Tulane coach Lisa Stockton got the “extra effort” game for which she was looking, and guard Kolby Morgan showed last year's game against Middle Tennessee was a mere aberration.
The Green Wave played stifling defense and Morgan scored a game-high 19 points as Tulane took a surprisingly easy 62-44 victory Sunday at Fogelman Arena.
“I'm really proud of how our team responded,” Stockton said. “We came off a very disappointing loss (to LSU). We worked really hard this week, and we just wanted to set a tone with our defense.”
The Green Wave (6-5) held Middle Tennessee (6-4) to 27.3 percent shooting (12-of-44), including 17.4 percent (4-of-23) on 3-point attempts, and forced 25 turnovers. No Red Raiders player scored in double figures.
“They played harder than us,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said. “The team that plays the hardest usually wins. They executed, changing defenses. And their good player, Morgan, she demanded so much attention that she was able to get her other people involved.”
“It was just the practices leading up to (Sunday's game),” Morgan said. “I put pressure on them with my rebounding (six), and I was just more aggressive.”
Backcourt mate Kayla Manuirirangi scored 12 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting, and power forward Meredith Schulte scored 10 on 5-of-7 shooting.
Tulane outscored Middle Tennessee 13-8 in the third quarter, which gave it a 40-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Schulte scored six points on jump shots off drive-and-dish passes by the guards. She'd already made her mark by drawing three fouls in the first half on Raiders 6-foot-4 center Rebecca Reuter.
The Wave then sealed the win with Schulte, Morgan and reserves Kaila Anderson and Caylah Cruickshank, both guards, and small forward Sierra Cheatham on the court to start the fourth quarter. They went on a 12-1 run for a 52-31 lead at 4:09 of the quarter.
Tulane scored the final five points of the second quarter in taking a 27-22 halftime lead. However, that was after it stopped a 15-4 Middle Tennessee run that tied the score at 22-22 at 2:48 of the quarter.
Playing with four reserves and Morgan and then four with Manuirirangi, Tulane was less effective denying entry passes into the post, which enabled the Red Raiders to run their offense more smoothly. The Wave also had four turnovers in the first six minutes of the second and saw its once-commanding points off turnovers margin cut to 12-11.
However, the Wave was able to lead going into the break without Morgan and Schulte, both of whom had two fouls.
That was a far cry from the first quarter. With the Wave denying passes and double-teamming the post and then hustling back out to defend the 3, Tulane ran to a 9-0 advantage in points off turnovers, forcing eight.
Tulane went on an 11-0 run in taking an 11-2 lead by 5:11 of the quarter on a jumper by Schulte.