In its last game, Tulane's women's basketball team was overrun at home by LSU and the Tigers' smothering, pressure defense.
Now, the Green Wave (5-5) is set for another challenge from a formidable defense when it takes on Middle Tennessee on Sunday at Fogelman Arena.
LSU is athletic, but Middle Tennessee is no less intense, Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said.
“They're really physical,” Stockton said. “They're not the fastest team, but they're strong and they play well together. Their team defense is as good as we'll see all year.”
The Blue Raiders (6-3), who were picked to win Conference USA, are ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense. Last season, Middle Tennessee beat the Wave 62-59 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in which Tulane leading scorer Kolby Morgan was held scoreless.
Stockton said she's looking for “40 mintes of great effort and to play smart.”
“We need some confidence,” she said. “We need to play for our confidence.”
Against LSU, Harlyn Wyatt, a junior center from Atlanta, seemed to embody what Stockton wants. Wyatt scored a season-high 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting and had team highs of five rebounds and three steals along with three assists and one block in a career-high 33 minutes.
At least three times during the game, Wyatt went to the floor to scrap for a rebound or loose ball. And, when Tulane made runs, her interior defense played a big part.
“With growth in my game, I just think it helps me play better when I'm more intense and more amplified,” said Wyatt, who is averaging 7.9 points on 51.6 percent shooting and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game. “I'm just trying to be more consistent every game, bring the same energy every game.”
With Tulane needing a consistent threat to go with Morgan, the offense of late has been run though Wyatt in the post. She has scored in double figures each of the past four games and has averaged 10.5 points on 55.9 percent shooting along with 8.3 rebounds per game.
And, she has shown some seemingly new moves — a pump fake and drive, a drive into the lane and turnaround jump shot and an 8- to 15-footer in the lane.
“I worked on my shot all summer,” she said. “The other things were already in my archives. I've just been practicing them more, and now it's like second nature.”
Stockton said it's the stats plus the intangibles Wyatt brings that are important.
“She's what you'd want an underclassman to do,” Stockton said. “Her communication is great. She's one of those people on the court who always knows what's going on and who directs your team.
“She gives great effort, and I think that sets a great example. We need that toughness across the board. We don't always show that. If we can get more of that, it's going to make us better.”
In last year's matchup, point guard Abbey Sissom led Middle Tennessee with 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 11 assists. She is averaging 11.2 points, shooting 42.3 percent on 3-point attempts, and 4.2 assists. Jess Louro, a 5-10 guard, is averaging 10.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, and forward Gabby Lyon 6.3 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds. Center Rebecca Reuter, 6-4, is averaging 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.