Tulane Green Wave
TULANE WOMEN’S HOOPS ROLLS PAST SOUTHERN MISS ON SENIOR DAY, 80-69
NEW ORLEANS – While the Green Wave’s four-member senior class was honored with a pre-game ceremony, it was sophomores Danielle Blagg and Tiffany Dale who garnered the spotlight as the Tulane University women’s basketball team rolled past Conference USA foe Southern Miss on Sunday in Devlin Fieldhouse.
The sophomore tandem combined for 43 points, including a career-best 22-point effort by Dale, to help Olivia Grayson, Janique Kautsky, Brittany McDonald and Tyria Snow celebrate Senior Day in style. The win was the fourth in a row for the Green Wave, who improved to 22-6 overall and 11-4 in league play. Southern Miss, meanwhile, fell to 13-15 on the year and 5-10 in C-USA action.
“I thought we had great energy from the whole team,” Tulane head women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton said. “I liked our intensity. This was one of those things where I challenged my team not only to celebrate with the seniors but also for the underclassmen to feel like they had to get this one for the seniors. I thought they really stepped up.”
Tulane held a 36-27 advantage at halftime and led by as many as 12 in the second half at 62-50 with 7:22 left to play. Southern Miss responded with a 10-0 run over the next 2:11 to cut the deficit to just a pair, but the Green Wave responded with 10 straight points of their own to put the game away.
Dale started the rally with a pair of free throws and added a layup between treys by both Kautsky and Blagg. Southern Miss cut the Tulane lead down to eight on a pair of Ance Celmina free throws with 1:31 on the clock and again at nine on a Tanecka Carey 3-pointer at the 16-second mark. Sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan closed out the scoring with two free throws to account for the final score.
“Southern Miss has some very explosive players and they can really get going,” Stockton said. “I thought we did a nice job of being patient on offense and still taking good shots. We wanted shots in transition, which we got. The more they pressured us, we were able to get some layups which really took the pressure off of our defense. They got hot for a while there and we responded pretty well.”
As a team, the Green Wave shot 48.4 percent from the field (31-of-64), including a .548 clip in the second half (17-of-31), while holding Southern Miss to a 39.7 field goal percentage (25-of-63). Tulane also held a 44-35 rebounding advantage and a 44-26 edge in points in the paint while using nine steals to spark 20 fast-break points and turning 14 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.
Dale connected on 10-of-13 field goals, and Blagg was next with 21 points after draining 7-of-16 shots overall – including four 3-pointers – to go with three free throws. Grayson rounded out the Tulane players in double figures with 14 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with Blagg at eight apiece. Grayson also contributed six assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Kaplan led all players with seven assists, while Dale had seven rebounds and a team-best three steals.
“We trust each other,” Grayson said. “We know that we can make plays down the stretch to pull out a win. It’s really just the chemistry that we have on this team to know that we’re going to be there for each other in the clutch.”
Southern Miss scored the game’s opening points on a Celmina layup, but that would be the lone lead of the day for the Golden Eagles as Tulane scored the next seven and never looked back. The Green Wave’s first-have advantage swelled to as many as 14 with Blagg nailing a 3-pointer with 6:47 to go before the break to make it 30-16 and again with Dale converting a layup with 4:35 left before halftime to make it 34-20.
The Golden Eagles tallied seven of the final nine points during the opening stanza and opened the second half with a 7-0 run to make it a two-point contest at 36-34 less than four minutes into the frame. Dale snapped Southern Miss’ streak with a layup at the 16:04 mark and Tulane got the lead back to double digits at 49-39 just under five minutes later. The two teams traded the next 26 points to set up Southern Miss’ come-back attempt and Tulane’s game-deciding rally.
“We kept our composure and made sure we stayed patient,” Dale said. “We didn’t want to make any mistakes on the defensive end and we just made sure we stuck to what our coaches told us to do.”
Southern Miss’ Jamierra Faulkner led all players with a game-high 26 points and was one of three Golden Eagle players to finish in double digits as Jerontay Clemons scored 13 and Carey added 12. Celmina paced USM with nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and Faulkner led her team with five assists and three steals.
Tulane will close out the regular-season on Friday, March 8, when the Green Wave travel to El Paso, Texas, to square off against defending C-USA regular-season and tournament champion UTEP at 8 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center. From there, Tulane will head to Tulsa, Okla., for the 2013 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship, which will run from March 13-16.
Already armed with a first-round bye, the Green Wave will look to advance to the title game for the fourth-consecutive season and claim their first title since 2010. The winner of the C-USA Championship receives the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
QUOTES FOLLOWING TULANE’S 80-69 SENIOR DAY WIN OVER C-USA FOE SOUTHERN MISS
Tulane Head Coach Lisa Stockton
Overall thoughts on the game
“I thought we had great energy from the whole team. I liked our intensity. This was one of those things where I challenged my team not only to celebrate with the seniors but also for the underclassmen to feel like they had to get this one for the seniors. I thought they really stepped up.”
