Playing ‘the best basketball of her career,’ Tierra Jones has the Tulane women on the rise entering Saturday’s game vs. Tulsa _lowres

Associated Press file photo by GERRY BROOME -- Tulane's Tierra Jones blocks a shot by Mississippi State's Breanna Richardson during the first round of the NCAA tournament in Durham, N.C., last season.

Tulane power forward Tierra Jones will have her running shoes on Wednesday night when the Green Wave plays SMU in an American Athletic Conference game in Dallas.

At 5-foot-9, Jones leads Tulane (13-5, 4-2) in rebounding at 7.7 per game in conference play, which is eighth in the AAC. However, the Green Wave will go against one of the taller teams in the conference. SMU (8-8, 3-2) has a front line of sophomores Alicia Froling (6-foot-3) and sister Keely Froling (6-foot-2), and the Mustangs bring 6-foot-2 Dai’ja Thomas off the bench.

“They’re tall across the board, and they crash the boards and get more shots,” Jones said. “And they play good defense. That’s how they stay in games.”

Jones, a senior, may appear to be at a mismatch against such opponents. Often, the opposite is true. Jones is averaging 9.9 points per game in conference play — more than three points per game above her season average.

In her past three games, she had 13 points and eight rebounds against Central Florida, nine points and seven boards against South Florida, and 13 points and eight rebounds in a rout at Tulsa on Saturday.

“She’s a good post-up player against bigger players, and she can put the ball on the floor and drive around them,” coach Lisa Stockton said.

But defense and rebounding are Jones’ calling cards. Stockton says she communicates well, and she often covers teammates’ mistakes by drawing a charge or poking the ball away.

When Tulane revs up its defense and goes on one of its game-changing runs, Jones often is at the heart of it with her infectious, emotional play.

“I’m most proud of the energy I bring — just being able to bring that consistently, even when we play away,” she said. “Just getting the atmosphere and intensity up.”

The Mustangs have held teams to 36.3-percent shooting, second in the conference, and an average of 61.9 points per game, which is fourth. They also are second in the AAC in shot-blocking.

But SMU is ninth in scoring and eighth in shooting (37.5 percent). If the Wave can prevent offensive rebounds, it likely can outrun the Mustangs and get baskets on the fast break, including 3-pointers.

With the emergence of its bench, Tulane is also the deeper team.

Pace, Stockton said, will be important.

“I definitely think we an extend the court on them,” she said. “We probably play a little bit more guard-oriented game, so I think getting runouts on them will be important, too.”

SMU has won its past two games and also has beaten second-place Temple (11-6, 5-2). The Mustangs are led by Alicia Froling, who averages 12.2 points and 10.8 rebounds, which is second in the AAC. She is one of two players averaging a double-double this season.

Tulane, 2-1 in conference road games, next will play Saturday at home against East Carolina.