NEW ORLEANS — Sophomore guard Ricky Tarrant scored 21 points and junior forward Josh Davis hauled down nine rebounds to go with 14 points as the Tulane men’s basketball team marked its first game in the newly renovated Devlin Fieldhouse with a 65-55 win over Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday.
The Wave overcame a shaky start and hot shooting by the Wildcats early in the game before managing to gradually take the lead and pull away from Bethune. With the victory, the Green Wave bounced back from a season-opening loss to Georgia Tech and evened its record at 1-1. Bethune-Cookman fell to 0-2.
“We just had to regain our composure and stay calm,” Davis said. “(The Wildcats) threw a lot of different defenses at us, and we had to adjust to them, and we were just able to come back.”
In addition to his 21 points, Tarrant notched a team-high four assists. And while both he and Davis shoot poorly from the field, they both took advantage of their chances at the line, with Tarrant going 11-for-14 and Davis 8-for-9 at the stripe.
Tulane forward Kendall Timmons added eight points and six rebounds, while the Wildcats were paced by guards Kevin Dukes and Mikel Trapp, who posted 13 points and 12 points, respectively.
Timmons said the keys to the Wave’s first win of the season were simple.
“Rebounding and free throws,” Timmons said. “We punished them at the free-throw line. We just had guys hustling. Guys came off the bench, and we fed off the crowd.”
Tulane struggled early, falling behind by nine about eight and a half minutes into the first half, with Bethune outmuscling Tulane on the boards and catching fire from behind the arc.
But Tulane began cleaning up on the offensive boards and took advantage of a slew of Bethune fouls to go on a 20-5 run to take a 33-27 lead. The two squads then matched each other point for point for the rest of the half, which ended with Tulane up 37-31.
The Wave’s first-half run was highlighted by Tarrant’s foul-shooting — he went 10-for-12 from the line in the half, accounting for all but two of his points in the half — and hustle in the paint by Davis, who tallied 10 points in the first half and helped Tulane outrebound the Wildcats 19-15 by halftime. That figure included 11 offensive rebounds overall for the Wave. Tulane also scored 18 points off Bethune-Cookman turnovers in the half.
While Tulane was picking up the pace, the Wildcats suddenly went cold for the field. However, they still managed to outshoot the Wave 44.4 percent to 34.6 in the half behind nine points each by Adrien Coleman and Mikel Trapp.
The Wildcats pulled within two during a frenzied, sloppy start to the second half, but the Green Wave, keyed by Davis’ strong inside play, stiffened on defense and stretched its lead to 50-39 midway through the half, a spurt that included eight unanswered points.
Both teams continued their slapdash play as the half progressed, each squad racking up fouls, turnovers and missed three-pointers. But with a Tarrant three-pointer with just over six minutes to go, the Wave brought its lead back to 11.
Dukes drained a 3-pointer to cut the Tulane lead to 55-47 before the Wildcats called a timeout with about five and a half minutes left in the game. Tarrant answered with a three of his own but then missed an easy layup on a fast break. Wildcat guard Ricky Johnson hauled down the rebound, leading to a three by Dukes to slice the Tulane lead to just 57-53 with 3:29 to play.
Davis, however, by hit two free throws to extend the Green Wave lead back to six. Timmons then went 1-2 from the line, followed by another errant Wildcat pass and turnover.
The Wave made Bethune pay with a swished three-point by senior guard Ben Cherry, giving Tulane a 63-55 edge with 2:29 left. After another Wildcat turnover and foul, Tulane sophomore Tre Drye salted the game away by connecting on a pair of free throws with less than a minute left in the contest.
Both teams ended up shooting under 40 percent from the floor for the game, but the Wave converted 80 percent of its free throws, going 28-for-35 at the line.
Tulane also outrebounded the Wildcats 39-34, including a 17-13 edge on the offensive boards.
In addition, the Wave scored a whopping 27 points off turnovers and put up 22 second-chance points. Tulane also showed more depth, outscoring Bethune 15-7 off the bench, and posted a 22-15 edge in points in the paint.
Timmons said the Wave felt comfortable in its renovated surroundings at Devil Fieldhouse, which received a large makeover during the off-season. He added that the fans turned out to support the squad in their 2012-13 home debut. Attendance Tuesday topped 1,600.
“A lot more people showed up than I thought would,” Timmons said. “They were really into the game.”