April 25, 2008
For the 2007-08 Green Wave women's basketball team, a team which lost its top two scorers from the previous season to graduation, the burden of carrying an offense fell to unfamiliar faces. But in new roles for most, the Green Wave responded to the task, turning in a 16-14 season, winning five of its last nine.
"The most important part of our season, was how our young players grew into their roles," head coach Lisa Stockton said. "We had a lot of players who weren't used to playing at the times or positions we needed them this season. Their improvement in those roles and now their comfort in their roles will definitely help us going into next year."
As a junior, point guard Ashley Langford's charge was to be the floor general, direct the offense, and find an open teammate to finish. It was a role she flourished in, setting school records in assists in each of her first two seasons and again in 2007-08. And while she continued to dish the ball to open teammates, she also began to open scoring opportunities for herself.
Langford led the Green Wave with 11.9 points per game, an increase of 4.5 points per contest, and all the while, didn't lose even a full helper off her assist average (dipping from 6.27 to 5.33).
"Ashley just took her game to another level," head coach Lisa Stockton said. "She's always been the person our offense runs through, but she took it upon herself to score this season." Aiding Langford with the offense was a pair of underclassmen: sophomore guard Chassity Brown and redshirt freshman forward Brittany Lindsey - who combined for 30 career points entering the season, all by Brown).
After missing the 2006-07 season with a torn labrum, Lindsey stepped into the starting lineup from day one in 2007-08, leading the team in scoring through the first 22 games with over 11 points per contest. She finished second on the team in scoring average at 9.7 PPG and in rebounding with 5.8 per contest.
Brown joined Lindsey with the influx of scoring, starting with a career-high 15 points off the bench in the season opener against Alabama. She finished the season with an 8.4 PPG average, and led Tulane defensively with 60 steals.
"Our young players really progressed as the season went on," Stockton continued. "Not just offensively, but defensively as well. Chassity Brown really exploded on the scene in a big way this season. When she's using her speed to get steals and turn them into easy lay-ups, it just makes things easier on our offense."
The young duo was not without help from the senior class, as forward Alendra Brown paced the team in rebounding (with 6.3 RPG) and finished fourth on the team in scoring (at 8.4 PPG). Guard Nikki Luckhurst continued her assault on the Tulane and Conference USA three-pointer list, with a late-season surge helping her to reach a 9.3 PPG average with 62 made three-pointers for the season.
As the season got underway, the Wave found themselves without their top three scorers from 2006-07. Having lost Jami Montagnino and D'Aundra Henry to graduation, Alendra Brown would miss the first six games of the season. The Green Wave turned to a player with zero minutes to step up in the paint. And step up Lindsey did, as she responded by leading the team in scoring and rebounding during Alendra Brown's absence. In her long-awaited Tulane debut at Fogelman Arena she scored 12 points and followed that performance with a 16-point effort in a win at Stephen F. Austin.
The Wave opened the 2007-08 campaign by using strong second half for a 64-56 road win at Alabama, with Langford's 18 points and Chassity Brown's 15 points leading the way.
Tulane raised its 2006-07 regular season Conference USA championship and WNIT banners prior to the home opener against Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets, receiving votes in the top 25 at the time (as were the Wave), would pull out a 66-61 win in crunch time, en route to another NCAA tournament appearance out of the ACC, despite Luckhurst's 16 points. The Green Wave rebounded with a win at Stephen F. Austin behind 16 points from Lindsey and 10 rebounds from junior forward Kendra Barnes. Tulane followed that up with a win over Winthrop as guard/wing Megan Valicevic recorded her first double-double as she tied her career-best with 14 points and set a new career-high with 10 rebounds. Lindsey blocked six shots in the contest, tied for the most-ever by freshman in a single game at Tulane, matching a performance by eventual Green Wave career blocks leader Teana McKiver.
"Brittany's a player who can have had an offensive and defensive presence for us," Stockton said. "She's very difficult to guard, she has a very accurate shooting touch."
Tulane's signature win of the season came in Cancun, as the Green Wave spent the Thanksgiving break in Mexico for the Cancun Caribbean Challenge. Tulane's opening foe was Kansas State, a team which would go on to finish 21st in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Wave closed the first half with a 13-0 run on the Wildcats, and the two teams traded the lead until the final four minutes of the game, when Lindsey took over inside, scoring six straight points for Tulane. Freshman Tiffany Aidoo emerged as a defensive stopper, picking off a pass as the Wave held on 60-57.
"Tiffany Aidoo is just a tireless worker. She has always had the ability to score, but he defense was just so important to us," Stockton explained. "She just consistently does things that don't show up in a box score. If there is a loose ball, you know she is going to be around it."
Tulane held Northern Illinois to two field goals in the final six minutes to pull away with a 70-57 win the following day, wrapping up a 2-0 Cancun trip and returning to the U.S with a 5-1 record. The Wave improved to 6-1 behind a 25-point, 10-rebound performance by Lindsey at Louisiana-Lafayette. She connected on 12 of 15 shots, the most field goals in a single game by a Green Wave freshman, leading the Wave to a fifth-straight victory.
Tulane's defense showed up for another grinding battle with No. 7 LSU. Tulane's 52-36 loss to the Tigers featured impressive performances by both defenses: Tulane's 36 points was the fourth-lowest total in school history, and second lowest since the Wave's inaugural season in 1975-76. For Tulane, it was just the 14th time LSU has been held to 52 or less in the team's previous 17 seasons.
