March 8, 2013
EL PASO, Texas - Senior guard Olivia Grayson tied a season-high with 20 points and pulled down a team-best nine rebounds, but it was not enough as the Tulane University women's basketball team dropped a 71-52 decision to Conference USA foe UTEP in the regular-season finale on Friday evening at the Don Haskins Center.
With a chance to secure a share of the C-USA crown, the Green Wave came out cold in the second half while the Miners opened the frame with a 23-2 run to all but put the game away. The loss snapped Tulane's four-game winning streak as the Green Wave conclude the regular season 22-7 overall and tied for second in C-USA with an 11-5 league mark. UTEP, meanwhile, halted a three-game skid to improve to 20-9 on the year and even their conference record at 8-8.
Tulane will be the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship, which will take place in Tulsa, Okla., from March 13-16. The winner of the conference championship will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"It's disappointing," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "For us, I felt like we got down on ourselves a little quickly. That was probably the biggest disappointment for us. I think we wanted it so badly. When shots didn't fall and they were shooting well, I thought we got really frustrated in the second half. It's tough to win all these games on the road. It was `Senior Night' so there was a lot of emotion. I thought (UTEP) played terrific. We just have to be ready for our next opponent."
As a team, the Green Wave shot a season-low 26.8 percent from the field (19-of-71), including a 7-of-36 showing in the second half (.194). UTEP, meanwhile rebounded from a 27.0 first-half field goal percentage (10-of-37) to hit half of their shots in the final frame (15-of-30) to finish with a .373 clip.
UTEP held a 51-47 rebounding advantage and had 18 assists to the Green Wave's eight. The Miners out-scored Tulane in the paint, 24-14, turned 13 Green Wave turnovers into 12 points and had 19 fast-break points to the visiting squad's two.
"It was a combination of two things," Stockton said. "I thought they were really on fire. They played as well as they've played all year. Different players hit 3s, they scored in transition and really dominated inside. For us, we just had so many good looks and just couldn't knock them down. It was a bad combination."
Grayson was the lone Tulane player to finish in double digits offensively as senior wing Janique Kautsky and sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan each had eight points. Kaplan led the Wave with three assists, senior forward Brittany McDonald came off the bench to post a team-best two blocked shots, and Grayson paced the defense with a pair of steals.
UTEP scored the game's first four points and a back-and-forth battle ensued as the opening half featured three ties and seven lead changes. Tulane led by as many as five on a Kautsky 3-pointer with 8:18 to go before the break, but the Miners held the Green Wave without a field goal for the next 6:05 and went on a 9-1 run during that span to go on top 25-22. The Wave, however, converted on each of final four possessions of the half - including a running layup by Kaplan at the horn - and went into the locker room on top by four.
The second half, however, belonged to the Miners. UTEP center Anete Steinberga got things going with a pair of free throws and forward Kayla Thornton put the Miners ahead with a 3-pointer to make it 32-31. Kaplan put Tulane ahead momentarily with a layup on the ensuing possession, but a Thornton layup the next time down the court put UTEP ahead for good.
Her basket sparked an 18-0 run over a span of 4:22 which saw UTEP drain three of its nine 3-pointers, and a trey by Cameasha Turner with 11:06 on the clock staked the Miners to a 57-39 lead. Tulane cut the deficit to 13 as senior guard Tyria Snow connected on a layup and Grayson canned one of her three 3-pointers, but that was as close as the Green Wave would get the rest of the night.
UTEP's lead swelled to as many as 23 at 67-44 on a Thornton layup at the 5:22 mark and Tulane used a 6-2 run to get it down to 18 with 3:56 remaining in regulation. The Miners quieted any talk of a Green Wave comeback with three straight free throws, and Grayson closed out the scoring a jumper with 55 seconds to go.
"We've had a great year," Stockton added. "We're 22-7 and we just have to do what we've done. (UTEP) is a good team. I think we got frustrated at times tonight because our shots wouldn't fall, but we've got to stick with our plan and just be ready to play our next opponent."
Steinberga led all players with 22 points and was one of two UTEP players to post a double-double with a game-high 17 rebounds to go with three blocked shots. Thornton also recorded a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, and paced the Miners' defense with four steals. Kelli Willingham had a team-best seven assists while Chrishauna Parker added six.