Feb. 19, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Freshman guard Danielle Blagg and senior Brett Benzio combined for 25 points and junior guard Olivia Grayson surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career, but it was not enough as the Tulane University women's basketball team dropped a 56-51 decision to Conference USA foe Southern Miss on Sunday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Green Wave led by as many as 16 with 15:03 left to play and held a 38-25 advantage with 9:30 remaining on the clock. The Golden Eagles, however, stormed back with an 18-4 run over the next 5:05 to take a 43-42 advantage they would not relinquish. In defeat, Tulane falls to 19-7 on the year and 8-5 in league play. Southern Miss, meanwhile, won its second straight game to improve to 10-16 overall and 4-9 in C-USA action.
Blagg came off the bench to score a team-best 13 points after hitting 4-of-9 shots from the field - including three 3-pointers - and both of her free-throw opportunities. Benzio was next for the Wave with 12 points while pulling down a game-high eight rebound and swatting four shots. Grayson, meanwhile, finished with just four points, but now has 1,001 for her career to become the 24th player in Tulane history to hit the millennium mark and just the ninth to do so in less than four seasons.
As a team, the Green Wave hit 38.5 percent of their shots from the field (20-of-52) and held Southern Miss to a .351 clip (20-57). The Golden Eagles, however, rebounded from a 6-of-28 showing in the first half (.214) to hit 48.3 percent (14-of-29) after halftime.
Tulane held a 37-35 advantage in rebounding, but 16 of Southern Miss' boards came off the offensive glass which led to 14 second-chance points. The Golden Eagles also outscored the Green Wave in the paint, 24-22.
With her team trailing by 13 with just under 10 minutes to play, Southern Miss guard Jamierra Faulkner took things into her own hands to spark the home team's comeback attack. She sandwiched a pair of jumpers around a Sedreka Pummer free throw to cut the Green Wave lead to eight.
A pair of Blagg free throws put Tulane back up by 10 at 40-30 with 6:38 to go, but USM's Niesha Pierce drained a 3-pointer the next time down the floor to make it a seven-point affair. The Green Wave turned the ball over the next three times they touched the ball, and Southern Miss turned the miscues into a Plummer jumper, ad Faulkner 3-pointer and a Tanecka Carey layup to tie things up a t 4-all.
Grayson snapped the Golden Eagles; run with a jumper to put Tulane back on toop by a pair with 4:$5 left in regulation, but Faulkner hit consecutive shots from beyond the arc to and Niesha Pierce hit a pair of free throws to stake Southern Miss to a 48-42 lead.
Freshman guard Jamie Kaplan converted a 3-point play to get it down to three only to watch USM score five straight to go on top 53-45. Blagg hit a pair of 3-pointers in consecutive Tulane possessions, but Southern Miss hit 3-of-4 free throws the rest of the way to account for the final score.
Faulkner led all players with 19 points and shared team-high assist honors with Carey at four assists apiece. Pierce also finished in double digits for the Golden Eagles with 16 points, and the tandem of Nitesha Pierce and Ance Celmina shared game-high rebounding honors with Benzio with eight each.
The two teams combined for just 12 points over the first 13-plus minutes but Tulane scored on eight of its next nine possessions to go ahead by 11 at 23-12 with 43 seconds to play in the first half. During that stretch, the Green Wave hit eight-of-nine field goal tries, including a 3-pointer by freshman Danielle Blagg. Southern Miss' Niesha Pierce hit a trey of her own with 23 seconds to go before the break to make it 23-15 at halftime.
Tulane padded its lead with a pair of Grayson and Benzio free throws in the early portion of the second half and Benio and Blagg hit jumpers the next two times down the court to make it 31-15. Southern Miss cut the deficit to 10 and the two teams traded the next four points. A Kaplan layup gave Tulaen a 12-point edge with 10:43 and an Ebomwonyi free throw just under a minute later set up the Golden Eagles' comeback effort.
Tulane will return to Fogelman Arena on Thursday, Feb. 23, when the Green Wave play host to Tulsa at 7 p.m. 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.