Dec. 29, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - In what has become a recurring theme of late, redshirt-sophomore forward Whitney Bibbins scored a team-high 18 points as the Tulane University women's basketball team opened the 17th Annual Tulane/DoubleTree Classic with a 71-65 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon in Devlin Fieldhouse.
It was Bibbins' sixth consecutive double-figure scoring outing and her seventh in the eight games she's played in during the 2012-13 season. In addition, the Green Wave won their 10th-straight game in the DoubleTree Classic to improve to 9-2 on the year and Tulane will look to claim its fifth consecutive DoubleTree title on Sunday when it faces McNeese State. Tipoff for that game is slated for 3 p.m. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, fell to 2-9 overall and will face Ole Miss in the Tulane/DoubleTree Classic consolation game at 1 p.m.
Sunday's championship game will be broadcast live on the radio on The Ticket, 106.1 FM. Live stats for both games are available on the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com via GameTracker while live audio and video for Tulane's game against the Cowgirls will be streamed on-line to paid members of the All-Access Pass.
"We certainly had our scout on them," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "I think they're athletic and we felt they were better than their record. They have some individual players who are really strong. They play a 2-3 zone and we felt that we were going to see that for most of the game, which we did, and I felt we came out real aggressive. We ran the ball, and defensively, I thought we did some really good things."
The Green Wave held a 13-point advantage at halftime and went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half to take a commanding 57-32 lead with 9:28 left to play. The Eagles, however, refused to go away quietly and answered with a 16-2 run over the next 5:34 to cut the deficit to 11.
Eastern Michigan's Miranda Tate squeezed a bucket between a layup by senior guard Tyria Snow and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Danielle Blagg to make it a 12-point affair with 2:18 on the clock. The Eagles wound up outscoring Tulane 13-7 the rest of the way, but the Green Wave's surge midway through the final frame proved to be too much to overcome.
"Around the eight-minute mark, I felt we got out of rhythm a little bit," Stockton said. "We subbed a little bit. With two games back-to-back, you want to rest some people. We just got out of rhythm defensively. I felt like we gave them too many easy shots, too many put-backs and put them on the free-throw line in that second half."
As a team, Tulane hit a season-high 51.0 percent of its field goals (26-of-51), including a 15-of-25 showing in the first half (.600). The Green Wave held a slight 36-34 rebounding advantage, but Eastern Michigan turned 18 offensive rebounds into a game-high 17 second-chance points.
The difference in the game came via the Green Wave bench as Tulane's reserves outscored its counterparts from Eastern Michigan, 34-14. Blagg and sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi led the Tulane bench with nine points each while senior forward Brittany McDonald along with senior starters Olivia Grayson and Janique Kautsky added five apiece.
Bibbins paced the team with eight rebounds and sophomore forward Tiffany Dale posted a career-high five blocked shots to go with a team-leading two steals. Grayson led the Wave with six assists while sophomore Jamie Kaplan and Snow chipped in with five and four, respectively.
"I think we have a lot of talent," Stockton added. "Some of our starters have been on the bench and vice versa. I think we're really good eight or nine deep and we can play anybody in that. Tonight we had some players like Danielle Blagg who came out and really shot the ball well. I thought Jamie Kaplan ran the show well in the first half and did a super job. Of course, Whitney had another great game and we've come to expect that from her."
Eastern Michigan drew first blood with a jumper by India Hairston, but that was the lone lead of the day for the Eagles as Tulane scored the next six and never looked back. The Green Wave advantage swelled to as many as 15 at 37-22 on a Katye Magee 3-pointer with 1:02 to play before the break and EMU's Natachia Watkins added a layup in the final minute of the first half to make it a 37-24 contest at the break.
Tate canned a 3-pointer to open the second-half scoring to cut the Green Wave lead to 10 and the two teams traded buckets over the next six minutes. With her team leading by 12 at 44-32 with 14:36 left to play in regulation, Grayson sparked Tulane's pull-away rally with a jumper at the 14:40 mark. Following a Bibbins free throw, Ebomwonyi sandwiched a layup and a 3-pointer around a Bibbins basket to make it 57-32.
Hairston led Eastern Michigan with 18 points on the strength of an 8-for-10 shooting performance with including a 2-for-2 showing from beyond the 3-point arc, and Watkins posted 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to post the lone double-double of the contest. Desyree Thomas led all players with eight assists and Watkins tallied a game-high four steals.
Following Sunday's championship-game showdown with McNeese State, Tulane returns to action on Monday, Jan. 7, when the Green Wave play host to Loyola-New Orleans and open the Conference USA portion of their 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.