Feb. 15, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Junior forward Tiffany Dale posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead a balanced Green Wave attack as the Tulane University women's basketball team defeated Conference USA newcomer FIU, 66-55, on Saturday afternoon in Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Green Wave shot a pedestrian 36.7 percent from the field in the first half (11-of-30) to take a 29-23 into the locker room at the break, but bounced back to connect at a .609 clip (14-of-23) in the final frame to run their winning streak to four. In victory, Tulane improved to 19-6 on the year and 10-2 in C-USA action. FIU, meanwhile, dropped its third-straight game to fall to 11-13 overall and 5-6 in league play.
"In the first half, we really let [FIU] dictate the pace a little bit," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "They slowed it down and grinded it out offensively. We walked the ball up the floor a little bit and we just didn't get our fast-break going in the first half. With our numbers and our style of play, we really needed to step up our tempo. In the second half, we did a much better job. We really challenged the players to get down the floor and get some easy baskets. We did that and took over the lead."
Dale was one of four Green Wave players to finish in double figures offensively as junior point guard Jamie Kaplan had 12 points while the guard tandem of junior Danielle Blagg and freshman Courtnie Latham added 11 each. Latham led all players with a career-high six assists and shared team-high steal honors with Kaplan at two apiece. Dale headlined the defense with three blocked shots.
A big reason for Tulane's 47.2 field goal percentage over the course of the contest was a 6-for-9 effort by Dale and a 5-of-7 showing by Kaplan. The Green Wave out-rebounded the Panthers, 46-34, turned nine offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points and held a 36-22 advantage in points in the paint. Tulane also had 17 fast-break points, compared to seven by FIU, with 11 coming in the second half.
Panthers guard Jerica Coley, who entered the game tops in C-USA and second nationally with 28.9 points per game, finished with 22 points but was just 8-of-30 from the field after being harassed throughout the game by a swarming Tulane defense. As a team, FIU posted a 30.8 field goal percentage (20-of-65).
"I thought we did a good job on Coley," Stockton said. She ended up with 22, but she was 8-for-30. That was something we wanted to do. We knew she would get her points. We just wanted to make sure we didn't put her on the free throw line an excessive amount and give her open looks. Danielle Blagg was on her most of the game, really challenged her shots and made it very difficult or her to score.
"Some of her points were at the end of the game. We really did a nice job of making her shots very difficult. She had a tough time shooting with Danielle and Adesuwa [Ebomwonyi] on her. We did a nice job of challenging every shot and trying to just give her one because she is a good rebounder. When you have someone who's that potent on offense, you have to give her a lot of attention. It was a different kind of game plan than we had against Florida Atlantic where they have five shooters. This is one where they had one who really wanted to score."
Tulane drew first blood on a Dale layup one minute into the contest and held an eight-point edge at 13-5 just over six minutes into the game. FIU used an 8-0 run to tie things up at 15-all and led by as many as three at 21-18 with 7:51 to play in the opening period. Consecutive baskets by Latham gave Tulane a 22-21 lead it would not relinquish and outscored the Panthers 6-2 over the final three-plus minutes to take a six-point halftime lead.
FIU scored four of the first six points of the second half to cut the deficit to four with 17:34 to play in regulation, but could get no closer the rest of the way. Follow jumper by the Panthers' Tynia McKinzie to make it 31-27, Tulane answered with a 9-0 run as Dale sandwiched layups around a Blagg 3-pointer and sophomore forward Tierra Jones sank a basket of her own to make it 40-27.
Tulane's lead dipped into single digits just five times over the final 12-plus minutes and never got below eight following the game-changing 9-0 run. Latham hit a pair of free throws with 25 seconds on the clock to account for the final score.
"I thought we had great contribution from everyone," Stockton added. "We really challenged Courtnie Latham to rebound and she had seven rebounds, six assists and one turnover. That's a really good game for a freshman. I thought she came in and gave real steady play. The nice thing is to see Courtnie and Leslie [Vorpahl] improving as the team improves and getting the experience that these guys have. I think that's going to make us a lot more difficult to play in the conference tournament."
McKinzie finished second to Coley on the team offensively with 12 points and paced the Panthers with 12 rebounds while sharing game-high steal honors with Coley at four apiece. Coley led FIU with four assists and had the team's lone blocked shot.
Tulane will enjoy a break in midweek action before returning to action on Saturday, Feb. 22, when the Green Wave travel to Birmingham, Ala., to take on UAB. Tulane's next home game is slated for Wednesday, Feb. 26, when the Wave play host to Tulsa at 6 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).