Feb. 1, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Over the last two and a half seasons, reaching the 70-point plateau in a regulation contests was a good sign for the Tulane University women's basketball team. On Saturday afternoon against Conference USA foe UTEP, however, it was not enough as the Green Wave dropped an 86-72 decision to the Miners in Devlin Fieldhouse.
Tulane raced out to a 12-3 lead early on and went into the locker room at halftime on top, 35-28. The Miners opened the second half with a 17-9 run to take a 45-44 lead with 14:28 left to play and the two teams traded baskets over the next five-plus minutes. The Green Wave clung to a 52-51 advantage following a pair of free throws by sophomore center Chinwe Duru with 9:27 on the clock only to see UTEP go on a 16-3 run over the next 4:16 to go ahead 67-55 and the lead never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.
"First of all, I am really proud of our effort," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "I thought we did a lot things effort wise, especially finishing the game. We were as intense as we could be. I give UTEP a lot of credit. They did a tremendous job of scoring. We just had a difficult time stopping them and scoring ourselves.
"We felt that we had to contain a little bit on the boards. Overall we did a pretty good job on their offensive rebounds compared to what we normally did, but they just couldn't miss at times. We had that one span in the second half where we couldn't make a shot, they made some transition baskets and that got the lead. We just couldn't respond."
The loss snapped Tulane's four-game winning streak as the Green Wave fell to 15-6 on the year and 6-2 in C-USA play. UTEP, meanwhile, won its fourth consecutive contest to improve to 17-4 overall and 6-2 in league action. Tulane's last loss when scoring 70-plus points came back on Feb. 17, 2013, when the Green Wave fell to Houston in double-overtime, 71-70. The Wave's last regulation loss when scoring at least 70 points came was March 21, 2012, when Tulane dropped a 92-86 contest to host Oral Roberts in the second round of the 2012 WNIT.
Junior forward Tiffany Dale led the Green Wave with 18 points and nine rebounds. Junior wing Adesuwa Ebomwonyi was next with 14 points to go with seven rebounds, two assists and a steal, and Duru came off the bench to contribute eighth points, eight boards and a pair of blocked shots. Junior point guard Jamie Kaplan led all players with 11 assists -which ranks tied for eighth in Tulane single-game history - while Dale along with the freshman tandem of Courtnie Latham and Leslie Vorpahl shared team-high steal honors with two thefts apiece.
Kaplan's assist total marked the fourth time during the 2013-14 campaign that she reached the double-digit dime plateau. With eight regular-season games left to play, she already ranks eighth in the Tulane single-season record book with 143 assists and her 366 career dishes is one shy of cracking the Top 10 in the school's all-time list.
As a team, the Green Wave hit just 36.0 percent from the field (27-of-75), including a season-low .111 clip from beyond the 3-point arc after connecting on 3-of-27 shots from downtown. Defensively, Tulane held UTEP to a 29.0 field goal percentage in the first half (9-of-31) before the Miners bounced back to connect on 20-of-34 tries after the break (.588). While the Green Wave struggled from 3-point land, UTEP hit 50.0 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, going 4-of-10 in the first half and 7-of-12 in the second.
The Miners held a commanding 53-40 rebounding advantage and had assists on 26 of their 29 made field goals. The Green Wave forced 20 turnovers, including nine via steal, but UTEP had just five give-aways in the second half to help break the game open.
"Their point guard was in foul trouble in the first half so we tried to take advantage of that," Stockton said. "In the second half, we couldn't set our presses because we weren't making shots. That keyed a lot of that. We are not a team that creates a lot of turnovers, but I thought we were really aggressive defensively and created some that kept us in it."
Tulane came out of the gates red-hot, scoring the first six points of the contest and going ahead 12-3 with 16:48 to play to force UTEP to call timeout. The Miners stormed back with a 19-4 run over the next 7:44 to take a 22-16 lead, and the Green Wave answered to outscore UTEP 19-6 the rest in the way to take a seven-point lead at the break.
Following the Miners' big run to open the second half, Tulane settled down and was able to match points with UTEP for a while. Following Duru's free throws midway through the stanza, however, the Green Wave hit just one of its next four field goal tries, committed three turnovers and missed the front end of three consecutive 1-and-1 free throw opportunities over the next four and a half minutes.
During that same span, the Miners connect on 7-of-10 field goals with a pair of 3-pointers to take control of the contest. A pair of Vorpahl free throws halted UTEP's momentum momentarily and made it a 10-point affair at 67-57 with 4:57 left to go, but the Miners hit 4-of-6 field goals, including a 3-pointer by Kritine Vitola, and 10-of-11 free throws the rest of the way to provide the final margin.
Forward Kayla Thornton led UTEP with game highs of 29 points, 18 rebounds and three assists while chipping in with four assists and a pair of blocked shots. Kelli Willingham was next for the Miners offensively with 14 points while Vitola had 13 points and a game-high four blocks and Stacie Telles added 11 points off the bench.
The Green Wave return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 5, when they play host to Conference USA newcomer North Texas at 7 p.m. in Devlin Fieldhouse. 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).