Tulane freshman guard Taylor Emery will miss what would have been her first Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
But that’s OK. Instead, Emery will have a homecoming when Tulane plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday at South Florida, located in her hometown of Tampa.
“I’ll be in front of my home crowd,” said Emery, a Parade All-American and the Miss Florida Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 36.5 points, second in the nation, at Freedom High School. “It’s going to be crazy.”
Emery said she won’t get lost in the moment. She knows this is a business trip. Tulane (16-7, 7-4 American) lost 71-67 to South Florida at home Jan. 13. The score was tied at 67 with 16 seconds left before the Bulls got a driving shot and a steal to seal the win.
“That was definitely a hard loss for us, to lose at home by a few points after we put our all into it,” said Emery, who chose Tulane over South Florida and Seton Hall. “Heartbreaking is the only way to describe it. And for me, I know those guys, played pickup basketball with them, hung out with them. I got a lot of texts from them after they beat us.”
By losing at home to the team ranked 17th in the nation, the Green Wave missed an opportunity for a signature win. Tuesday’s game at No. 22 USF (16-6, 9-3) gives the Wave another shot at a big win, but it also will need to put together a winning run down the stretch. The Bulls, third in the AAC, are coming off a 68-66 loss at second-place Temple.
Tulane, which is in fourth place in the league, has seven games remaining before the conference tournament March 4-7 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
At stake during this stretch is a berth in the top five; those teams get first-day byes. The Green Wave was seeded sixth last season before losing in the first round to the Bulls.
This time, slowing USF’s Courtney Williams will be a priority. She scored 31 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in the teams’ previous meeting.
Tulane shooting guard Kolby Morgan was ill and struggled to slow Williams, who is a challenge when her defender is at full health.
Emery, who has been the first player off the bench since the season began, will be in the mix to defend Williams, too.
A two-time AAC Freshman of the Week, she is coming off 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting and three steals in 23 minutes in Saturday’s 59-56 victory at Houston. Against USF, she had eight points on 3-of-5 shooting with two steals in 17 minutes.
“Taylor can play both ends of the floor real well,” coach Lisa Stockton said. “She’s got great vision. She gives us another scorer when some of our players are playing different roles, and she also gives you good rebounding, too.”
“I’ve definitely developed,” Emery said. “Coach said all the freshmen have come a long way.
“I worked spending extra time working on things before, but not to this extent.”