March 20, 2014
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Junior point guard Jamie Kaplan scored a game-high 17 points and made a little history along the way, but it was not enough as the Tulane University women's basketball team fell to Mississippi State in the opening round of the 2014 WNIT, 77-68, on Thursday evening in Humphrey Coliseum.
After trailing by 15 midway through the first half and going into the locker room at the break down 41-33, the Green Wave cut opened the second half with an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to a pair at 43-41 with 15:47 left to play in regulation. The Bulldogs answered with a 10-0 rally over the next 2:19 and the lead never dipped below seven the rest of the way.
"It was a well-played game on both teams' parts," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "Both teams competed really hard and that's what the postseason is all about. Mississippi State did a tremendous job in those first 10 minutes of the game. Their rebounding and all the extra possessions allowed them to really take control.
"I'm really proud that our team was able to battle back and get back in it after that. Again, I thought it was a well-played game. It's tough to end like this, but we're really proud of our kids."
Kaplan, meanwhile, handed out five assists to go with her scoring total to push her helper tally for the season to a school-record 209 to surpass the former mark of 207 set by Ashley Langford in 2006-07. In defeat, Tulane concludes the season with an overall record of 20-11.
In addition to setting the overall assist record, Kaplan's 6.74 assist-per-game average is also a school, single-season record. It too bumped Langford from the top of the list as the former standout averaged 6.58 dimes per contest in 2005-06.
"She's had a tremendous season of finding people," Stockton said of Kaplan. "She's got a knack for really creating on offense. I coached Ashley Langford and I didn't know many people could break that record. It's really a testament for what she was able to do this season, not only with her passing but her floor leadership and what she's done for us. We got 20 wins and I can contribute a lot of them to her."
Mississippi State held a slight 41-39 rebounding advantage over the Green Wave for the game and were able to turn 18 offensive boards into 18 second-chance points. Seven of the Bulldogs' offensive rebounds came in the first seven-plus minutes of the game which allowed State to take control of the game early on.
Kaplan was the lone Tulane player to finish in double figures offensively as junior guard Danielle Blagg, junior forward Tiffany Dale, junior wing Adesuwa Ebomwonyi and freshman guard Leslie Vorpahl tallied eight each. Ebomwonyi led the Green Wave with 10 rebounds and three steals while the duo of Dale and Duru shared team-high blocked shot honors with three swats apiece.
Mississippi State scored on each of their first nine possessions on the strength of its offensive rebounding early to race out to a 21-10 lead. The Green Wave rallied from a 25-10 deficit with 11:01 to play in the period to cut the deficit to nine on five occasions and eventually whittled the Bulldog lead to eight at the break.
After giving up a jumper to Mississippi State center Martha Alwal to start the second-half scoring, Tulane got three consecutive Duru buckets and a Blagg steal and fast-break layup to make it a two-point game. From there, however, the Green Wave missed 12 of their next 13 field goals and the Bulldogs were able to reclaim control of the contest.
"We had our chances," Stockton said. "We had some layups that we didn't make. We got some steals and didn't convert them. And we actually had some stops there. We had our chances and just couldn't make it happen. I told the team I was really happy with the way we battled all the way. Even with just a few seconds left, we really battled."
Alwal was one of five Mississippi State players to finish with double-digit point totals and shared team-high scoring honors with Savannah Carter at 15 each. Breanna Richardson added 13, Dominique Dillingham added 11 and Kendra Grant finished with 10. Richardson tied Ebomwonyi for game-high rebounding and steal honors with 10 boards and three thefts of her own, Alwal paced the Bulldog defense with five blocked shots, and Jerica James handed out a team-leading four assists.