March 24, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Three Green Wave players scored in double figures and the defense held Arkansas to a 28.6 field goal percentage as the Tulane University women's basketball team defeated the host Razorbacks, 60-48, in the second round of the 2013 WNIT on Sunday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.
With the score tied at 17-all with 10:31 to play in the first half, senior guard Olivia Grayson drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Green Wave a lead they would not relinquish and the team went into the locker room at the break on top 36-22. Tulane had just five field goals in the second half, but connected on 12-of-15 free throw opportunities after halftime to come away with the win.
The victory` marked Tulane's first-ever second-round win as well as its first postseason victory on an opponent's court as the Green Wave improved to 24-8 overall. The Wave advance to the WNIT's round of 16 where they will play at Auburn - which defeated Western Kentucky 84-66 earlier in the day - on Wednesday at 6 p.m. (CDT). Arkansas, meanwhile, concludes the 2012-13 season with a record of 20-13.
"I told the team today that whatever it meant to them, this is a chance to make history," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "We've had a lot of things that have been great in our program - conference championships and things like that - but we've never gotten over this obstacle. We've always been on the road in whatever tournament we've been in, so we had to win on the road against an SEC opponent. It's challenging, but they stepped up. I think they took on that challenge, really absorbed it and wanted to do it."
As a team, the Green Wave hit 46.3 percent of their field goals for the game (19-of-41), including 14-of-25 showing in the first half (14-of-25). Arkansas held a 24-14 advantage in points in the paint, a 13-10 edge in points off turnovers and a 12-11 lead in second-chance points but finished just 16-of-56 from the field - including a 2-of-12 performance from beyond the 3-point arc (.167).
Sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan, redshirt-sophomore forward Whitney Bibbins and freshman center Chinwe Duru shared team-high scoring honors with 10 points each. Kaplan paced the team with eight rebounds and seven assists. Grayson, meanwhile, led Tulane with five steals.
Tulane was plagued with foul trouble throughout the game as sophomore guard Danielle Blagg sat most of the opening frame with a pair of first-half fouls while the sophomore forward tandem of Tiffany Dale and Adesuwa Ebomwonyi fouled out in the latter portion of the second half. The Green Wave's bench play, however, picked up the slack and outscored Arkansas' reserves, 27-14.
"I thought we played really tough," Stockton said. "The foul trouble was significant in the second half and we only had five field goals, but we just had to keep battling. When you have all of these people in foul trouble, we had some other people really step up. I thought Jamie Kaplan had one of her best all-around games. Chinwe had one of her best games. We just played tough. I'm proud of the way the group came out, played loose, and - like I told them at halftime - looked like they were having a lot of fun."
Tulane scored the game's first points on a pair of Kaplan free throws and the two teams traded blows over the first 9:29 as the game sat deadlocked 17-all. Grayson's 3-pointer marked the start of a 7-of-10 shooting performance the rest of the half and the Green Wave defense held Arkansas to a 1-for-10 showing while forcing three turnovers during that span to make it a 14-point affair at halftime.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the second half and the first basket of the frame did not come until the 15:55 mark when Arkansas Dominque Wilson nailed a jumper to make it 36-26. The Razorbacks cut the deficit to single digits at 40-31 with 12:03 left in regulation only to see the Green Wave answer with a 7-2 run over the next 6:16 to extend the lead back to 14 at 47-33.
Arkansas refused to go away quietly and made it an eight-point ballgame at 52-44 with 2:01 on the clock. From there, however, Tulane gave up just two more baskets and sank eight of its nine free throw opportunities down the stretch to account for the final score.
"In this environment, it's really tough to communicate on the court," Stockton said. "We really thought going into this that everyone had to communicate well, and they really did. We had the guards calling their own offenses. They were doing a lot of things on their own and I felt that that's when they're good - when they have the confidence to do that. It was just great execution. The first half was about as good of a half as we've had all year."
Arkansas' Sara Watkins, the 2013 SEC Co-Sixth Player of the Year, posted a double-double to lead all players with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jhasmin Bowen was next for the Razorbacks offensively with 11 points. Callie Berna had four of Arkansas' 10 assists and Wilson tallied five steals to share game-high theft honors with Grayson.
Wednesday's game at Auburn will be a rematch of a regular-season affair that saw the Green Wave drop a 70-65 decision to the Tigers back on Nov. 28 in Devlin Fieldhouse. In that ballgame, Tulane held a 39-23 halftime lead before Auburn scored the first 12 points of the second half and outscored Wave 9-3 over the final two minutes to emerge victorious.
"We told the team just now that we're playing Auburn and they were very excited about it," Stockton added. "That was one of those games that - as my mother would say - `got stuck in our craw' and we really were frustrated with how we lost that one. Auburn is a very good team. They're very athletics and we're going to have to do some special things. It does make you have...a little bit of a revenge factor going into it."