Feb. 14, 2009
HOUSTON - Sophomore Kris Richard scored a team-best 20 points and junior Eric Vianney added 16 points, but Tulane could not overcome an 18-point halftime deficit and Houston's high powered offense, falling to the Cougars, 83-69, in front of 3,243 at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Tulane (10-14, 4-7 C-USA) trailed Houston (16-7, 7-3 C-USA) by 18 points at the break, but opened the second half with a strong effort on both ends of the floor by outscoring the Cougars 20-8 during the first 8:48. Vianney and Richard both scored six points apiece during the opening minutes of the second half to key the Green Wave comeback. Vianney came up with a key steal and pulled TU to within six points on his made lay-up despite being fouled on the play. He sank the charity shot to convert the conventional three-point play that made the score 47-41.
However as tough as the Wave had battled to scrape back into the game, Houston, the league's top offense with 78 points per game, needed less than two minutes after Tulane threatened to take control of the game. The Cougars' Jamal Nixon spurred an 11-2 run over the next 1:58 with a bucket and a three-pointer and helped Houston jump out to a 58-43 advantage with 9:18 remaining in the game. The Cougars offense continued to click on all cylinders, scoring 30 points in the final 10 minutes.
"We dug a hole for ourselves in the first half," Tulane head coach Dave Dickerson said. "Even though we played much better in the second half, Houston is too good of a team to try and come back from an 18-point deficit and win the game. They are better than us right now and we have to strive to try and become as good as they are as a program."
Along with Richard and Vianney, junior Kevin Sims was the final Green Wave player to reach double figures with 10 points. Tulane overcame a poor first half performance from the field by hitting 57.7 percent of its second half attempts and finished the contest with a 46 percent effort. The Wave also out-rebounded the Cougars 29-27, but Houston made 27-of-28 free throw attempts and converted 21 Tulane turnovers into 25 points.
Nixon, who came into the contest averaging 2.9 points per game on the year, chalked up 12 points by halftime and led all scorers with 23 points, while leading scorer Aubrey Coleman (20.0 ppg) sat on the bench for a majority of the game in foul trouble. Kelvin Nixon finished with 16 points, while Marcus Cousin added 12 points and Qa'rraan Calhoun chipped in 10 points.
Tulane never got on track offensively from the start, hitting just two of its first six shots, and the Wave was guilty of 13 turnovers, which Houston conveniently converted into 18 of its 39 first period points. Defensively, TU was whistled for nine first half fouls and the Cougars connected on all 11 attempts from the free-throw line.
Houston took advantage of the Wave's shooting and turnover woes and sprinted out to a quick 12-4 advantage in the first 4:48. Tulane cut the lead to six points courtesy of two free throws from Vianney, but the Cougars promptly responded with a 7-2 run to push its advantage out to 11 points. Vianney then drained a three-pointer and senior Daniel Puckett spun inside for a bank shot to pull the Wave to within six points, 19-13, at 10:32.
But Houston's guard play and excellent free throw shooting, along with Tulane's miscues, proved to be the difference in the first 20 minutes. TU did its best to stay within single digits and striking distance of the lead, but UH used an 11-2 during the final 6:17 to take a 39-21 lead into intermission.