Sims connected on both attempts. Rice was only able to add a free throw from Rodney Foster in the final minute, and McQueen capped off the Green Wave's win with an emphatic dunk near the end of the game.
Vianney, who earned his second start of the season against Rice, registered a career high 13 points earlier this week at East Carolina and had never made more than two three-pointers in a single game during his career. However, he was unconscious today hitting all six field goal attempts, including five straight treys to set the school mark for three-point percentage in a single game. Vianney's five three-pointers are the most by a Tulane player since Chris Moore drained five against UNO on Nov. 14, 2006.
Richard and Vianney proved to be a deadly duo for the Green Wave against the Owls, hitting a combined 11-of-13 field goal attempts (.850), including 6-of-7 three-pointers (.860).
"It means a lot for us to get a win today," Tulane head coach Dave Dickerson said. "Any win would have been good for us this time of the year, whether it's here, the Reily Center or the downtown arena. We just needed a win and something to show for the effort this team has given the last two weeks. We had to play hard and smart in order to win this game and I thought everyone did a good job. My hat's off to Eric Vianney and Kris Richard. Those two guys carried us today and made clutch shots and plays. Without those two guys, it would have been a tough situation for us. Asim McQueen had 10 rebounds and this game was just a great all-around team performance.
"In order for is to be good we have to have contributions from the entire team. At the end of the first half, we had a redshirt freshman (Jon Andersen) and a walk-on (Geoff Hogan) on the floor because we had three starters on the bench in foul trouble. Those guys did a great job of defending and rebounding and we were able to go into halftime tied and not trailing."
Vianney also contributed six rebounds and tied his career single game high with five assists, while Sims added 12 points and five assists. McQueen led TU's effort in the paint with a game-high 10 rebounds, helping the Wave out-rebound the Owls, 39-33.
Ghoram led the Owls with 17 points, while Foster added 11 points.
The first half was a back-and-forth struggle with Tulane leading for a majority of the period, but could never maintain its lead. Vianney led the way with three of his five treys in the first 20 minutes. He canned treys on back-to-back possessions to give the Wave its largest lead of seven points on two occasions. However, Foster drained a pair of three-pointers of his own and led Rice on a 9-2 run to close out the half, and his short jumper with 0:03 remaining tied the contest at intermission.