Nov. 11, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - Junior guard Olivia Grayson had a game-high 20 points and senior center Brett Benzio pulled down 10 rebounds as the Tulane University women's basketball team defeated Loyola-New Orleans, 74-49, in the season opener Friday evening at Fogelman Arena.
The Green Wave defense forced 23 Wolfpack turnovers, including 17 via steal, and held Loyola to a 22.8 field goal percentage (13-of-57) to win their seventh consecutive season opener. Loyola, meanwhile, lost for the first time during the 2011-12 season to fall to 2-1.
"It was a good crowd and it's a great way to start," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "I do think that Loyola is going to have a good season. I think they're going to do really well. It was a great environment and I think it'll help both of our programs to start here and kind of generate this kind of excitement for both of our programs.
"Turtle (Grayson) played very well last year, but I think she's elevated her game to a new level. The big thing with her is to make sure she doesn't try to do too much. I thought some of her shots could have been better. I put a lot of pressure on her to be almost perfect. She can hit open shots. When they went on runs, she came and answered twice."
In addition to her point total, Grayson also led the team with six of Tulane's 14 assists and added a half dozen steals to go with seven rebounds. She got a lot of help from her teammates as 11-of-12 Green Wave players to dress on the night saw time on the court - including each of Tulane's seven freshmen.
Rookie forward Tiffany Dale joined Grayson in double figures with 13 points after connecting on six-of-seven shots from the field and hitting her lone free throw opportunity. Fellow freshman forward Danielle Blagg was next with nine points while rookies Katye Magee, Adesuwa Ebomwonyi and Jamie Kaplan each had six. Kaplan finished second to Grayson with four assists and both she and junior guard Tyria Snow added a trio of steals.
"Our freshmen are really athletic," Stockton said. "You look at Katye Magee. She took four really good shots, I thought all four of them were going to go in and she hit two. Jamie Kaplan kept up our intensity, and I think Danielle Blagg is a much better all-around player than she looked tonight. I thought she looked really nervous. They were all nervous.
"I do think a player like Danielle Blagg has such and upside. She's athletic, she can shoot and she can defend. When we kind of get her focused on what she needs to do, I think she's going to be a very difficult player to stop. That's going to be a great compliment to Turtle and she won't have to score so much."
Tulane scored the first 11 points of the ballgame and Loyola's first points did not come until the 16:14 mark in the first half when Jeniecia Neely drained a 3-pointer. The Wolfpack's Jasmine Brewer followed with a jumper to cut the deficit to six, but that would be as close as Loyola would get the rest of the night.
A Kaplan layup 4:18 later put the Green Wave on top 20-10 and the lead never dipped below double digits the rest of the way. Her basket sparked an 11-0 Tulane run and the Wave went into the locker room at halftime ahead by 18 at 38-20.
Loyola scored 18 of the second half's first 31 points to make it a 13-point affair at 51-38 with 10:23 left in regulation, but Grayson answered with back-to-back baskets before Kaplan drained a 3-pointer to make it 58-38. The lead swelled to as many as 28 following a pair of Janique Kautsky free throws at the 2:11 mark to make it 74-46 and the Wolfpack hit three free throws down the stretch to account for the final score.
Keiva Council led Loyola with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She had two of the Wolfpack's six assists and Brewer paced the squad with four steals.
"I think we're talented," Stockton said. "Losing as much (talent) as we lost (from a year ago), we've got some ways to fill those holes. Right now, it's just us being a little more disciplined and taking better shots. I thought we did some good things, but our shot selection was probably the worst thing we did tonight. We've got to do a better job with that."
The Green Wave return to action on Monday, Nov. 14, when they play host to Louisiana-Monroe at 7 p.m. in Fogelman Arena. The game against the Warriors is the second of four consecutive home games for Tulane to start the 2011-12 season as the Wave will battle LSU on Saturday, Nov. 19, and New Orleans on Monday, Nov. 21.
Season tickets remain for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Floor seats are $100 with reserved courtside and end-court general admission going for $85 and $50, respectively. The Tulane Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone by calling 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.