One of the sparks for the Tulane defense was the ability of Chassity Brown to pick up steals and score in transition. Brown moved into the starting lineup for the first time at Rhode Island, and scored a then-season high 17 points, with four steals in a 75-65 win.
The Green Wave returned home at 7-2 on the season, and after a break for finals, took on Robert Morris in the first game of the Tulane DoubleTree Classic. The upstart Colonials out-lasted Tulane, 82-71, as Sade Logan, who was second in the nation in scoring, led all players with 27 points for RMU. The Colonials would go on to win the Northeast Conference by reeling off 17-straight wins.
Tulane wrapped up the DoubleTree Classic with a win over eventual Southland Conference champion Texas San-Antonio in the consolation game, as Ashley Langford became Tulane's all-time assist leader in just 69 games to tie Susan Owens with 429 assists. She finished the season with 160 assists, giving her 538 as she enters her senior season.
The win over UTSA gave the Wave two wins over NCAA-bound teams in non-conference play, with all three losses coming against teams that would make the field of 64.
The Wave complete non-conference play at 10-3 with a win over Louisiana-Monroe behind a double-double from Lindsey, and a blowout win over Nichols State at New Orleans Arena keyed by Alendra Brown's 12 points and nine rebounds.
Tulane opened Conference USA in Houston, defeating Rice behind Alendra Brown's second-straight 12-point and nine rebound effort. But the win would mark the crest of the Wave's season, as Tulane dropped its next seven in a row.
The Wave played on ESPN2 on January 6, but a second-half surge by Houston gave UH a win. Tulane dropped a second-straight road game, at eventual C-USA champion UTEP the following weekend. Memphis stunned the Wave for a 74-66 win, and Tulane dropped a tough decision with UAB to fall to 11-7 on the season. During the slide, the Tulane defense struggled to keep opponents from shooting 50 percent from the field.
But the UAB game marked a return of the defensive intensity, as the Wave held the Blazers to 39.3 percent shooting. Following a second loss to UTEP, Tulane found its defensive intensity. Down by 19 in the second half to Tulsa, the Green Wave used a 15-0 run sparked by the press and turnovers to get back into the game before falling short on the road.
Chassity Brown and Tiffany Aidoo led the defensive stands for the Wave, as Brown contributed 53 steals after entering the starting lineup at Rhode Island. Aidoo proved to be a quiet assassin, an energetic on the ball defender, and steadily racked up five points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in virtually every game after she cracked the starting five.
Tulane broke its slide with a 70-65 win at East Carolina, behind a career-high 28 points from Langford and 16 from Alendra Brown.The Wave followed that victory with a 61-56 home win over the Marshall Thundering Herd, as Aidoo tied her career high with 13 points.
Luckhurst's torrid close to the season kicked off with 23 points in a 78-73 loss to Rice, when she nailed five-of-five three-pointers. That kicked off a stretch in which she hit 17 of 39 three-point shots (44 percent) to close the regular season.
The Wave downed Houston as Luckhurst chipped in 18 points on six three-pointers to lead four members of Tulane in double-figures: Chassity Brown scored 14, Alendra Brown 11 and Valicevic added 10 as Tulane won its third in four games.
Following back-to-back road losses at UCF, featuring a 19-point, nine rebound performance by Alendra Brown, and Southern Miss, despite 16 from Langford, the Wave returned home for the final homestand.
On Senior Day, the Green Wave picked up their third win over an NCAA team, as Tulane extended its win streak on Senior Day to 15 games. Alendra Brown scored a career-high 22 points with 13 rebounds for her third career double-double, Luckhurst added a season-best 24 points on six three-pointers, and senior power forward Dominique Philpots recorded her 85th career block, which put her fifth on Tulane's all-time list.
"When seniors see that finish line, they usually respond by making the most out of their final games," Stockton said. "All three of our seniors did that."
Luckhurst ended her career with 193 three-pointers, second all-time at Tulane and seventh in Conference USA history. Brown became one of just 15 players in Tulane history to reach 500 career rebounds and 700 career points. With 530 rebounds in her career, she ranks 14th on Tulane's all-time list and is 24th in school history in scoring with 741 points. She also sits 14th in field goal percentage at a .466 clip.
While Tulane's season came to an end with a loss to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament and a 16-14 final record, the Wave seemed poised for a return to the top of C-USA in the coming years.
"The key for us was that our young players kept getting better," Stockton said. "We'll have four starters, and top two scorers coming back next season, and five returning players who averaged over five points per game."
"We played well against teams who went on to the NCAA tournament last year," she continued. The Green Wave finished 3-6 against the NCAA field, with one of the losses coming by a mere five points.
Ashley Langford picked up Third Team All-Conference USA and Second Team All-Louisiana, and enters her senior season 90 assists shy of second in C-USA history. With her running the offense, and with nine returning players, the Green Wave have a balance of youth and experience. Langford will be joined by Kendra Barnes and Megan Valicevic in Tulane's senior class, while Chassity Brown, Tia Jackson, Brittany Lindsey, Tiffany Aidoo, Kiara Slaton and Roshaunda Barnes as a returning nucleus poised for big things in the coming years.