LSU controlled the boards Wednesday night against Tulane, and if time of possession was a thing in basketball the Lady Tigers would have won that, too.
But the Green Wave was quicker to the basket at just the right times, producing enough clutch offense to slip out of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with a 51-45 victory.
Battling back from deficits great and thin all night, LSU took a 43-42 lead with 2:09 remaining when a DaShawn Harden steal led to a layup by Akilah Bethel.
Back came Tulane, though, displaying its own patience. Finally, with the shot clock almost gone, Jamie Kaplan pulled up and drained a baseline jumper from in front of her bench with 58 seconds left, giving the Green Wave a 44-43 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Harden missed a top of the key 3-pointer with 36 seconds left. Tulane responded with a free throw by Kolby Morgan and two by Chinwe Duru, and two more by Morgan iced it with 13 seconds left for a 49-43 lead.
Raigyne Moncrief drove for a layup with five seconds left, but it was too little, too late. Leslie Vorpahl completed the scoring with two free throws a second later.
“It was really one of those games that was pretty sloppy,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said, “but at the end our defense came through for us. We were able to get some shots and hit some free throws.
“The offensive rebounds for LSU were really a problem for us. We just couldn’t keep them off the boards and thought they did a tremendous job with that.”
LSU had 19 offensive rebounds and finished with a 35-27 rebounding advantage overall.
But while Tulane was an efficient 17 of 36 from the field (47.2 percent), LSU was 17 of 50 (34 percent), missing at least eight shots in the paint in the second half.
“I think there’s definitely a frustration,” said Bethel, a junior transfer forward from West Virginia who scored a game- and season-high 16 points. “We need to realize that the ball is in our possession and that we have control over what we do.”
LSU slipped to 2-2, but in several ways the Lady Tigers turned in a better effort than they did beating Jackson State 52-44 in overtime Monday, a lackluster game coach Nikki Caldwell said was actually won by the visitors considering how poorly her team played.
“Things didn’t go our way” against Tulane, Caldwell said, “but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Defensively, we got a lot of great possessions. We were really working Tulane. Down the stretch, they made big plays. Veteran guards made big plays and big shots.”
Tulane (3-0) came out lighting up LSU from behind the 3-point arc, ripping in four 3-pointers in the first five minutes to take a 14-6 lead on a basket by Kaplan.
But the Lady Tigers were determined to stick to their deliberate attack, walking the ball upcourt and refusing to be pushed out of their time-killing tempo.
The strategy didn’t generate much scoring, but at halftime the Lady Tigers turned what early on looked like a rout into a manageable three-point deficit, 21-18.
“We were looking at the statistics,” Caldwell said. “In the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, we were operating at about 10 percent (shooting percentage).
“We wanted to change the pace of the game where we had to make them play defense. Let’s start our action around 15 seconds. That eliminated a lot of quick shooting, not knowing that it was going up, so our rebounding would suffer. Obviously, tonight we knew when the shots were going up.”
Tulane threatened to pull away again to start the second half. A pair of baskets by Tiffany Dale gave the Green Wave a 25-18 lead with 17:56 remaining.
But time and again the Lady Tigers waltzed up court and reeled Tulane in. A layup by freshman forward Stephanie Amichia with 12:48 remaining gave LSU its first lead at 26-25.
Neither team would lead by more than five points after that.
“It’s good to see that we were able to fight through that kind of adversity this early in the year,” Stockton said. “We turned the ball over a lot (22 turnovers to LSU’s 21) and we had to shake that off and be able to rebound.
“I’m happy how our kids did that. We didn’t duck our heads and we played really hard.”
Morgan, a freshman from John Curtis who has found a key role on the veteran Tulane team, led the Green Wave with 13 points while Danielle Blagg had 10. Sheila Boykin led the Lady Tigers with six rebounds.
LSU wraps up its season-opening five-game homestand at 2 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Rutgers in the annual Sue Gunter Classic.
Tulane returns home Monday to host North Carolina State at 5 p.m.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.