CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Tulane won two games in Myrtle Beach this week — or, half as many as the Green Wave won all of last season.
Teshaun Hightower scored 16 points and hit the go-ahead layup with a minute left, and Tulane rallied past Utah 65-61 on Sunday in the fifth-place game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
K.J. Lawson added 14 points and Jordan Walker finished with 12 to help the Green Wave (5-1), who trailed by eight points with 4½ minutes left and continued their turnaround under new coach Ron Hunter by closing on a 10-0 run while hitting nine of their final 11 shots to finish the tournament 2-1.
“How were we going to handle adversity? In the past it’s been a struggle at Tulane,” said Hunter, who came in from Georgia State. “Our kids could have folded then. They just kept grinding on the defensive end and I thought defensively we were unbelievable today.”
Timmy Allen and Branden Carlson each scored 14 points for Utah (4-2). Freshman Rylan Jones finished with 11 points and hit a 3-pointer to put the Utes up 61-55 with 4½ minutes left — but they didn’t score again.
Walker hit two jumpers during the decisive run, including one that tied it at 61 with just over two minutes left. He rimmed out a jumper on the next trip downcourt but Hightower cleaned it up with a left-handed layup that put the Green Wave ahead to stay.
The Utes had two chances to tie it in the final minute. Jones’ baseline jumper bounced off the rim with about 16 seconds left and his contested jumper from the left wing hit off the front of the rim and went to Hightower with 5.5 seconds left.
Christion Thompson iced it with two free throws with 2.0 seconds left.
Tulane: The Green Wave — who went 4-27 last season under Mike Dunleavy — will leave the Myrtle Beach area feeling pretty good after beating Middle Tennessee and Utah in their final two games. They got back to doing what they do well, forcing 20 turnovers and turning them into 18 points, to give Hunter his 450th career victory.
Utah: This 1-2 finish to this cross-country trip will wind up being one of those tough lessons the young Utes needed to learn before getting into the heart of Pac-12 play. With 12 new players, an adjustment period was certainly expected.
“You can try to find these big-picture elements, but to me, at the end of the day, it’s about being a little bit crisper on the next possession, to not put yourself in a position where another team’s going to go on a run to finish a game like that,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “There’s a lot of chicken we left on the bone, I thought, at different spots.”
Tulane: Plays host to Southern on Dec. 1.
Utah: Plays host to UC Davis on Friday night.
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