FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tulane’s bid for the program’s first appearance in the WNIT Elite Eight was swamped by one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation.
But even with Wednesday’s 73-61 loss at Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16, the Green Wave was enthused by how it competed and the prospects for a young team that loses only two seniors.
“I thought we really fought,” said Tulane coach Lisa Stockton, whose team finished 23-12 in her 22nd season at Tulane. “They’ve gotten so much better. I think the future is really bright for us.”
After rallying from a 10-point first-quarter deficit in a 64-61 win Monday at Georgia Tech to match the program’s best WNIT showing, Tulane quickly fell behind again on the road.
FGCU (31-5), which some felt was a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, opened a 13-6 lead with three early 3-pointers, two from Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Whitney Knight.
Green Wave senior Tierra Jones had six of the first eight points for Tulane, which cut the deficit to 13-12.
But the 6-foot-3 Knight, a WNBA prospect, hit two more open 3-pointers from the same spot on the left wing, putting FGCU up 19-14.
“I think they got us more in transition than in the offense,” Stockton said. “They’d come down in transition and attack the basket and kick out to the 3. (Knight) killed us from the 3-point line.”
With 6:10 left in the second quarter, Tulane took a hit when Jones left the game after vomiting on the floor. She had been knocked hard to the court twice in the game, both drawing FGCU fouls.
Jones didn’t return until the second half.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Jones, Tulane’s leading rebounder. “I felt just a little nauseous all of a sudden. I did feel a lot better once it was released though.”
With Jones out, FGCU hit two more 3-pointers in a 12-4 run to lead 33-22 at halftime, even with Tulane leading 21-14 on the boards, 14-12 on points in the paint and 6-0 on second-chance points.
“She’s kind of the inspirational leader for us,” Stockton said. “I hated her going out. But they had a lot to do with what happened in the first half.”
Tulane continued mixing defenses in the second half. But FGCU, seventh in the nation with 9.6 3-pointers per game, remained hot outside.
Three more 3-pointers pushed the margin to 45-24 with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Full-court pressure and 3-pointers from sophomore Kolby Morgan (12 points, five rebounds), junior Leslie Vorpahl (10 points, three assists) and junior Shakira Harding cut the gap to 64-53 with 5:02 left.
But FGCU’s defense, second-best in the nation allowing only 48.9 points a game, forced consecutive misses to earn its first ever appearance in the WNIT Elite Eight. FGCU also finished 11-of-28 on 3-pointers.
“They’re just a good team,” Stockton said. “When people talk about their shooting, I think that’s secondary. The first half we just couldn’t score. I thought the second half we did a much better job of getting better shots. But you’ve got a team with eight seniors. It’s tough to beat them here.”
Morgan, held to only two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, scored 10 in the second half to become the Green Wave’s first sophomore ever to reach 1,000 career points. She has 1,002.
“Tulane is a really good team,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “They’re a lot better than their record indicates. The played UConn three times. I don’t even think those should count as losses at this point. We feel good. We know we beat a really good team today.”