Jan. 19, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - In a slugfest of Conference USA's defensive stalwarts, it was the Green Wave offense which remained standing at the final bell as the Tulane University women's basketball team defeated UAB, 52-41, on Thursday evening at Fogelman Arena.
The Blazers entered the ballgame allowing a league-low 47.1 points and ranked second in field goal defense after holding their foes to a combined .337 clip while Tulane sat third in points allowed (53.0) and fourth in field goal defense (.341). The Green Wave, however, hit 50.0 percent of its shots from the field against UAB (19-of-38) and held the Blazers to a 32.7 shooting performance (17-of-52), including a 6-for-24 showing (.250) in the second half.
With the win, Tulane snaps a two-game skid to improve to 13-5 on the year and 2-3 in C-USA play. UAB, meanwhile, saw its four-game winning streak come to an end to fall to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in league action.
"I thought we played a little nervous and that we were afraid to lose at times, but we really needed this," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "We needed to beat a good team, and it's nice to beat them by double figures to feel like we can do it and that nothing's wrong. I thought we made that statement today. Hopefully we can relax and just play again."
Junior guard Olivia Grayson led all players with 18 points after hitting 6-of-8 shots from the field, including a 1-for-2 performance from beyond the 3-point arc, and 5-of-6 free-throw opportunities. Senior center Brett Benzio, meanwhile, pulled down 15 of the Green Wave's 39 rebounds and helped Tulane hold the Blazers to just 18 boards overall.
The Wave outscored UAB in the paint, 22-12 and turned 13 offensive rebounds into eight second-chance points. The Blazers forced 24 turnovers - 11 via steal - and held a 20-16 edge in points off opponent miscues, but the Tulane trailed for just one minute and 13 seconds on the night.
Grayson was the lone Tulane player to hit the double-figure mark offensively while Benzio, freshman guard Danielle Blagg and rookie forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi had eight points each. Grayson added a team-best four assists and two blocks, and junior forward Janique Kautsky led the home team with a pair of steals.
"(Grayson) shot the ball so well today and that really gave us some confidence," Stockton said. "I think at this point, it's all about confidence in our offense. When she was on, the team really responded positively."
The Blazers drew first blood with a layup by LaShaunda Pratt 50 seconds into the contest and UAB held a 4-2 advantage 1:24 later. A Benzio layup tied things up and a Grayson jumper with 16:15 to play in the first half gave the Green Wave a 6-4 lead they would not relinquish.
The Tulane advantage swelled to as many as nine three times in the opening stanza with the last coming at 23-14 with 6:35 to go before the break. From there, UAB outscored the Green Wave 11-2 the rest of the frame to make it a 27-25 affair at halftime.
Leading by just a pair, Tulane wasted little time reasserting its authority as the Green Wave opened the second half with a 14-3 run to make it 41-28 with 11:21 left in regulation. UAB cut the deficit to seven on a Karisma Chapman layup to make it 43-36 with 5:29 to go, but a Blagg 3-pointer stretched the lead to 10 and Tulane's lead dipped below double digits just twice the rest of the way.
"We came into the locker room at halftime and we said to ourselves that we let the ball drop at the end of the first half," Grayson said. "That's something that we had been working on because in these past couple of games, that had been out downfall - just not closing out games and letting the team get back in it at the end of the game. We really wanted to focus on that in the second half - just putting them away early and finishing strong."
Amber Jones led UAB with 16 points - 15 of which came in the first half - while Pratt had 11 and Chapman posted 10. Khalilah Watson paced the Blazers with five rebounds and shared the team lead in assists with Jones at two apiece. Chapman led all players with three steals.
Tulane returns to action on Sunday, Jan. 22, when the Green Wave travel to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricane at 1 p.m. at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. From there, Tulane returns home for a Jan. 29 showdown against Marshall.
For tickets to that game and future Green Wave home events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office either in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com. The Ticket Office located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center on Ben Weiner Drive, is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.