On her team holding on after Southern Miss rallied to cut the deficit to a pair late in the game
“Southern Miss has some very explosive players and they can really get going. I thought we did a nice job of being patient on offense and still taking good shots. We wanted shots in transition, which we got. The more they pressured us, we were able to get some layups which really took the pressure off of our defense. They got hot for a while there and we responded pretty well.”
On sending the seniors out with a win in their final regular-season home game
“I think winning Senior Day is probably the best win of the year. We had a great crowd today. I really appreciate everyone for showing up today. It’s just a great group of young ladies and I’m glad they got to go out like this.”
On winning four straight this late in the season
“I think it’s confidence. You want your team being confident and different players playing different roles, which our team has done very well. This team is starting to feel very confident in each other.”
On Tulane using its depth while Southern Miss had just two come off the bench on Sunday
“Having depth helps in a lot of ways. It’s March and we’ve been going since October 1. That helps. People don’t have to go out there and play 40 minutes. The other thing, obviously, is tournament play. When you play back-to-back, you hate for anyone to play 38 minutes and have to turn around (and play) the next day. If they have to, they have to but we get such quality from our bench that we won’t have to do that.”
On what she liked about the way Tulane played today
“In the last two games, I think we’ve played with a lot of emotion when somebody does something. Sometimes we over-pass because we’re being unselfish. I think when somebody does something, we really cheer. Jamie (Kaplan) threw and alley-oop to Janique (Kautsky) and everybody erupted. They really care about each other and that’s a great feeling going into the postseason.”
On Tulane missing some free throws late to let Southern Miss hang around
“I don’t know what happened there with those. I don’t know if maybe it was the intensity of the moment or what. But again, when you talk about Olivia Grayson, I’d put her on that line pretty much any time.”
Senior Guard Olivia Grayson
On the team getting a win on Senior Day
“It’s real special. It just shows how much the team really appreciates you because they played awesome today. There was an extra umph in everybody’s game today and it was just real special to go out this way.”
On Southern Miss clawing back into the game late and Tulane pulling away
“We trust each other. We know that we can make plays down the stretch to pull out a win. It’s really just the chemistry that we have on this team to know that we’re going to be there for each other in the clutch.”
On winning four straight games and how the team feels at this point of the season
“We feel really good. We feel that everything is coming together for us at the right time, right before the conference tournament. We’re just enjoying this right now – how we’re playing and how we’re playing together. We feel good.”
On Tulane using its depth while Southern Miss only played seven players
“I think we have the highest-scoring bench in our conference and that just shows how talented our team is. Anybody can start on any night, and as long as everybody keeps bringing what they bring we’re really hard to beat.”
On the crowd on hand getting behind the team on Senior Day
“It’s special. You just realize that this is the last time you’re playing in this gym. To have everybody out here cheering you on for the last time, it’s just real special.”
Sophomore Guard Danielle Blagg
On the crowd on hand to celebrate Senior Day
“It was great. We really couldn’t have done it without our GA Tiffany Aidoo. She helps get all these people here and really organizes it well. It was just a great crowd.”
On helping the seniors close out their career with a win in the final regular-season game in Devlin Fieldhouse
“I can’t even tell you how much it means. We just really wanted to do it for the seniors. They’re such a huge part of this team. To have such a good game – all of us, everyone – and to come out here and win the game just meant a lot.”
On winning four straight and how the team is playing at this time
“It’s a good thing, but it also puts the pressure on. We have these wins and they’re pushing us, but there’s always going to be that pressure to keep on winning.”
On what the team was able to do to cut short Southern Miss’ late rally
“I thought we really played like a team. There wasn’t one person who didn’t do anything. On one of the last plays, we had Jamie (Kaplan) throwing it up to Janique (Kautsky) for an alley-oop kind of thing. It was such a team effort. We kept our composure and we rebounded well.”
On how important Tulane’s depth was in today’s game
“Our depth is huge. We have freshmen that are great coming off the bench and doing what they need to do – rebounding, Chinwe Duru making crazy shots in the post. We have great depth and I think that only benefits us.”
On what she has learned from the senior class
“To never give up and keep fighting. You can be down by six against SMU with one or two minutes left in the game and you can come back and win by five. I think I learned to never give up and keep pushing. Leadership, for sure. All four of them are just great leaders.”
Sophomore Forward Tiffany Dale
On her 22-point performance against Southern Miss
“I know I took my excitement for it being Senior Day out there to go out, play hard and play my game. I definitely came in with a game plan. I knew that I could run the floor and do what I do best, which is in transition.”
On being able to send the seniors out with a win
“It’s always great to do something for our seniors. Knowing that we could get them a win in their last home game was definitely always something good to do.”
On what she has learned from the senior class
“I definitely learned never to give up and you never know when your last game comes so you can never take it for granted. You just have to leave it all on the court.”
On what the team has to do down the stretch
“With these consecutive wins, we definitely have momentum going into the next game and the conference tournament. As long as we keep playing like we’ve been playing, we should be good.”
On keeping Southern Miss at bay after the Golden Eagles cut the deficit down to a pair late in the second half
“We kept our composure and made sure we stayed patient. We didn’t want to make any mistakes on the defensive end and we just made sure we stuck to what our coaches told us to do.”