March 20, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - When the Tulane University women's basketball team took the court for practice on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for its WNIT opener against Sam Houston State, Green Wave head coach Lisa Stockton dug deep into her jewelry box to find a hidden gem to provide her squad with motivation.
Donning a championship ring from the then-NWIT (renamed WNIT in 1998) she earned as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech back in 1993, Stockton urged her team to forget about past transgressions and keep an eye on the task at hand when the Green Wave tipoff against the Bearkats on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Devlin Fieldhouse.
"I brought it out the other day when we were talking about what we can get from the WNIT," Stockton said. "It's a shift of focus. One is trying to get some momentum for our younger players going into next year and to get some national respect. I think the other is for the seniors to go out on a good note and feel good about the way they finished their careers...I wore my ring today to show them that there is something else to still shoot for."
Tickets to Thursday's WNIT contest are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office with student tickets selling for $4, while general admission, reserved/chairback and floor seats are available for $6, $12 and $16, respectively. The first 100 students to show up will receive free admission courtesy of the Green Wave Athletic Department. The Tulane Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center, and tickets can be purchased in person or over the phone at (504) 861-WAVE (9283).
For fans unable to attend the opening-round WNIT contest, the game will be broadcast live on the flagship radio station of Tulane basketball, The Ticket 106.1 FM. Live audio and video streaming, as well as live stats are available for free on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
"I think you love to play at home," Stockton said. "Those seniors, especially, love to be in front of the home crowd. For us, if we want to make a run in this tournament with 64 teams, it's a long tournament if you're on the road the whole time. It is nice to start at home and get in a position to stay at home a little bit."
As a team, the Green Wave are averaging 66.8 points, 41.9 rebounds, 16.4 assists, 9.3 steals and 4.3 blocks per game. Redshirt-sophomore forward Whitney Bibbins leads the Tulane offense with 12.0 points per game while sophomore guard Danielle Blagg and senior guard Olivia Grayson follow with identical scoring averages of 10.2. Sophomore forward Tiffany Dale paces the squad with 6.9 boards per game to go with a team-best 42 blocked shots, Grayson headlines the defense with 56 steals, and sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan leads the Green Wave with 128 assists.
Tulane is connecting at a .403 clip from the field, hitting 735-of-1822 shots from the floor, and 158-of-478 tries from beyond the 3-point arc (.331), while allowing opponents to shoot .374 overall (659-of-1763) and .300 from 3-point land (155-of-516). Green Wave foes averaged 60.2 points, 37.2 rebounds, 13.1 assists, 8.7 steals and 2.9 blocks during the 2012-13 season.
"At this time of the year, you're going to play good teams and you've got to be able to adjust to who you play," Stockton said. "We feel good about the way we play. We feel good about our defense. We've rebounded pretty well, which is something they do well, too. They're going to come in here ready to prove a point and we've got to be ready to respond."
Sam Houston State, meanwhile, comes to town 18-14 on the year and winners of the Southland Conference regular-season crown with a 13-5 league record. The Bearkats advanced to the SLC title game, but fell to Oral Roberts, 72-66.
As a team, the Kats are averaging 62.9 points, 42.1 rebounds, 12.9 assists, 5.8 steals and 3.4 blocks per contest. Britni Martin leads Sam Houston State in scoring with a 15.8 point-per-game average while Sequeena Thomas and Chanice Smith follow with averages of 14.3 and 9.6, respectively. Thomas paces the squad with 12.5 rebounds per game to go with a team-high 42 blocked shots and Martin headlines the club with 138 assists and 47 steals.
Sam Houston State is hitting 37.7 percent of its shots from the field, connecting on 707-of-1877 attempts, including a 165-of-562 showing from beyond the 3-point line (.294) while allowing opponents to tally a 37.5 field goal percentage (715-of-1907) with a 29.4 performance from 3-point land (162-of-551). Bearkat foes are averaging 61.9 points, 38.1 rebounds, 13.4 assists, 5.8 steals and 3.0 blocks per game.
"They've got some seniors that have played very well for them," Stockton said. "Right now, they've got their all-time leading 3-point shooter, their all-time leading rebounder and their all-time leader in blocks. They've got three 1,000-point scorers and I don't know if I've ever coached three 1,000-point scorers at the same time. This is a year that they're very senior laden. They've played very well and they're going to come in here ready to play. They're certainly a very good opponent."
Thursday's WNIT opener marks third meeting between Tulane and Sam Houston State on the hardwood, and the all-time series is tied at one win apiece. Both of the previous match-ups came during the 1988-89 season with Tulane winning the initial meeting 68-58 on Jan. 7 in New Orleans and falling 63-49 on March 4 in Huntsville, Texas.
While the Green Wave have not played the Bearkats in 24 years, Tulane is not unfamiliar with members of the Southland Conference. During the 2012-13 season, the Wave played SLC member McNeese State in the championship game of the Tulane/DoubleTree Classic and came away with a 69-63 victory on Dec. 30 in Devlin Fieldhouse.
The trip to the WNIT is the third in as many years for Tulane following 1-1 showings in the event in each of the previous two seasons and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2010. The WNIT invite marks the first time the Green Wave earned four consecutive postseason bids since making capping a 10-year run with a trip to the NCAAs in 2003. It is also the program's 15th overall postseason bid - 14 of which have come under Stockton's direction - and fifth trip to the WNIT as Tulane also played in the event in 1994 and 2007.
The winner of the Tulane/Sam Houston State contest will advance to take on the winner of the Arkansas/Memphis game, which will take place on Thursday in Fayetteville, Ark. All WNIT games are played at home sites and the six-round, single-elimination tournament will culminated with the championship game on Saturday, April 6. That contest will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.