March 27, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - As the father of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, penned in 1374, "there is an end to everything, to good things as well." That was the case for the Tulane University women's basketball team on Wednesday evening as the Green Wave fell to host Auburn in the 2013 WNIT Sweet 16, 72-52, in Auburn Arena.
Playing in the third round of a postseason tournament for the first time in school history, the Green Wave never held a lead at any points but rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to make it a four-point affair twice late in the contest. Auburn, however, hit a pair of back-breaking 3-pointers and connected on 14-of-16 free throw attempts over the final 6:13 to put the game away.
In defeat, the Green Wave conclude the 2012-13 campaign with a record of 24-9. Auburn improved to 19-14 on the year and advances to face the winner of Thursday's Bowling Green/Drexel contest in the WNIT quarterfinals.
"It's a tough thing in our league to say if you don't win a conference championship, you don't achieve your goal," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "That's your goal, but I think we were tremendously competitive with what is really still a relatively young team. We had a tough non-conference schedule. We played a lot of SEC teams and we did well with that.
"Overall, I look back on this season very fondly. I'm very fortunate to coach this group. They're a pleasure to be around. They do great in the classroom and they win on the court. They compete. I wouldn't trade them for anybody, so I'm very fortunate to be their coach."
Sophomore guard Danielle Blagg led the Green Wave offensively with 11 points - including a trio of 3-point baskets - and sophomore forward Tiffany Dale was next with 10. Senior guard Olivia Grayson led the team with six rebounds, sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan handed out a team-best five assists, and both Blagg and senior guard Tyria Snow posted a pair of steals.
As a team, the Green Wave recorded at a 33.3 field goal percentage (21-of-63) while allowing the Tigers to connect at a .444 clip (24-0f-54). Auburn held a 46-33 rebounding advantage, turned 15 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points and outscored the Green Wave in the paint, 32-26.
"I thought when we executed our press-break, then we got layups," Stockton said. "That's why I'm not so sure why we didn't execute it a little better. In the second half, we came in, executed and (Adesuwa Ebomwonyi) made some layups. We got Tiffany Dale (going). We really executed on those. We came back and cut it to four, and they hit that 3 which really hurt us. After that, we had fouls and put them on the free throw line.
"Auburn did a great job. For us, we took some rushed shots. After they hit that 3, I thought we took some bad shots and they got to the free throw line. With six minutes left it's a four-point game and they go to the free throw line quite a bit."
Auburn got off to a good start as the Tigers scored the first four points of the game and eight of the first 10. The lead swelled to as many as 14 at 25-11 following a Chadarryl Clay 3-pointer with 4:23 to go before halftime, but a Blagg trey sparked a 12-0 run over the next 2:37 to make it a two-point contest.
The Tigers scored the game's next five points, and sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi made a layup to send the Green Wave into the locker room at the break down by five at 30-25.
Auburn appeared to take control of the contest with a 14-4 run over the first 6:30 of the second half, but Ebomwonyi sparked Tulane's come-back effort with a layup at the 13:20 mark.
From there, Grayson nailed a 3-pointer, senior forward Brittany McDonald connected on a layup, both Blagg and Ebomwonyi sandwiched baskets around a jumper by Auburn's Tyrese Tanner, and Dale scored off a Grayson assist to make it 46-42 with 8:05 left to play.
The two teams traded the next two baskets and Tulane had Auburn on the ropes as the shot clock was winding down to zero on the ensuing Tigers' possession. Snaring a pass at the top of the key, however, Auburn guard Najat Ouardad swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the buzzer sounded to quell the Green Wave rally.
Following a pair of free throws by Auburn's Hasina Muhammad and a jumper by Tulane senior wing Janique Kautsky, Tigers' forward Blanche Alverson drained a trey from the right wing to make it 56-46 with 5:28 to play and the lead never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.
Tulane held Auburn 2-of-4 shooting over the final five-plus minutes, but the Green Wave offense went cold and hit just 1-of-8 field goals and was called for seven fouls to set up the Tigers' free throws.
The loss marked the end of an era of Tulane women's basketball as seniors Grayson, Kautsky, McDonald and Snow played their final game wearing a Green Wave uniform.
"They were tremendous and provided tremendous leadership," Stockton added. "They've taught this team how to work. They all have different stories. Turtle's been a starter in this program for a long time. Janique is probably the most-improved player in the conference. She's come in and just had a super senior year. Ty Snow is someone who has played multiple roles for us and is just that attacking guard who does so much for us. And then Brittany McDonald is someone who has fought through injuries. She was one of our leading rebounders tonight. She plays hard every game.
"I think the nice thing with those four is we know what we're going to get from them and they really have been unbelievable to coach. They're going to be very successful in life."
Tanner led Auburn with a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Tra'cee Tanner and Alverson added 12 and 10 points, respectively, Ouardad led all players with seven assists and Muhammad had four of the Tigers' 11 steals.