Dec. 30, 2012
NEW ORLEANS -
Redshirt-sophomore forward Whitney Bibbins led three Green Wave players in double figures with game-high 25 points as the Tulane University women's basketball team closed out the 2012 portion of its schedule with a 69-63 come-from-behind win over McNeese State in the championship game of the 17th Annual Tulane/DoubleTree Classic on Sunday evening in Devlin Fieldhouse.
Down 54-47 with 7:43 left in regulation, the Wave went on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to take a three-point advantage they would not relinquish. With the victory, Tulane improves to 10-2 on the year and claimed its fifth-straight DoubleTree title and the 14th overall since the tournament's inception in 1996. McNeese State, meanwhile, fell to 5-6.
Bibbins, who posted the team's first double-double of the season with 11 rebounds, was named the Most Valuable Player after averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 68.0 percent from the field (17-of-25) over the weekend. She was joined on the Tulane/DoubleTree Classic All-Tournament Team by senior guard Olivia Grayson, McNeese State guards Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett, Eastern Michigan center India Hairston and Ole Miss guard Valencia McFarland.
"She got hurt in the first half, so we weren't sure of her status for the second half," Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said of Bibbins. "She obviously came back and did a really good job. She's just a fun player to watch because she does so many things well. It's not just scoring. She had a double-double with 11 rebounds, she defends and she blocks shots. She really is a complete player."
With her team trailing by seven following a layup by McNeese State's Alaina Verdin with just under eight minutes to play, sophomore forward Tiffany Dale sparked the game-deciding run with a layup with 7:22 left to play. Sophomore guard Danielle Blagg and senior guard Tyria Snow followed with 3-pointers in consecutive trips down the court and Grayson capped the rally with a jumper to make it 57-54.
The Cowgirls cut the lead to one on a layup by Ashlyn Baggett before the Wave answered with a Blagg layup and a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi
to make it a five-point contest. A trey by Caitlyn Baggett with 2:22 on the clock kept McNeese State in the game, but that would be the final bucket of the night for the visitors from Lake Charles, La., as Tulane outscored the Cowgirls 6-2 the rest of the way.
"Going into the game, we felt that this was going to be a close game all the way," Stockton said. "We told (the team) that we may be behind and we have to just play. If they hit a shot, we just have to come out and play and stay within our game. I thought our team did a nice job of that tonight - probably better than we've done all year - of not getting down when we let some shots go. We were very aggressive and I think that was the key."
Bibbins' point total equaled her career high originally set against Louisiana-Lafayette back on Dec. 19. Grayson, who led the team with four steals, added 12 points and Ebomwonyi chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Dale paced the Wave in rebounds with 12 while Snow headlined the squad with eight assists.
Tulane connected at a 41.5 clip from the field (27-of-65) and held a 47-35 edge in rebounding. Nineteen of the Green Wave's boards came off the offensive glass, and that led to 16 second-chance points. In addition, Tulane's reserves outscored the McNeese State bench, 23-2.
"I think we played tougher," Stockton added. "We really played tough tonight and we made shots when we needed to. Different people stepped up. Olivia Grayson had a really great game. She didn't make a lot of shots but she did so many things on the floor. It was a good win for us and very much of a team win.
"I felt that Tiffany Dale played like she never got tired out there. She was all over the boards. Some of the shots that she missed today were so close, but she was so aggressive and it was good to see. I thought Adesuwa had her best game of the year. She came in and really gave us a lift.
After giving up the game's first bucket, Tulane raced out to a 9-5 lead only to see McNeese State roar back with a 19-8 rally to take a 24-17 advantage with 6:30 to play before the break. The Cowgirls' lead swelled to as many as eight at 29-21 with 5:02 remaining in the first half, but as they would do late in the game, the Green Wave answered with an 11-2 run the rest of the stanza to go into the locker room on top, 32-31.
The lead was short-lived as McNeese State scored the first four points of the second half and the two teams sat deadlocked at 41-all with 10:39 left to play. The second of Dale's two free throws broke the tie momentarily and the Cowgirls appeared to pull away when Verdin canned back-to-back 3-pointers to give McNeese State at 47-42 lead.
Bibbins sandwiched a pair of baskets around an Ashlyn Baggett trey to make to make it 50-46 in favor of the Cowgirls, and McNeese State scored four of the game's next five points to set up the Green Wave's comeback.
Caitlyn Baggett led the Cowgirls with 23 points while Verdin added 16 and Ashlyn Baggett contributed 12. Caitlyn Baggett had a team-best six assists and three steals, and Cecilia Okoye paced McNeese State with 11 rebounds.
Tulane returns to action on Monday, Jan. 7, when the Green Wave closes out non-conference play against Loyola-New Orleans at 5:30 p.m. in Devlin Fieldhouse. From there, the Wave begin Conference USA play at home 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.