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February 9, 2013

Green Wave snaps long conference road losing streak

Ricky Tarrant's driving basket and free throw with 2.5 seconds left capped an 18-point comeback in the last 11:20 as Tulane snapped an 18-game Conference USA road-losing streak, beating Houston 88-85 on Saturday.

The Green Wave (16-8, 4-5 C-USA) trailed 67-49 at the media timeout with 11:20 left and was down by 13 with six minutes left. Jordan Callahan then hit back-to-back 3s to spark a 12-0 spurt as Tulane cut the deficit to 79-78, forcing a series of turnovers in the backcourt with its full-court press.

After Houston (14-8, 3-6) hit two free throws, Tulane scored seven in a row to go ahead 85-81.

Long losing streaks don't die easily, though, so the Wave had to survive more drama. Kendall Timmons was tied up after grabbing a defensive rebound, and the arrow pointed toward Houston. Seconds later, Josh Davis fouled out, hitting Houston's Joseph Young on a 3-point shot.

Young, a 91-percent free throw shooter, made 2 of 3, before Timmons missed two straight foul shots. Young tied the score at 85 with two more fee throw at the 7.3-second mark, setting up Tarrant's winning play as the Wave went the length of the court.

"In the huddle coach (Ed Conroy) told two guys to just run the wings for an outlet and told me to just take it to the rim," Tarrant said in a post-game radio interview. "That's what I did."

Houston, which was out of timeouts, could not get off a final shot. The Cougars made zero baskets in the last eight minutes, allowing Tulane to notch what could be a season-altering victory, its first away from home in C-USA since Jan. 5, 2011 at Rice.

Tulane outscored Houston 54-37 in the second half and scored 22 points in the last 3:56.

"I can control my environment pretty well, blocking it out and focus on developing and improving this team," Conroy said in a post-game radio interview. "But it's harder for the guys. They hear all the noise. They are out there on campus. They read everything and hear everything. I've been trying to encourage them to stay focused and don't listen to comparisons or any of it. Just focus on this team. There's a long way to go in this season, and I like where we're headed."

Tarrant led Tulane with 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting, one off his season high. He also had six assists and five rebounds. Timmons chipped in with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a bank shot that gave Tulane its first lead late in the game. He tied his season high for rebounds with nine.

Davis added 21 points and 12 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season.

Young paced Houston with 26 points. TaShawn Thomas scored 20 before fouling out.

Tulane outrebounded Houston 39-32, getting 16 offensive boards, and committed only 10 turnovers to the Cougars' 16.

"At halftime we were kind of down in the locker room, and coach came in and told us that we were right there and we were going to see what we were made of," Tarrant said. "We did a great job in the second half of just keeping playing."

Houston led 48-34 at the half and extended that advantage to 19 early in the second half.

"Our defense did not show up today for the first 30 minutes," Conroy said. "We were experimenting a little bit and trying to get these guys going offensively, but we lost our defensive identity for a long time today."

With its first two-game conference winning streak since January of last year, Tulane could be in a tie for fifth place in Conference USA by the end of the day. The Wave has an even tougher test next Wednesday at Southern Miss, which won its first seven league games.

Ten minutes of torrid play after 30 minutes of horrid defense won't suffice against the Golden Eagles.

"They (Houston) were way more physical than us in the first half," Conroy said. "You are just not going to win on the road if you let people push you around. I was pretty animated at halftime. I was not going to watch that."

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