Nov. 10, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University women's basketball team will open the 2011-12 season on Friday, Nov. 11, when the Green Wave play host to Loyola at 6 p.m. in Fogelman Arena. The contest will be the first of a Tulane basketball doubleheader as the men's team will open its regular season against Alabama A&M approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the women's game.
The Green Wave will take the court with a very young team as the roster features four true freshmen and three who redshirted last year due to injury. That does not mean, however, that the Tulane squad is not without proven talent as senior center Brett Benzio, junior guard Olivia Grayson and sophomore wing Whitney Bibbins all have starting experience and played key roles in the Green Wave going 23-11 overall, finishing tied for fourth in the Conference USA regular-season standings, advancing to the C-USA Championship title game for a second consecutive season and earn a berth in the second round of the WNIT a year ago.
"There's nothing like the excitement of your first game," Tulane head women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. "No matter if you're a senior or a freshman, that's what you've been wanting. These freshmen have wanted to play a college game probably their whole lives. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to open at home. With the doubleheader, hopefully we'll have a good crowd and really get some excitement for Tulane basketball - both men and women."
As a team, the Green Wave averaged 72.9 points, 38.9 rebounds, 15.8 assists, 10.0 steals and 4.9 blocks per game last season. Grayson is the top returning scorer after averaging 10.9 points per game last season and Bibbins is next with a 7.5 scoring average. Benzio was the Wave's top rebounder and shot-blocker in 2010-11, averaging 7.4 boards and 2.3 swats per game. Grayson, meanwhile, paced the squad with a career-high 168 assists.
Tulane connected at a .437 clip from the field in 2010-11, hitting 909-of-2078 shots from the floor, and 154-of-491 shots from beyond the 3-point arc (.314), while allowing opponents to shoot .382 overall (810-of-2118) and .335 from 3-point land (184-of-549). Green Wave opponents, meanwhile, averaged 65.8 points, 40.8 rebounds, 12.8 assists, 8.0 steals and 2.8 blocks in 2010-11.
Juniors Janique Kautsky and Tyria Snow along with sophomores Brittany McDonald and Brooke Blankenship join Benzio, Bibbins and Grayson on the list of returnees. Joining the foray this time around are true freshmen Danielle Blagg, Tiffany Dale, Adesuwa Ebomwonyi and Jamie Kaplan, along with redshirt rookies Katye Magee, Rhea Nelson and Ashley Westby.
"Obviously, you want to win the game," Stockton said of Friday's opener against the Wolfpack. "For us, team basketball is key. This isn't going to be a team where we live and die by two players. I just don't think that that's going to be successful for us. I think having people play different roles and me learning what those roles will be, I think that's something that is still in question. What's our rotation? What can we count on from certain people?
"I also think that with this many freshmen, with every game that passes and every minute that they're on the court, we're a better team. We will get better. We watched film this morning, we watched film yesterday and they learned a lot from that and they can take it on. I'm impressed from the IQ of these young kids as far as being able to adjust within the game. That's something that we got out of the scrimmages."
Loyola, meanwhile, head to Fogelman Arena with a pair of games under their belt already this year and are 2-0 after downing St. Thomas 85-55 on Oct. 29 and defeating Florida Memorial 83-63 on Nov. 5.
As a team, Loyola is averaging 84.0 points, 46.0 rebounds, 14.0 assists, 16.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. Keiva Council leads the way with 21.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Jasmine Brewer and Amy Moody, meanwhile rank 2-3 in scoring with averages of 14.5 and 13.5, respectively. Janeicia Neely has a team-best 3.5 steals per game and Moody has all three of the team's blocks.
Loyola is hitting 45.2 percent of its shots from the field, connecting on 61-of-135 chances, including 11-of-37 from beyond the 3-point arc (.297), while opponents are hitting 37.1 percent of its baskets (39-of-105) and 17.4 percent from 3-point land (4-of-23).
A face familiar to Tulane women's hoops fans will be directing things from the Loyola bench as former Green Wave assistant Kellie Kennedy is in her fourth season as the Wolfpack's head coach. Kennedy served as an assistant on Stockton's staff from 1996-2006, helping lead Tulane to nine NCAA Tournaments.
"We run a lot of the same stuff," Stockton said of the Wolfpack. "To me, this is a great game because there can be a lot of Loyola participation from their students and their fans. They're right here across the street and I think that's great. In some ways, it's bitter-sweet because you hate to face a friend. After the game, for Kellie and I, life goes on. It definitely is difficult to do that, especially when you see each other all the time."
Friday's game against Loyola is the first of four straight home games for Tulane as the Green Wave will take on Louisiana-Monroe on Monday, Nov. 14, LSU on Saturday, Nov. 19, and New Orleans on Monday, Nov. 21. From there, Tulane will head to Cancun, Mexico, to face Purdue and Idaho State in the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 24 and 25, respectively. The Wave will play their first true road game of the season on Friday, Dec. 2, when they travel to Ruston, La., to square off against Louisiana Tech.
Season tickets for the 2011-12 Tulane women's basketball season are now 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.