Sophomores Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas each posted 20-point efforts, but it would not be enough as Tulane used a big rally late to take an 88-85 win against the University of Houston Men’s Basketball program on Saturday afternoon inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
Young and Thomas, who are the Cougars’ top-two scoring leaders and stand among the Conference USA top-seven leaders, lived up to those numbers against the Green Wave. Young connected on 7-of-10 shots from the field, including an 8-of-10 effort from the free throw line to lead the Cougars with 26 points, while Thomas finished with 20 points and a team-high eight rebounds despite being hampered by foul trouble late.
The Cougar duo each recorded their team-leading seventh 20-point games of the season.
With the loss, the Cougars dropped to 14-8 overall and 3-6 in Conference USA play. Tulane improved to 16-8 this season and 4-5 in league action.
Saturday’s game started well for the Cougars who hit nine of their first 10 shots from the field and connected on a staggering 66.7 percent in the game’s first 20 minutes on the way to a 48-34 halftime lead.
The second half looked to be the same as the first as Houston kept the Green Wave in a double-digit hole and eventually led 74-55 with 8:22 remaining when redshirt freshman guard Jherrod Stiggers drained his second and final 3-pointer of the night.
However, as quickly as the Houston offense started, it disappeared just as fast. Stiggers’ basket was the Cougars’ final field goal of the day as Tulane outscored Houston 33-11 during that stretch and won for the third time in the last four games against UH.
Six free throws from Young and four from sophomore point guard J.J. Thompson were the only points Houston were able to put on the scoreboard during that stretch.
Despite the offensive lull, Houston held an 81-78 lead with 2:43 to go when Young nailed a pair of free throws. Unfortunately, Tulane scored the game’s next six points to take an 85-81 lead following a free throw from Josh Davis with 51 seconds remaining.
Houston battled back and knotted the game at 85-85 after four more free throws from Young, including two after a hard drive to the basket and foul with seven ticks left on the clock. The Houston native and Yates High product calmly converted both attempts to tie the contest.
Tulane inbounded the ball, and guard Ricky Tarrant – the defending C-USA Freshman of the Year – raced the length of the floor and laid it up and in while drawing a foul with two seconds left. Tarrant nailed the final free throw, and a Houston full-court pass was intercepted to seal the Cougars’ fate.
Thompson and freshman forward Danuel House each posted 10 points for the Cougars in the losing effort. House flirted with a triple-double, tying with Thomas for game-high honors with eight rebounds and added a game-high six assists with three blocks and three steals.
Tarrant led all players with 27 points, while Kendall Timmons added 22 points and nine rebounds. Josh Davis posted 21 points with a game-high 12 rebounds to lead the Green Wave. It was the first time the Cougars allowed three 20-point scorers in a game since Nevada’s Joey Shaw (26), Brandon Fields (24) and Armon Johnson (22) accomplished the feat in a 112-99 Wolfpack win.
• The Cougars wore their alternate grey uniforms for the third time this season… Ironically, team has worn them against opponents with green in their colors: Texas-Pan American (Jan. 3), UAB (Jan. 26) and Tulane (Feb. 9)… Cougars dropped to 2-1 in their grey uniforms.
• Sophomore forward Mikhail McLean moved into the starting lineup for the third time this season… Lineup of J.J. Thompson-Joseph Young-Danuel House-Mikhail McLean-TaShawn Thomas suffered its first loss of the year and fell to 2-1.
• Junior forward J.J. Richardson sat out Saturday’s game and did not dress against the Green Wave… Cougars are hoping he will be available for games next week.