Feb. 28, 2013
DALLAS - In a game that more resembled a heavyweight boxing slugfest than a college basketball game, the Tulane University women's basketball team delivered a haymaker late in the form of a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan with 9.9 seconds to play as the Green Wave rallied to defeat Conference USA-leading SMU, 73-68, on Thursday evening in Moody Coliseum.
With the game tied at 68-all with 38.2 seconds remaining in regulation, the Green Wave missed a potential game-winning shot but got second life when sophomore forward Tiffany Dale pulled down one of Tulane's 20 offensive rebounds. Dale got the ball to sophomore guard Danielle Blagg, who drove the lane and kicked it back to a wide-open Kaplan at the top of the key for the game winner.
Following an SMU timeout, Kaplan stole the ball from Mustang guard Alisha Filmore the next time down the floor and sank a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds on the clock to account for the final score. With the victory, Tulane runs its winning streak to three to improve to 21-6 on the year and 10-4 in C-USA play. The Mustangs, meanwhile, dropped their second-straight game to fall to 20-7 overall and 11-3 in league action.
"I thought we played tough," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "I told them this was such a great team win. We had so many players go in there and play their role. On the bench, the communication was tremendous. And we had a lot of trust. I thought this was a game where we really trusted each other and gave the ball to people in position to score. SMU can rebound and we went in there with a smaller line-up and had 20 offensive boards tonight, which kept us in this game. It was just great plays...We had great plays at the end of the game keyed by our defense."
The win was Tulane's first over SMU in Dallas since the 2006-07 season - snapping a five-game road skid to the Mustangs - and assures the Green Wave of a first-round bye in the upcoming C-USA Women's Basketball Championship. With two regular-season games remaining, the Green Wave remain tied for second in the league standings with East Carolina and are now one-game behind SMU.
Kaplan - who finished with a season-high 15 points, a career-best six rebounds and a team-leading five assists - was one of three Green Wave players to finish in double digits offensively as Blagg had 16 and senior guard Olivia Grayson added 10. Dale and sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi shared team-high rebounding honors with seven each, Blagg paced Tulane with a pair of blocked shots. Kaplan and Blagg each had two of the team's six steals.
As a team, the Green Wave shot 42.0 percent from the field (29-of-69) and out-rebounded SMU, 43-33. Tulane used its offensive rebound total to score 19 second-chance points and turned nine Mustang miscues into 12 points off turnovers.
"You can talk about the players who scored in double figures, but you look at someone like Adesuwa (Ebomwonyi) who comes in and gives us seven rebounds and plays great defense," Stockton said. "It was just everyone playing their role. Kaplan was 0-for-2 from the 3 when she shot that tonight. I thought we played with confidence."
The game was tied at 54-all with 5:49 left to play and SMU forward Destynee Hives-McCray put the Mustangs on top by a pair with a layup the next time down the floor. From there, the home team sandwiched 3-pointers by Filmore and Korina Baker around a layup by Tulane senior guard Tyria Snow to stake SMU to a 62-56 advantage with 3:45 on the clock.
The two teams traded the next four points as Snow hit a pair of free throws and Hives-McCray converted another layup, but Grayson added a layup of her own off an offensive rebound, stole a pass during the ensuing SMU possession and Blagg canned a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one at 64-63 with 1:42 to go.
SMU guard Keena Mays and Kaplan both hit baskets to keep it a one-point game, and Snow put Tulane on top with a layup plus an and-one free throw with just under a minute to play. Mays tied the game with a jumper to set up Kaplan's go-ahead trey.
"There were a lot of ups and downs," Kaplan said. "We were up by a few points throughout the game and they came up. It was huge when they went up by six. They hit two 3s. What was really big was we didn't hang our heads. We got back with our defense. We got some steals, we got some stops and we were able to pull it out. That was huge."
SMU hit its first three shots of the ballgame to take an early 7-2 lead, but Tulane took its first advantage of the night on a Kaplan layup to make it 11-10 with 14:29 to play in the opening half. The back-and-forth struggle continued throughout the frame as Tulane went up by six at 30-24 at the 2:59 mark only to see the Mustangs answer with a 6-0 run over the next 1:49 to tie things up. A 3-pointer by senior wing Janique with 1:10 on the clock put the Green Wave back on top and that was the final points of the first half.
The Mustangs opened the second half with an 8-0 and led for the bulk of the second half. The Green Wave trailed by as many as six four times in the final frame, but proved to have an answer on each occasion.
"I do think when you beat a good opponent, it certainly helps give you some momentum," Stockton added. "We still want a shot at the conference championship. We're one game out and we want a shot at it. Obviously somebody else has to help us out, but we talked about that. We talk about trying to win a championship and we've got two chances: if this happens or in the tournament. I thought our team was tremendously focused tonight."
Mays, who had just one point at halftime, was one of three SMU players in double figured with a team-best 15 points while Baker and Filmore added 11 and 10, respectively. Hives-McCray led all players with 12 rebounds, Baker posted a game-high six assists, and the trio of Filmore, Akil Simpson and Gabrielle Wilkins each had a pair of steals.
The Green Wave return to action on Sunday, March 3, when they close out the home portion of the 2012-13 regular season against Southern Miss. The game against the Golden Eagles will be televised live nationally on the CBS Sports Network, and the senior class of Grayson, Kautsky, Snow and Brittany McDonald will be honored with a special ceremony.
For tickets to that game, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.