Feb. 16, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - It wasn't always pretty, but in the end, it sure was sweet for the Green Wave as the Tulane University women's basketball team defeated Conference USA foe Rice in overtime, 50-47, on Thursday evening in Fogelman Arena.
The Green Wave trailed by as many as seven late in the first half, found themselves on the wrong side of a two-point contest with 3.7 seconds left in regulation and down by three with early in the overtime period. Tulane, however, rallied on each occasion avenge a 67-49 loss to the Owls back on Jan. 12 in Houston while improving to 19-6 on the year and 8-4 in C-USA play. Rice, meanwhile, fell to 12-13 overall and 6-6 in league action.
"I'll take ugly and a `W' any day," junior guard Tyria Snow said. "A `W' looks pretty, so I'll take a `W' any day. In the first half, we couldn't get anything going. Nothing was falling, but the good thing was we held them on defense. At halftime, Coach just told us to stick together, come out here and get on it because our shots would start falling but to just make sure we don't fall apart on the defensive end. That's what we did."
Snow was the lone Green Wave player to post a double-digit scoring total with 10 points while junior guard Olivia Grayson had nine and senior center Brett Benzio added eight. Benzio led Tulane with nine rebounds and four blocks to go with three assists. Grayson paced the squad with four assists and Snow had a game-high four steals.
Tulane mustered just 13 first-half points but went into the locker room down just five as Rice hit just 8-of-34 field goals during the opening stanza. After committing 13 turnovers and giving up 13 offensive rebounds during the first 20 minutes of play, the Green Wave had improved numbers after the break, and that proved to be the difference.
Rice out-rebounded Tulane, 46-38, but both teams finished with nine second-chance points. The Wave out-scored the Owls in the paint, 26-14, forced 21 turnovers - including 10 via steal - and turned the Rice miscues into 16 points. Defensively, Tulane held the Owls to a 25.0 field goal percentage (16-of-64) while connecting at a 36.0 clip itself (18-of-50)
"In the first half being down five, we had 13 turnovers and they had 13 offensive rebounds so we just didn't know how we weren't down by 15 at that point," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "I just challenged the team to be more aggressive. We just weren't being very aggressive offensively. We were settling for outside shots and not trying to get to the free throw line.
"In the second half, we were much more aggressive. I thought Tyria Snow did a much better job in the second half, drew some fouls and got some shots. In a day where Turtle wasn't really hitting, some other players really came through."
Tulane's freshmen accounted for all of the team's points in the first half, and after a stern lecture in the locker room at halftime, the Green Wave's upperclassmen came through after the break. After taking just six shots in the opening 20 minutes, Tulane's veterans combined for 28 of the team's 37 points, 13 of the 16 rebounds, seven of the nine assists, seven of the nine steals, and three of the five blocks after halftime.
"We got on the upperclassmen," Stockton said of her halftime speech. "I don't think any of them scored by halftime. It was the freshmen that kept us in it. We really challenged the upperclassmen. This was a big game. I told them that I don't know if I emphasized enough what a big game this was and that they needed to lead this team if they wanted to be in a situation to win the conference tournament."
Rice extended its lead back to seven on the opening possession of the second half before Tulane rallied with an 11-2 run over the next 3:47 to take a 24-22 lead. The Green Wave led by as many as four at 36-32 with 6:35 left to play in the second half, but Rice answered to tie the game at 36-all before retaking the lead two possessions later on a 3-pointer by D'Frantz Smart with just over a minute to go in regulation.
The Owls sandwiched 1-of-2 free throw performances by Smart and Jessica Kuster around a free throw by Benzio to take a 41-39 lead. With Tulane down by a pair with 3.7 seconds on the clock, freshman forward Tiffany Dale converted a pair of opportunities from the charity stripe to send the game into overtime.
Rice drew first blood in the extra period as Candace Ashford drained a trey from the top of the key. Tulane, however, scored seven straight points on the strength of two Benzio free throws, a Dale layup and a pair of Grayson shots from the stripe to make it 49-44 with 34 seconds to play. The Owls made things interesting as Megan Shafer canned a 3-pointer 15 seconds later, and following a Snow free throw, Rice had a chance to tie things up as they had possession with 12 seconds on the clock. Smart, however, was called for traveling with three seconds showing and the Green Wave were able to hang on.
"This is a team that beat us handily at their place so part of it could have been some doubt on whether we could play with them," Stockton added. "In the second half, our upperclassmen did a much better job. We got two big free throws by our freshman, Tiffany Dale, with a lot of pressure on her. It was good to get this win.
"The nice thing is we don't respond negatively. They hit the 3 (to start the overtime period), we came down and scored, and Turtle got a steal so we got that 3-pointer back. I was glad to see our defense hold. That's something that has been our mainstay all season. I feel that in our last two weeks, our defense hasn't been as good. Tonight, it was very good."
Ashford and Smart shared team-high scoring honors for Rice with 11 points each and Ashford posted the game's lone double-double with 13 rebounds. Kuster finished with nine points and 11 rebounds to go with a blocked shot. Smart and Jessica Goswitz had four assists each while Smart and Brianna Hypolite tallied three steals apiece.
Tulane returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 19, when the Green Wave travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on league rival Southern Miss. Tipoff for that game is slated for 2 p.m. Tulane's next home game is slated for Feb. 23 against Tulsa.
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.