Jan. 5, 2001
NEW ORLEANS, La. -
The Tulane University men's basketball team will play its first ESPN2 game of the season on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. (CST) against UAB in Birmingham, Ala. It is the Conference USA opener for both teams.
The game will also be available live on WWL (870 AM), whose 50,000 watts reach 40 states. The broadcast is also available on the internet by visiting the official Tulane web page at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
Tulane (7-5) currently holds a two-game winning streak, with victories over Southern (Dec. 30, 82-75) and Lamar (Jan. 3, 81-71). The Green Wave's last defeat came at the hands of No. 5 Florida on Dec. 28. UAB also enters Sunday's contest with a 7-5 record and a two-game winning streak. The Blazers have wins over Virginia Commonwealth and Alcorn State in their final warm-ups for the league slate.
"The biggest thing is to start conference play with a win," said senior captain Ledaryl Billingsley (Chicago, Ill.). "We have a good rivalry with UAB, it doesn't matter where we are picked or what our records are, it is always a good battle. The big thing is to open the league on a good note."
Billingsley has been a dominant presence in the paint this year, averaging a double-double with 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He leads Conference USA with seven double-doubles this season. The 6-7, 260-pounder averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games against the Blazers last year.
Directing the Green Wave offense has been Brandon Spann (New Orleans, La.), a 6-0 point guard from Jesuit High School. The sophomore leads the team with 18.2 points and 5.5 assists per game. He has also nailed a team-high 23 three-pointers while knocking down 84.7 percent of his free-throw attempts. Spann, who was described by Florida head coach Billy Donovan as "an outstanding point guard," ranks in the top seven in the conference in five categories: scoring (5th), assists (2nd), steals (1st), free-throw percentage (4th), and three-pointers made per game (7th).
The other top contributors for Tulane's attack have been junior Linton Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) and sophomore Brandon Brown (Houma, La.). Johnson is averaging 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, while ranking second in the league in blocked shots with 30. Brown, meanwhile, averages 13.3 points and 6.7 rebounds and is sixth in the league with a .557 field-goal percentage.
Finney is in his first year at the helm of the Tulane program, after serving as an assistant coach for the past 15 years, including the last three at Kentucky, where he helped the Wildcats to a national championship in 1998. He is working to implement a style similar to that of Kentucky.
"We want to play an up-tempo, fast-paced, full-court pressing, three-point shooting game," Finney said. "We are working to develop this team to the point where we can maintain that style and pace for 40 minutes a night."
Following the UAB game, Tulane will return home, hosting Louisville on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the New Orleans Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. For ticket information, call Ticketmaster or the Tulane box office at 504-961-WAVE.