Feb. 20, 2010
NEW ORLEANS - Junior Tiffany Aidoo led three Tulane players in double figures with 17 points and the Green Wave used a 22-2 first half run to take the lead for good and send its senior class of Chassity Brown and Indira Kaljo out in style with a 64-56 Conference USA victory over UAB in front of a crowd of 909 at Fogelman Arena.
In the final home game of the regular season for Tulane (21-5, 10-3 C-USA), the Wave used a combination of a suffocating full court press and a stingy half court defense to turn a 6-6 tie into a 28-8 lead with less than eight minutes expired in the opening period and extend its win streak to five games.
The game changing run began with a free throw by junior Roshaunda Barnes and then UAB (11-14, 5-8 C-USA) scored its lone points during the spurt with an Erica Simpson basket. From there, Barnes, Aidoo and senior Chassity Brown each came up with two steals apiece and 5'8" freshman guard Olivia Grayson came off the bench and blocked three shots and joined Brown and Aidoo with six points apiece during the run.
TU's defense held the Blazers scoreless for nearly five minutes and by the time UAB's Meagan Brown hit a lay-up to end the drought, the Wave led 28-10 at the midway point of the opening half. Tulane extended its advantage to as many as 22 points twice in the first period. UAB pulled within 16 points, its closest margin since the early minutes of the game, on a free throw by Tamika Dukes that brought the score to 44-28 at intermission.
"Coming up with steals is something we have done well all year," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "Those five guards that were in the game at the time of the run started quite a few games for us this season when Brett Benzio was out with injury and they stepped up and played defensively with so much confidence and really set the tone for the game.
"I liked the way the team came out with their aggressiveness on defense and we felt like that was very important with as young as a team UAB is. We set the tone of the game with our defense early and we didn't let it go."
Along with Aidoo, who also grabbed a team-best six boards, Barnes finished with 12 points, four assists and five steals, while Brown chipped in 11 points. A total of four Green Wave players swiped at least three steals to help Tulane total 17 thefts for the game. Grayson, a strong candidate for the C-USA Freshman of the Year, accounted for four assists, three steals and a game-high five blocks.
Tulane shot 41.4 percent from the field, but it was its 48.6 percent effort in the first half that proved to be the difference, along with UAB's 27 turnovers and 35.5 field goal percentage. The Blazers did hold the rebounding edge, 50-31.
Along with the seven blocks, the steals and the UAB's low field goal percentage, the Green Wave defense held Jala Harris, C-SUA's leading scorer with 20.8 points per game during league play, to just six points and forced her into four turnovers. Dukes was the lone Blazer to reach double digit scoring with 17 points.
"I thought we did a good job of defending Harris. We had Danielle (Nunn) and Chassity (Brown) on her most of the game and we really tried to make sure she didn't get a lot of easy baskets," Stockton said.
Tulane continued to run away with the game during the first 10 minutes of the second half and Stockton emptied her bench early and often. The Wave pushed its lead back to 22 points on a lay-up by junior Danielle Nunn at the 10:09 mark.
However, the young Blazers made a late charge to gain Tulane's attention. UAB outscored the Wave 15-3 and held TU to just one field goal over the final 8:57. But the run proved to be too late as Shelly Breaux's two free throws did draw the Blazers to within eight points, but with only three seconds remaining and time expired on any miracle comeback.
With the win, every senior during Stockton's 16-year career at Tulane has now won their final game. Tulane is now 16-0 under Stockton on Senior Day and the duo of Brown and Kaljo became the 44th and 45th senior to go out with a win in the final home contest at Fogelman Arena.
"This was a big game for both me and Indira with it being our last home game and it was great to go out there and have fun with my teammates for the last time on our home court," Brown said. "During the game, I wasn't really thinking about senior day, and it wasn't until the end when I came out of the game with the loud applause that it finally sunk in."
"It's weird to have just played my final home game," Kaljo said. "I've played basketball my whole life and now I've played my final college game on our home court. It's a stepping stone in my life and you have to do it as a player. I really wish my mom could have been here. That was a little hard for me, but other than that it was a blast. I love playing for Tulane and I'll always have these memories."
"I think this season shows a lot about the leadership of both Chassity and Indira. You're only as good as your leaders and we are 21-5. They are both very competitive and want to win. They are both team players and they are both very determined for this team to win," Stockton said.
Tulane, who remains atop the Conference USA standings, returns to action with a two-game road series next week in Houston, Texas. The Green Wave visits Houston on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. and then makes the short trip to Rice for a 2 p.m. tip on Saturday, Feb. 27.