Photo by Brian Giandelone
NEW ORLEANS -- Tulane freshman Rickey Tarrant could not have timed his first major scoring outburst much better.
Tarrant highlighted a career-high 24-point outing with six 3-pointers and a pair of clutch free throws with 25 seconds left, and Tulane improved to 9-0 for the first time in two decades with a 57-52 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
"It's the biggest I've played so far," said Tarrant, whose previous high was 15 points against Alcorn State. "My teammates did a great job of penetrating and moving and got me a lot of open shots. I give them a lot of credit for finding me and it was like I made every shot I threw up today."
Josh Davis scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Tulane, while Kendall Timmons scored nine points, including a steal and breakaway dunk to give the Green Wave the lead for good in the final 40 seconds.
Tulane hasn't started 9-0 since winning its first 13 games in 1991-92, a season the Green Wave qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Glen Rice Jr. had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Georgia Tech (4-4), which has dropped two straight. Jason Morris added 12 points for the Yellow Jackets.
While Georgia Tech shot only 35 percent, the Yellow Jacks played suffocating defense for much of the game, holding Tulane to 30 percent shooting. If not for Tarrant's 7 of 10 shooting and Tulane's 17-5 advantage in scoring from the free-throw line, the Wave might not have pulled it out.
"If you take away what he shot, they probably shot 20 percent," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory. "The difference was they got to the free throw line a lot and on our offensive end, we're still evolving. ... At times we're going to struggle to score."
In fact, Tulane players other than Tarrant combined to go 9 of 42 (21.4 percent).
Tulane shot only 20 percent in the second half and went 10:50 without hitting from the field, making only two free throws during that span.
That allowed Tech to erase an 44-34 deficit with a 12-2 run and tie the game at 46 on Brandon Reed's driving layup with 5:43 to go.
The last tie came when Mfon Udofia spun into the lane and hit a floater to make it 50-50. After Davis hit a free throw, Kammeon Holsey's layup put Tech back up 52-51.
Timmons missed a layup in traffic with just over a minute left, but soon after stole the ball at mid-court from Udofia. The Tech guard then slipped as Timmons broke in alone for a dunk that sent the tense Fogelman Arena crowd into a frenzy.
"My two fears going in were, one, would we embrace this environment ... and two, could we withstand the scoring droughts, because knowing our team right now, we have some of those," Tulane second-year coach Ed Conroy said. "We were tough enough to weather those droughts tonight and I was really proud of that."
Tarrant helped Tulane race to 13-4 lead when he hit his first 3 of the game from the left corner.
Georgia Tech seized the momentum back when Udofia hit a pull-up jumper in transition. Rice followed with a 3, and then found Morris for an alley-oop dunk. That sparked a 15-0 run that included 3s by Udofia and Morris, and Morris' breakaway dunk that made it 19-13.
Tarrant began to reassert himself soon after, hitting five straight 3s, some from several feet behind the arc, during a 15-3 Tulane run that made it 33-24.
"That was fun to watch. It was impressive," Conroy said. "Not all that stuff was drawn up. He was going to find a way. He embraced this environment. This is what he came here to help build and he just stepped up."
Udofia's layup pulled Tech to 33-26 at halftime.
Tarrant "has 20 at halftime, so obviously that's a big factor," Gregory said. "They only score 57 points and he gets more than one-third of those in the first half.
"Again, our defense is improving and that's what we need to hang our hat on right now, and we just need on the offensive end to become more efficient," Gregory continued. "We're trying to work on that, but you've also got to be able to make some shots. We had some pretty good looks, but in the last couple minutes we made a couple of impatient decisions, which you can't do, especially on the road."