Asked the key to doing well in American Athletic Conference play this season, Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton said it starts with winning games that teams are expected to win.
“We have two very good teams in (No. 1) Connecticut and (No. 17) South Florida in our league,” she said. “So you can be looking at four losses just there. We have 18 games, and you can’t let too many of them get away from you.”
Tulane (10-3, 1-0) took care of business Wednesday at home against Houston, winning by 22 points against a team picked by conference coaches to finish last. On Sunday, the Green Wave plays at Memphis (6-6, 0-1), which is coming off an 82-58 loss at Temple, picked to finish third.
After that, Tulane, picked to finish fifth, will visit East Carolina, which was picked to finish fourth. The Wave, riding a seven-game winning streak, is brimming with confidence mostly because of its shooting.
“We took good shots, shared the ball (vs. Houston),” Stockton said. “We had 19 assists. It shows a lot about our team.”
The Wave is hitting the road with point guard Leslie Vorpahl coming off a 25-point, seven-assist performance.
“I was just hitting open shots — nothing special,” said Verpahl, the team’s second-leading scorer (11.3 points) who also averages 5.5 assists. “I got into the paint a little more, and that helps a lot. But when the post is going easy, it opens up for me, too.”
Temple shot 53.1 percent against Memphis, including 35 percent on 3s. Tulane is averaging 44.8 percent this season, including 35.0 on 3-point attempts.
In the past six games, center Chinwe Duru and power forward Tierra Jones have given the Wave strong play under the basket. After getting 10 points and 15 rebounds against Saint Louis on Dec. 21, Jones had 12 points and 13 boards against Houston.
“Early in the season, my coaches and teammates challenged me to not get in foul trouble,” said Jones, who leads the team in rebouding at 6.1 per game. “Not being in foul trouble allowed me to establish myself and get into a rhythm.”
This is Tulane’s only game against Memphis this season. The Wave won the teams’ only meeting last season 75-55 at home.
East Carolina (6-7, 0-1) is coming off an 81-79 overtime loss at Tulsa. Guard Jada Payne scored 31 points on 13-of-24 shooting, and forward I’Tiana Taylor had 14 points and 14 rebounds.