Jan. 18, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Junior guard Danielle Blagg drained a 3-pointer at buzzer as the Tulane University women's basketball team rallied for a 73-71 overtime victory against Conference USA rival Southern Miss on Saturday afternoon in Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Green Wave (12-5, 3-1 C-USA) trailed by as many as seven midway through the second half, but rallied all the way back to send the game to overtime on a pair of free throws by sophomore center Chinwe Duru with 4.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Southern Miss (13-4, 2-2 C-USA) scored the first points of the overtime period and clung to a 71-70 lead when junior forward Tiffany Dale pulled down a rebound following a pair of missed free throws by Jamierra Faulkner.
Tulane raced down the court and called timeout with 4.5 seconds on the clock to draw up one last play, and while it did not follow the script to a "T", the result was the same as if it had. Junior point guard Jamie Kaplan drew the defense with a drive into the lane before dishing to a wide-open Blagg on the left wing, and the native of San Antonio, Texas, found nothing but the bottom of the next to spark the Green Wave celebration.
"It's definitely not how we drew it up," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "We actually were setting it up for Danielle, definitely, but it was actually a fade. We really wanted Jamie to create. We wanted a fade on that with Dale. They told me that the fade wasn't there, but she still got it anyway. The one thing I know is that Danielle can hit a shot to win a game, and it was nice for her to get that clean look. It was such a natural shot for her, too. I give a lot of credit to our team for being able to execute and just finding a way."
Freshman guard Leslie Vorpahl came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points after connecting on 6-of-11 shots, including a 2-of-4 performance from beyond the 3-point arc, and 6-of-8 free throws. She was one of four Tulane players to finish with double-digit offensive totals as Blagg had 13, Duru scored 11 to go with 10 rebounds to post a double-double, and sophomore forward Tierra Jones added 10.
Dale led Tulane's season-best 55-rebound effort - the eighth-most in Green Wave single-game history - with 13 boards and shared game-high block honors with Blagg at two each. Kaplan paced the squad with nine assists and a career-high five steals.
Tulane committed a season-high 31 turnovers with 16 forced via Southern Miss steal, but countered that with the effort off the glass as the Green Wave turned 20 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points. After missing 13 free throws in Wednesday's 59-54 loss to East Carolina and going just 3-of-9 from the stripe in the first half against the Golden Eagles, Tulane bounced back to hit 19-of-26 opportunities from the free throw line after halftime.
Southern Miss, meanwhile, saw opportunities to stretch its lead and perhaps put the game away late but finished the day with a 53.1 free throw percentage (17-of-32), including a 2-of-6 showing in the overtime period.
"We really fought hard on defense," Stockton said. "In the last five minutes, we had some good shots, we made some free throws and we hit some more shots, but it was really our rebounding. When you look at it, that really kept us in it. Even when we were behind, we were really big on the boards. Our biggest concern is just a lot of turnovers. We just don't make that many turnovers. I'm not sure where that came from. To be in this game, missing free throws and having those kinds of turnovers, I'm really happy to come out with a win."
The Green Wave got off to a good start, running out to a 10-5 lead, but the Golden Eagles soared back to tie the game at 11-all with 14:27 left to play in the first half. Tulane appeared to take control of the contest with a 13-4 run midway through the stanza to take a 30-21 at the 4:46 mark only to see Southern Miss end the frame with a 10-0 rally to go into the locker room at the break on top, 31-30.
Dale game Tulane a 32-31 lead with a pair of free throws early in the second half, and that would be Tulane's last lead until late in the overtime period. Southern Miss scored the game's next six points and led held a 53-46 lead with 9:30 to play in regulation. From there, the Green Wave used a 12-5 run over the next 5:59 to tie things up at 58-all. The two teams traded the next eight points, capped by Duru's free throws, to send the game into the extra period.
The back-and-forth battle carried over into overtime as Vorpahl answered a layup by Kierra Jordan with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer by Alex Coyne with a trey of her own. The lone miscue on Vorpahl's overtime production came after another Jordan Basket as she was just 1-of-2 from the free throw line, but hit a jumper with 1:06 to play to give Tulane its first lead since early in the second half at 71-70. Jordan tied the game by hitting 1-of-2 free throws the next time down the court and Jerontay Clemons did the same the during Southern Miss' ensuing possession to give the Golden Eagles their final points of the day and set up Blagg's last-second heroics.
"I was just ready for whatever was drawn up," Blagg said. "I saw Jamie driving, and she's so great at passing, so I knew that if I was open she would see it and get it to me. I mean, just with luck it went in."
Clemons led Southern Miss with 18 points while Faulkner posted a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 assists. Clemons shared team-high rebounding honors with Jordan at eight each, and Faulkner headlined the defense with six steals.
The Green Wave return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 22, when they travel to North Carolina to take on Charlotte. From there, Tulane returns home to square off against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Jan. 25, with tipoff slated for 2 p.mm.
For tickets to that game, as well as future Green Wave Athletics events, contact the Tulane Ticket Office. The ticket office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson Jr. Center, and fans can also order tickets on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com or by calling (504) 861-WAVE (9283).