League-leading Middle Tennessee might have defeated Tulane 64-52 in women’s college basketball action Wednesday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Green Wave still earned the fourth seed in the Conference USA Tournament next week in El Paso, Texas and the double-bye since Old Dominion defeated East Carolina on Wednesday.
Ebony Rowe led the Blue Raiders (26-4, 15-1 Conference USA) with 24 points while Caroline Warden had 11 and KeKe Stewart had 10.
Rowe also earned the double-double and had a game-high 14 rebounds.
“We knew they were going to be motivated,” said Rowe, who was the only player that played the entire game. “They had a lot to play for, senior night and trying to get a good seed in the conference tournament. We knew they were going to bring energy, which they did.”
For Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell, the win against Tulane was a tough one to earn.
“We needed to turn a little time and get percentage shots. That’s what we did,” said Insell. “Get the ball in Ebony Rowe’s hands and let her make a decision on where were going with the ball and she did.”
Tulane (20-9, 11-5) was led by Danielle Blagg’s team-high 18 points. Chinwe Duru added 10. Tiffany Dale scored nine points and had a team-high seven rebounds. Jamie Kaplan finished with a game-high 10 assists.
For Tulane coach Lisa Stockton, Wednesday’s game provided a good test for the tournament.
“I thought the team was excited for the game,” Stockton said. “It was a great opportunity for us. We certainly knew a bye was at stake. I thought the team was excited.”
The Blue Raiders outrebounded Tulane 41-35 and this was one area that led to the win, Stockton said.
“The stats that made the difference were their free throws and their rebounding,” Stockton said. “Those two were clearly different. We get seven free throws for the game and they get 21. That is a pretty big disparity to overcome.”
Blagg was grateful the team got the double-bye.
“I think it’s a big advantage, two byes, getting to watch the teams and getting to scout them,” she said. “I think it’s a huge advantage. It’s really exciting.”
By the first timeout with 15:37 left in the first half took a 4-0 lead, with both baskets coming from Blagg.
The Blue Raiders scoring and rebounding leader, Rowe scored her team’s first points at the 15:18 mark to cut the lead to 4-2.
Warden gave the Blue Raiders their first lead of the game when she made a layup with 10:56 left for a 10-9 advantage. Warden then sank a 3-pointer and two free throws to give the Blue Raiders a 15-11 lead with 9:41 left.
Tulane cut the lead to 25-21 when Blagg sank a 3-pointer from the left with 3:17 left in the half.
Blagg sank another 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to cut the lead to 33-28 and Middle Tennessee ended the scoring in the first half when Laken Leonard made a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left for a 36-28 lead.
The Blue Raiders ended the half with 42.3 percent field goal shooting and made six of their 12 shots from behind the 3-point arc. They made all eight of their free throw attempts.
Tulane shot 37.9 percent from the field and 37.5 from behind the 3-point arc. The Green Wave made three of their four attempts from the free throw line.
Blagg led Tulane with 12 points while Duru had 10.
Rowe paced Middle Tennessee with 10 points and Warden had nine.
With 11:54 left in the game, Middle Tennessee continued to hold the lead since the Blue Raiders took it halfway through the first half. However, the Blue Raiders’ largest advantage was 10 points. They led 50-40 with 10:41 left when Rowe made layup.
Middle Tennessee extended its lead to 58-43 when Olivia Jones made a free throw with 5:49 left.