The NIT is a little different. It can be tough for tourney teams to travel to neutral sites and win games, but in the NIT some teams have to travel to the opponent’s home court and try to advance. It can’t be easy. Tulane Women’s basketball (23-11) knocked out the Alabama Crimson Tide, 53-52, at Devlin Fieldhouse last week, but Monday night had to travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
And it couldn’t have possibly have had a worse start.
Did you feel that cool breeze walking down St. Charles? That wasn’t a cold front coming in from the north, it was Tulane’s shooting in the first quarter. A period that would see Tulane make only two field goals, and have five turnovers. A period that would have been worse, if not for senior center Chinwe Duru’s work on the glass, as she collected four rebounds. As the buzzer sounded it was Tulane trailing 18-8.
The team would fight to stay in it, and then the Wave caught fire. Leslie Vorpahl splashed two back-to-back three-pointers, to key a 9-0 run, to bring the ladies within two. Unfortunately, every time Tulane got close, the Yellow Jackets’ forward Aaliyah Whiteside had an answer. But Tulane had an answer too – the baby-faced assassin, Kolby Morgan.
Morgan got hot in the second quarter, finishing the half with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but it would be a Vorpahl three pointer that would give the Wave their first lead of the game late in the half, but the teams went into the locker rooms tied at 36 apiece.
The third and fourth quarters played out in a similar fashion, with the Green Wave making an early run in each quarter, and watching the Yellow Jackets scrap their way back into it. Morgan and Whiteside fired away in third, Duru did the dirty work inside (she would finish with 9 points and 12 rebounds), and neither side would disappoint – especially in the scrap department, as each team tried to lock down defensively in the fourth quarter.
And the team’s battled on, but the Morgan and Whiteside shootout would give way to an unexpected spotlight being shined upon Tulane’s freshman guard Taylor Emery – not that Emery came out of nowhere, she’s averages 17 minutes a game, and has played in everyone of them this year. It’s just that every score in Emery’s seven-point fourth quarter (half of the team’s points) was absolutely crucial. None bigger than her jump shot at the two-minute mark to push the Green Wave lead to 62-57, and, more importantly, regain some momentum, as the Yellow Jackets had just drained two straight three-pointers. A couple of missed Tulane free throws made it even more interesting at the end, but as Georgia Tech set up their final play with a chance to tie the game, Morgan would step in front of a pass for the steal, securing a 64-61 victory, and propelling Tulane into the Sweet 16.
The Green Wave travel to Fort Myers to take on the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles (30-5), on Wednesday, at 6 p.m.
And like a good drink with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Drink Pairing – Spoetzl Brewing’s “Shiner Ruby Red Bird”
Playlist Recommendation – The Blue Jean Committee – “Catalina Breeze”
Around the Way
The New Orleans Privateers (13-4) kept to their winning ways this weekend as they took the series against Stephen F. Austin. New Orleans’ big bats roared to life in the opening game, as the Privateers ripped off a 20 hit barrage in a 19-11 victory over the Lumberjacks. In game two, Riley Hodge would move to 3-0 on the season, as New Orleans won, 5-4. Hodge – who has 31 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched – worked seven innings, before giving way to Daniel Martinez, who would collect his seventh save on the season. On Sunday, the Lumberjacks saved face with a 16-6 victory. The Privateers are now 4-2 in the Southland conference.
The Green Wave travelled to Austin, Texas for a matchup with the University of Texas Longhorns. The first game was suspended after two innings due to inclement weather, so the teams would play a double-header on Saturday. Freshman pitcher Ross Massey put on, what could be argued, the best performance of the year. Inheriting a 1-1 tie, Massey pitched seven innings. He would give up one run in the third, but then shutout the Longhorns the rest of the day. Massey struck out seven, and lowered to a nasty 1.44 ERA, as the Wave took e series-opener, 3-2.
Ross’s brother, Alex Massey, wouldn’t be so lucky in game two, as the Green Wave’s bat would go silent after putting up three runs in the first inning, and Alex Massey got roughed up for seven runs in the first stanza. The Longhorns would go on to win 10-3.
In the rubber match, it was the Emerson Gibbs show, as the senior right-hander stifled the Longhorns through the first six innings. Texas would tie the game 2-2 in the seventh, but the Green Wave immediately regained control of the game, posting two runs in the eighth, and then tacking on one in the ninth inning, for a 5-2 lead. The Longhorns would score once in the ninth, before Tulane called upon Dan Rankin to shut the door, and Tulane won the game, 5-3.
Tulane Men’s Tennis, No. 28 in the nation, suffered a setback out west in the San Diego Spring Classic against the No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raider squad (19-2). Tulane (11-4) entered the match on a seven-match win streak, and went toe to toe with the Texas squad all day, losing a close 4-3 battle. Tulane was led by Dominik Koepfer – the nation’s No. 1 ranked singles player. Koepfer defeated No. 22 Felipe Soares in two straight sets – 6-3, 6-1. Then, in men’s doubles, Koepfer and Chi-Shan Jao upset Texas Tech’s Soares and Hugo Dojas, 6-4. Soares and Dojas entered that match ranked No. 1 in the country, according to TulaneGreenwave.com.
It has been an impressive spring for the Green Wave. The men posted six victories over top-40 clubs and peaked at No. 21 in the rankings – both marks are the club’s best since 2005. Koepfer, “the Dominator,” was out of this world, with 17 straight wins, and he only dropped one set this season. Yet, it’s not a one-man show. Koepfer’s not out there by himself in the double’s matches. Jao and Koepfer teamed up for a 11-1 record in dual matches. Constantin Schmitz, ranked No. 111 in the country, also has a 12-2 record in dual matches.
Tulane keeps living that groovy California lifestyle this week as they stay out west to play Santa Clara and Fresno State.
Closer to home, the Green Wave defeated the Akron Zips, 4-1, in Women’s tennis. Elena Muller demolished Shannon Newnes, 6-1, 6-1, to earn her seventh dual match victory of the season. The Green Wave head into the thick of conference play this week as they travel to Florida to take on the UCF Knights and USF Bulls.