Men's Basketball Downs Horned Frogs in Close One

February 21, 2004

Ross Hurwitz, <i>Hullabaloo</i> staff writer

On a day when seniors Marc Siegel, George Brown and Wayne Tinsley were honored before the game at half court, it was the underclassmen that took center stage in one of the most exhilarating games of Head Coach Shawn Finney's tenure.

The Tulane men's basketball team overcame a 15-point second half deficit to narrowly edge TCU, 67-66. Freshmen forward Dan Fitzgerald and guard Vincent Camper led the comeback and with only 5.9 seconds remaining, sophomore forward Vytas Tatarunas gave Tulane the lead for good with a hook shot from the left block. In the first half, Tulane (10-12 overall, 3-8 C-USA) was ice cold, particularly from behind the arc, missing the first nine three-point attempts.

The team finished the half shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from three-point range. However, despite this dismal shooting performance, the Green Wave was only down nine points at halftime, 33-24. In the first 11 minutes of the second half, TCU increased its lead to as many as 15 points. Sophomore Quincy Davis kept Tulane within striking distance, scoring the team's first seven points and 12 total points for the half.

The Green Wave trailed 57-45 at the 8:25 mark, but used a 14-1 run over the next six minutes to eliminate the deficit and regain the lead. Fitzgerald and Davis both connected on three-point plays and Camper hit two free throws with 2:42 remaining to give Tulane a 59-58 advantage. The last three minutes of the game were intense and hotly contested, as both teams elevated their games and exchanged a series of clutch shots.

TCU immediately answered the Green Wave run with a three of their own, only to be matched by junior guard Ben Benfield's trifecta from the right corner. TCU regained a two-point edge with 1:30 left but with just over a minute in regulation, Tinsley connected on a tremendous three-point play, driving baseline for the basket and the foul.

TCU's Marcus Shropshire responded with a three-pointer with 33 seconds left to give the Horned Frogs a 66-65 lead. With Davis having fouled out, the Green Wave looked to Tatarunas for one last answer. He missed a baseline jumper but when the ball kicked off a TCU defender, the Green Wave got a second chance. Fitzgerald threw a bullet pass into Tatarunas who turned and banked in the baby hook, giving Tulane a 67-66 lead with 5.9 seconds left.

"You have to give Vy credit," Finney said. "He was on the bench for almost 10 minutes, but he came in and made a big shot." TCU turned to Shropshire for last minute heroics, but freshman forward Korey Castine switched out on him after Tinsley was picked. He contested the 16-foot fade-away jumper just enough, as it clanked off the front iron as time expired. "We were resilient tonight," Finney said. "Shots weren't falling but in the last 10 minutes, we stepped up and played defense. Some nights the ball doesn't go in the hole and you must defend. We had to find a way to retaliate and we did in the clutch. Our freshmen are really growing up. These wins have boosted our confidence and made us believe in ourselves."

Unfortunately for the Wave, they were not able to continue the win streak on the road against East Carolina (10-12, 2-10 C-USA), falling to the Purple Pirates 76-66 Wednesday. Tulane was sluggish from the start, falling behind by as many as 14 points early in the first half before Davis scored two free throws to jump start an 11-0 scoring drive.

A Marcus Kinzer three-pointer at the first half buzzer brought the score within three. Though the Wave played tight in the second half, the Pirates never faltered and kept ahead thanks to guard Belton Rivers, who scored 10 second-half points. East Carolina also connected on 9-of-12 free throws in the final minutes to put the Wave away. Tulane committed fifteen turnovers in the game, compared to just seven for East Carolina. On a positive note, the Wave out-rebounded the Pirates 41-35.

"We did some good things," Coach Finney said. "We out-rebounded them and we matched their shots. But we turned the ball over too much and they only have seven. That was the difference in the game." Ben Benfield led the team with 15 points and three three-pointers. Davis contributed 11 points with six rebounds and Tatarunas hit 10 points with six rebounds.

"Ben and Vy really gave us a spark off the bench," Finney said. "We were a step slow all night but those guys gave us some offense off the bench and brought us back in the game." Next up for Tulane is a showdown with conference-rival Marquette Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis. Tip off is at noon and the game will be shown on Cox Sports Net in New Orleans.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000