March 10, 2011
EL PASO, Texas - Four Green Wave players posted double-digit scoring totals, including a 20-point effort by senior forward Tiffany Aidoo to propel her past the 1,000 career point plateau, as the fourth-seeded Tulane University women's basketball team defeated No. 5 seed East Carolina, 83-72, in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Buick Conference USA Championship Thursday evening at UTEP's Memorial Gym.
Tulane scored the first five points of the game and jumped out to a 17-point advantage at 25-8 just under eight minutes into the contest. From there, the Pirates cut the deficit to five late in the first half and trailed by as few as second in the second half, but never led the entire night.
With the win, the Green Wave improve to 21-9 on the year and advance to Friday's C-USA semifinals at the Don Haskins Center against the winner of Thursday night's quarterfinal competition between regular-season league champion or ninth-seeded and host UTEP. Tipoff for the semifinal game is slated for 12:30 a.m. (CST) and the contest will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports Network. East Carolina, meanwhile, concludes its 2010-11 season at 16-15.
"I'm very proud of our team coming out with that intensity," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "I think sometimes when you sit and watch games, you can come out and be just a little flat, and I thought we pretty much came out on fire and shot the ball well. When you finish the game shooting 48 percent, that's a good day for us.
"It's great to see Tiffany shooting well and she just got her 1,000th point today so I'm really proud of her. We did a lot of good things last year so we want to come here and make some noise."
Aidoo hit 7-of-14 shots from the field against the Pirates, including five from beyond the 3-point arc, to bring her career point total to 1,011. Senior forward Danielle Nunn and sophomore guard Olivia Grayson were next for Tulane with 17 points each while senior point guard Roshaunda Barnes had 16. Barnes led all players with eight assists to Grayson's seven, and both players posted three steals for the ballgame. Freshman wing Whitney Bibbins led the Wave with eight rebounds.
Trailing 5-0 early on, East Carolina rallied to make it a one-point game at 7-6 just under three minutes into the contest. Tulane responded in a big way as the Green Wave scored 18 of the next 20 points over a span of 4:55 to take control of the ballgame.
The Pirates got the deficit down to six at 27-21 with 8:17 to go before the break only to see the Wave rally with an 8-2 run to extend the lead to 12. A 3-pointer by East Carolina's Kelly Smith made it 37-32 with 18 seconds to go before halftime and Barnes hit 1-of-2 free throws later to send Tulane into the locker room on top 38-32.
The Wave opened the second half with a 6-0 run to push the advantage back to double-digits and Tulane later led by 13 at 52-39 with 15:07 left to play in regulation. The two teams traded the next eight points a layup by the Pirates' Kim Gay with 13:27 to go sparked an 8-3 East Carolina run make it a six-point affair at 59-53.
That, however, was as close as the Pirates would get as Tulane used a Grayson free throw and an Aidoo trey to make it a 10-point contest and the Wave led by double digits most of the remainder of the game.
"I sound like a proud mama sometimes, but we play hard," Stockton said. "We don't always make our shots. We don't always do the smart things all the time but we play hard and we play aggressively. I thought we came out and just got our confidence early because of our intensity. It was nice to see different players scoring. It wasn't one of those nights that you thought one person did it all, and I think that gave us a little confidence."
Gay was one of three East Carolina players to tally double figures with a game-high 26 points while Ashley Clarke finished with 18 and Chareya Smith added 12. Smith tied Tulane's Bibbins for game-high rebounding honors at eight and Smith paced the Pirates with four assists.
"Tulane is an excellent basketball team," East Carolina head coach Heather Macy said. "Obviously they are very balanced and got to the free throw line like you need to at this stage of the year so I give them a ton of credit. I would like to just talk a little bit about my senior Kim Gay - that she stepped up and played incredible tonight. It was a tough game. I mean it's a tough pill to swallow, but we are hoping that this isn't the last game."
The 12-game, four-day C-USA Women's Basketball Championship runs through Saturday, March 12, and the winner of the championship game will received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.