Nov. 29, 2008
MOBILE, ALA. - Tulane junior Kevin Sims scored 16 of his game high 20 points in the second half and the Green Wave erased a 15 point deficit with a 25-7 run while holding Maine to without a field goal for over 13 minutes in the second half and cruised to a 66-56 victory over the Black Bears in the consolation game of the 2008 USA Basketball Classic at the Mitchell Center.
Tulane (4-2) trailed Maine (3-4) by 15 points when UM's Gerald McLemore nailed his fourth three-pointer of the game to give his team a 36-21 advantage at the 17:54 mark. Facing its largest deficit of the game, senior Robinson Louisme responded with a lay-up and Sims drained a trey to pull the Wave to within 10 points. Maine's Junior Bernal answered minutes later and put his team back up by 12 points with a lay-up at 16:18.
Now trailing by 12 points and facing the possibility of losing its second straight game and dropping to .500 for the year, the Green Wave shored up its defense and held the Black Bears to without a field goal for the next 13:03. In the mean time, TU found its offensive rhythm and began its comeback behind Sims and classmate Asim McQueen, who contributed 11 points and five rebounds in the second half, and also converted a pair of key conventional three-point plays.
McQueen hit one of two free throws and then broke free for a jumper to pull the Wave to within nine points. On the ensuing possession, Sims was called for a foul on Maine's Mark Socoby who was in the act of shooting a three-pointer. Socoby sank all three free throws and gave his team a 12-point cushion.
Once again, Sims and McQueen responded for Tulane. McQueen tipped in a missed shot and Sims connected on his second trey of the half and TU was within seven points. Sophomore Johnny Mayhane, playing in front of a hometown crowd, reduced the lead to just four points when he sank a three-pointer on an inbounds play.
Tulane continued to roll behind McQueen's first three-point play that pulled Tulane to within a point. While Maine remained ice cold from the field, the Black Bears were solid from the charity stripe where they hit nine straight free throws to stay in the game. However, despite its success from the foul line, Maine could not detour the Green Wave's momentum. McQueen's second three-point play in the span of 35 seconds tied the game at 43-all and Sims gave Tulane the lead for good with another timely three-pointer.
By the time Socoby hit Maine's first field goal since early on in the second period, TU had built a six-point advantage. The Wave led by as many as 11 points several times in the final minutes, and handed head coach Dave Dickerson his 50th career win at the school.
"This is probably the most exciting win I've had at Tulane," Dickerson said. "We were down by 10 points at halftime and we had to show a lot of character and heart to come back and win the game. We played with our hearts and our souls to come out with a win on the road.
"I thought the difference in the second half was our energy level. I thought our energy level was really lacking in the first half because it was just a half court game. They played a zone and took our energy level away. In the second half, we came out and just committed to playing fast offensively and pressuring the ball for 94 feet on defense and that turned the tide for us. We knew we would give up some easy buckets, but we also knew if we could get them tired and wear them down we could win at the end."
Along with Sims, McQueen finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Louisme chipped in 12 points and eight boards. Senior Daniel Puckett and Mayhane each contributed seven points, while Puckett also collected nine rebounds.
Tulane out-rebounded Maine, 39-26 and shot 43.8 percent in the second half, while holding the Black Bears to 35.3 percent and 47.4 percent for the game.
"I thought the assistant coaches really did a good job at halftime of getting our guys ready for the second half. If I had to give out a game ball, I would give it to our assistant coaches and Kevin Sims. Kevin and Robby (Louisme) were the voices of our team at halftime and in the second half and they really did a good job. It was also great to see Daniel Puckett come out and play with great energy and was a great win for Johnny Mayhane in front of his family and his hometown," Dickerson said.
Socoby led Maine with 18 points, while McLemore and Barnies each added 14 and 12 points, respectively.
For the second straight game in the tournament, the first half was not an ally of the Green Wave. TU once again struggled from the field, hitting just 32.1 percent of its shots, while Maine sizzled from the field with a 57.1 percent performance, including 80 percent (4-of-5) from behind the three-point line.
Tulane opened with a 6-2 lead, but McLemore nailed a three-pointer to give his team a 7-6 advantage at 16:12 and the lead for the remainder of the half. McLemore scored 11 first half points mostly in part to his three timely treys.
The Green Wave stayed close for much of the period behind the play of Louisme, who led TU with six points in the first 20 minutes. Tulane trailed by six points with 2:34 remaining in the half when sophomore Kris Richard stole the ball and finished the play with a two handed jam to bring the Wave to within four points, 24-20.
However, the Black Bears closed the half with a 7-1 run behind a lay-up each from McLemore and Troy Barnies and a three-ball from Socoby, and led 31-21 at intermission.
Tulane returns to action on Wednesday, December 3 at 7 p.m. against cross-town rival New Orleans at Lake Front Arena.