Jan. 13, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - The action on the court during Thursday's Conference USA women's basketball contest between Tulane and East Carolina read like a checklist to a recipe for success:
Blood? Check, as senior forward Danielle Nunn suffered a cut above her left eye early in the second half. Sweat? Check, as the short-handed Green Wave had four players log at least 30 minutes of action. Tears? Check that one off too as the Green Wave shed tears of joy following their 71-61 win over the Pirates which saw Tulane outscore its opponent 48-32 in the second half.
With the victory, Tulane extended its winning streak to seven straight games as the Wave improved to 14-2 on the year and 3-0 in C-USA action. East Carolina, meanwhile, dropped its fourth consecutive contest to fall to 6-10 overall and 0-3 in league play.
"I thought our team did a nice job of not panicking," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "In the first half, we weren't hitting shots. We came out in the second half with a lot more composure. People got hurt and other people stepped up. I think it's really a testament to the maturity of the team that adversity can hit them and they just stay with it."
The Green Wave trailed 29-23 at halftime and by as many as six twice in the second half. Down 37-31 with 16:20 left in regulation, however, Tulane used a 27-8 run over the next nine minutes to take command of the ballgame at 56-43. East Carolina refused to give in and cut the deficit to five with 2:21 to go, but the Green Wave scored the final six points of the ballgame to thwart any talks of a Pirates' comeback.
As a team, Tulane shot just 38.3 percent from the field (23-of-60), but connected on 12-of-26 shots in the second half (.462) which proved to be the difference in the ballgame. The Green Wave defense held East Carolina - which entered the game leading C-USA with 75.1 points per game and ranked second in the league with 6.3 3-pointers per game - to a 36.2 shooting percentage (21-of-58) and just three treys.
"I think this, probably more than a lot of wins that we've had in a while, was really significant because we are beat up," Stockton said. "Just really being down numbers against this opponent, we weren't sure if our players could play that long or how intense they could play. East Carolina is such a great offensive team that you've got to defend them. Our goal was 63 points and they got 61. That says a lot about what our defense can do."
Nunn was one of three Tulane players to post double-digit scoring totals, leading the team with 18 while senior point guard Roshaunda Barnes followed with 15 and senior forward Tiffany Aidoo was next with 14 - all of which came in the second half. Barnes led all players with eight assists and Aidoo posted a career-best six of Tulane's 17 steals.
Nunn and junior center Brett Benzio shared team-high rebounding honors with seven each. Benzio also finished the night with a career-high nine blocks and chipped with a pair of assists.
Tulane scored the first four points of the ballgame on back-to-back baskets by Nunn before the Pirates rallied to take a two-point lead at 17-15 midway through the opening frame. The two teams traded baskets for most of the remaining half, and with the score knotted at 23-all with 1:39 to go before the break, East Carolina went on a 6-0 run to take the lead into the locker room.
The final stanza opened on a similar note as sophomore guard Olivia Grayson and Aidoo hit consecutive shots to open the second half before East Carolina answered with a 6-2 rally to push its lead back to a half-dozen at 35-29 3:19 into the period. It remained a six-point affair following a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Tyria Snow and a basket by ECU's Jean Best, but Snow hit her first career 3-pointer the next trip down the floor and Barnes followed with a trey of her own to tie the game at 37-37.
The Pirates reclaimed a two-point lead courtesy of a pair of Kim Gay free throws but Barnes gave Tulane a 40-39 lead it would not relinquish with her second 3-pointer with 13:42 to go. Following an Aidoo jumper and a Best layup to make it 42-41 less than a minute later, a Barnes free throw sparked a 14-2 Green Wave rally capped by pair of shots by Benzio from the charity stripe to put Tulane on top, 56-43.
Undaunted, East Carolina answered with a 14-6 run of its own over the next 4:11 to make it a five-point affair at 62-57. The Pirates cut the deficit to five twice more down the stretch, but could get no closer. With Tulane clinging to a 66-61 advantage following a basket by East Carolina's Celeste Stewart,, Nunn hit a layup, Grayson connected on a pair of freebies and Barnes hit one of her two shots from the charity stripe to account for the final score.
"We gutted it out as a team," Nunn said. "We felt like we were the better team. That's how we approach every game, as if we're the better team. We just had to lock down as a team, come out and play two haves and come away with the win."
Gay led East Carolina with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Best was next for the Pirates with 16 points off the bench. Ashley Clarke and Allison Spivey each had a pair of assists while Clarke and Best both had two steals.
Tulane returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 16, when the Green Wave head to Huntington, W.Va., to take on C-USA foe Marshall at 1 p.m. in the Cam Henderson Center. From there, Tulane returns home to face Southern Miss on Jan. 20 in Fogelman Arena.
Tickets to that game, as well as future home contests, are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Floor seats are normally $15 while reserve and general-admission tickets can be purchased for $10 and $5, respectively. In addition, groups of 10 or more fans can purchase reserved tickets for $8 each and general admission seats go for $3 each.
The Tulane Athletics Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at (504) 861-WAVE (9283) via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.