Dec. 22, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Redshirt-sophomore forward Whitney Bibbins scored a game-high 23 points and sophomore guard Danielle Blagg came off the bench to drain a season-best five 3-pointers as the Tulane University women's basketball team rallied to defeat North Texas, 73-62, on Saturday afternoon in Devlin Fieldhouse.
Trailing 39-30 with 16:28 to play in regulation, Tulane went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:31 to take a four-point lead. The Mean Green rallied to tie the score at 54-54 with 7:55 to play, but the Green Wave outscored North Texas 17-8 the rest of the way - including the game's final seven points - to account for the final tally.
With the win, the Green Wave improve to 8-2 on the year and remain undefeated all-time against the Mean Green with a 4-0 head-to-head record. North Texas, meanwhile, dropped its third consecutive contest to fall on 2-8 on the season.
"In the first half, we didn't play well at all," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. "I thought we were really sluggish and not real aggressive. In the second half, we came out, put some full-court pressure on them to create some steals and get our offense going. We were much more aggressive offensively and I think the difference in the rebounds were really key.
"We gave them one shot and done and I thought we defended them well. I didn't think we gave them a lot of open looks. When it got down to three minutes left in the game, we have a five-point lead which is the same as we had the other day. I thought we did a much better job of playing with confidence in those last three minutes than we did against (Louisiana) Lafayette."
The Green Wave held a 45-32 advantage in rebounding and had 20 offensive rebounds to North Texas' four. Tulane had 19 second-chance points as a result, turned 20 Mean Green turnovers - including 12 forced via steal - into 22 points and had 11 fast-break points.
After shooting just 31.6 percent (12-of-38) in the first half and missing their first five shots of the second stanza, the Green Wave bounced back to hit 15 of their next 30 field goal opportunities. A big reason for the final outcome was a solid effort by Tulane from beyond the 3-point arc as Blagg spearheaded a nine 3-point outing - six of which came after halftime.
Bibbins was one of three Green Wave players to finish with double-digit scoring totals as Blagg finished with 16 and senior guard Olivia Grayson added 12. Grayson pulled down a team-high eight rebounds to go with three rebounds and three steals, while senior wing Janique Kautsky posted game-high totals with five assists and four steals while sharing the team lead in blocked shots with freshman Chinwe Duru with two swats apiece.
In addition to her scoring output, Bibbins - who sank 10-of-17 field goals and all three of her free throws - chipped in with seven rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. It was her second consecutive 20-point game as the Baton Rouge native scored a career-best 25 on Wednesday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I love to see her playing with this kind of confidence," Stockton said of Bibbins. "She's had two tremendous games of being so aggressive and she's getting so much from her rebounding. She's not just scoring on the offense, but she's rebounding and putting it in. On defense, she's getting steals and being able to convert those. All of her game on both ends of the floor have really emerged."
The two teams traded blows throughout the first half and neither led by more than four during the first 20 minutes of play. Tulane held a 26-22 edge with 3:22 to go before the break but North Texas went on an 8-2 run the rest of the half to go into the locker room on top 30-28.
The Mean Green advantage swelled to nine at 39-30 just over four and a half minutes in the final period. Blagg got the Green Wave run started with a 3-pointer while Bibbins added a layup, senior forward Brittany McDonald sank a pair of free throws and Kautsky laid one off the glass to tie the game at 39-all with 13:09 to go. Bibbins hit back-to-back baskets to give Tulane a four-point lead, but North Texas refused to go away quietly.
The Mean Green and the Green Wave traded baskets over the next few minutes, and Grayson erased a 54-51 deficit with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7:55 to go to knot things up at 54. The trey sparked an 11-0 Tulane run and Bibbins' layup the next time down the floor sparked a gave Tulane the lead for good. The Green Wave defense held North Texas to just two field goals over the final nine minutes.
The Wave clung to a four-poing lead at 66-62 when North Texas' Sara Stanely converted a layup with 2:07 to go, but a Kautsky drained a 3-pointer and both Grayson and sophomore forward Tiffany Dale sank a pair of free throws each to account for the final margin.
"I think every game you play and every experience you have - whether it's good or bad - really does help you," Stockton added. "UL-Lafayette played really well the other night, but we know we let some opportunities get away. Tonight, we were in the same situation and didn't let them get away. I was glad to see the team respond like that instead of maybe overthinking."
Loryn Goodwin led North Texas with 17 points off the bench while Alexis Hyder had 15 and both Stanley and BreAnna Dawkins had 11. Hyder posted the game's lone double-double with a team-high 10 rebounds to go with four blocked shots. Hannah Christian led the Mean Green with three assists while Goodwin added a team-best four steals.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Dec. 29, when they open play in the Tulane/DoubleTree Classic against Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. in Devlin Fieldhouse. The DoubleTree Classic will conclude on Dec. 30 and the Green Wave will battle Loyola on Jan. 7 and open the Conference USA portion of its schedule against SMU on Jan. 10.
For tickets to those games, as well as future Green Wave events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.