The biggest lesson in the Flying Dutchmen’s 83-62 loss to Tulane at the Barclays Center was a daunting one: For these dilapidated Dutchmen, the margin of error is so thin and the confidence so delicate that an opposing player can single-handedly turn a 30-30 game at halftime into a blowout in 103 seconds.
That’s how long it took for Ricky Tarrant to drain a trio of 3-pointers to open the second half for Tulane, which came out of the locker room on a 20-0 run, needed just 6:27 to score more points (31) than it did in the entire first half and extended its lead to 30 points a mere 8:04 into the second. I have been covering sports a long time and never seen a tie game unravel like that.
While the fashion in which the Dutchmen lost was unique, the defeat itself—the seventh in a row for the Dutchmen, who fell to 0-5 since the four knuckleheads were arrested—was numbingly familiar to anyone who has seen this team over the last two seasons.
“We had a defensive breakdown to start the second half and [Tarrant] got comfortable and then made two tough shots,” Mo Cassara said. “And then again, we didn’t have the fortitude to kind of fight through that and get the game back close.”
1.) Yeah but that first half was pretty good. The Dutchmen led for almost 13 straight minutes and were up by seven with 6:30 to play before Tulane took the lead with an 8-0 run. The Dutchmen then showed some impressive resiliency in crawling back to tie the game by halftime. Matt Grogan corralled a loose ball and drained a long two-pointer as the shot clock expired before Daquan Brown (YES HE PLAYED HE ACTUALLY PLAYED) blocked a Tarrant jumper with two seconds left to preserve the 30-30 tie.
“I thought we really could have been up maybe eight or 10 points,” Cassara said. “I thought we shared the ball, I thought we moved the ball, I thought we battled on defense and I thought we changed defenses. Did a lot of great things.”
Said Tulane coach Ed Conroy: “[Hofstra] had us on our heels. They were playing harder than us, they were better than us and they had great intensity and focus and they were scoring at the end of the shot clock. They just had great resolve in all their possessions.”
2.) So what in the name of Duke Snider happened in the second half? The Dutchmen missed their first eight shots and committed five turnovers before Grogan drained a 3-pointer with 14:30 to play that “narrowed” the gap to 58-37. The second half numbers (12-of-33 shooting) looked respectable thanks to a game-ending 13-6 “run” by the Dutchmen in which they hit five of their final six shots, but that just spared the Dutchmen the ignobility of losing by 30 a game in which they were tied at the half.
“We’re all frustrated and we want to win,” Cassara said. “Wright State, Wagner, Manhattan, today—we’re right in every game, but it’s a couple critical plays at critical times where we aren’t able to fight through. So we’ve got to go back as a staff and look at that. Gotta find a way to gut out some wins.”
3.) For a depleted team, the Dutchmen did get some impressive balance. All 10 players who appeared in the game scored. Walk-on guards Grogan and Adam Savion combined to score 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, which is the type of production the Dutchmen are going to need the rest of the way. Stevie Mejia remained cold from the field (4-of-14 against Tulane and 15-of-58 shooting during the seven-game losing streak) but had a team- and career-high eight rebounds as well as a game-high six assists. Brown (three blocks), Moussa Kone (two blocks) and Darren Payen (two blocks) combined for seven blocks, tying a Dutchmen season-high set against Purdue. And Jordan Allen continued his gradual improvement with eight points and two steals in 24 minutes.
4.) As evidenced by the blocked shots, Brown showed flashes of the talent that earned him a scholarship to Fresno State last year. But he also looked very much like someone who hadn’t played a competitive minute of basketball since the end of his sophomore season at Barstow College in the spring of 2011. In one sequence late in the second half, Brown mistimed his leap on an attempted block and then, on the other end of the floor, mistimed his jump as he went up for a layup. He’s definitely got some skills that can help the Dutchmen, but it’s going to be a while before he shakes off the rust.
“He’s got to kind of get caught up to speed, he hasn’t played in a while, so we’ll keep working with him,” Cassara said. “I think this next two or three weeks will be a big two or three weeks for his development, Hopefully he can help us moving forward.”
5.) Taran Buie led the Dutchmen with 15 points, but he had perhaps his worst game in a Hofstra uniform. He was just 4-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-9 from 3-point land, and committed a season-high seven turnovers, including three in as many possessions at the start of Tulane’s second half run. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but he seems to be in a funk since his attempts to single-handedly lift the Dutchmen past Long Island University on Dec. 8 resulted in an 88-84 loss in which Hofstra blew a 16-point second half lead. He scored 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting in that game but has just 26 points on 7-of-24 shooting against Wright State and Tulane. Buie is by far the best player the Dutchmen have and the lynchpin to any hopes of turning around this nightmarish season. For everyone’s sake, Buie can’t afford to have a Charles Jenkins- circa-January 2009 kind of tailspin.
3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Tulane, 12/22)
3: Stevie Mejia
2: Jordan Allen
1: Taran Buie
17: Taran Buie
13: Stevie Mejia
8: Stephen Nwaukoni
5: Jordan Allen
4: Moussa Kone
2: Matt Grogan
2: David Imes
***21 points vacated