Purvis, Gibbs left UConn over Tulane, 75-67
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Connecticut point guard Sterling Gibbs saw his teammates struggling to make shots and turning the ball over, so he figured he'd better see what he could do to end his team's 5-plus-minute scoring drought.
Coach Kevin Ollie and the rest of the Huskies were grateful to see the graduate student and former Seton Hall point guard rise to the occasion.
Gibbs hit three 3-pointers and four free throws, scoring 13 of his 16 points during the final 6:32, and Connecticut held off Tulane for its fifth straight victory, 75-67 on Saturday night.
''He loves the moment,'' Ollie said. ''He's not running away from the moment; he doesn't fear the moment. That's what I love about him.''
Indeed, one of Gibbs' 3s ended a stunning 17-0 Tulane run. He hit another after Tulane had taken its only lead of the second half with about 4 minutes left.
''We knew when we got him that we were going to have a player down the stretch who would take big shots - not saying he's going to make all of them, but he will take them with confidence and he did that tonight,'' Ollie said.
Rodney Purvis capped a 20-point performance with a clutch floater in the final minute to help the Huskies (10-3, 1-0 American) avoid a stunning upset by the Green Wave (7-8, 0-2).
Daniel Hamilton added 19 for UConn, which is making a bid to get back into the Top 25, having received votes in the latest poll.
Louis Dabney had 14 points and Jernard Jarreau 13 points, 5 blocks and 2 steals for Tulane, which has lost two straight and four of five. Dylan Osetkowski added 11 points and 9 rebounds for the Green Wave.
''It's always tough walking out with a loss, but we got better tonight,'' said Tulane's Malik Morgan, who scored 10 points. ''We showed a lot of intensity with how we competed.''
Trailing by 19 early in the second half, Tulane clawed back to briefly take a 60-59 lead before one of Gibbs' 3s gave UConn the lead for good.
''It was, I guess, kind of realizing what we needed at the time,'' Gibbs said. ''We needed kind of a spark, so I just tried to step up in there and knock down some shots and try to take over a little bit.''
The Huskies opened the second half on a 13-4 run, which began with Shonn Miller's jumper and ended with Miller's 3, making it 51-32.
But UConn missed six straight shots and turned the ball over three times during a 5:35 scoring drought, allowing Tulane to come back. Osetkowski scored five straight points early in the Tulane run, which also included a pair of 3s by Kain Harris, the second making it 51-49 with a little more than 10 minutes left. Jarreau had a steal, a block and an assist during the surge.
At that point, one of the better crowds of the season at intimate Devlin Field House was in a frenzy, but UConn found the composure it needed to escape victorious.
''I really like how my guys fought at the end of the game,'' Ollie said. ''We don't want any team to go on a 17-0 run on us, but I thought we responded at the end.''
UConn: Miller finished with 12 points. ... Kentan Facey started at center with Amida Brimah missing his fourth straight game with a broken finger. Facey fouled out with 8:23 left, leaving with 2 points, a rebound and a blocked shot in 9 minutes. ... The Huskies won their first American Athletic Conference opener since switching from the old Big East Conference three seasons ago. ... Purvis, who entered the game averaging 15.3 points, has scored in double figures in every game this season.
Tulane: Tulane has blocked at least 10 shots in two straight games after not having 10 blocks in a game once since 2007. ... Tulane has outrebounded opponents in 11 of 15 games, including against UConn, 38-35.
FREE THROW TROUBLE: The Green Wave missed 11 of 27 free throws, leaving coach Ed Conroy to wonder what might have been in a single-digit loss that was as close 67-64 entering the final minute.
''We put ourselves in position where the free throw line became really big,'' Conroy said. ''We just have to have the confidence to step up and knock those down.''
UConn: Host Temple on Tuesday night.
Tulane: At Houston on Tuesday night.