Coming off a victory against methodical Middle Tennessee on Sunday, Tulane's women's basketball team will have to have its running shoes on in the opening game of the Tulane Classic on Thursday.
The Green Wave (6-5) will play at 2:30 pm against Troy (5-4), which employs an up-tempo style and is fifth in the nation in scoring. Until losing 73-57 at Middle Tennessee on Dec. 14, Troy led the nation in scoring at 94.0 points per game.
The Trojans, who have won the Sun Belt Conference tournament the past two years, play an uptempo style in which eight players average at least 16 minutes per game. Coach Chanda Rigby makes multiple-player substitutions, which forces teams to make sure they have the correct matchups.
Samford and Texas-El Paso will play in Thursday's second game at 5 p.m..
“They want to push (the pace), and we want to push them,” Tulane senior reserve guard Cayla Cruickshank said.
Cruickshank comes off the bench with freshman point guard Kaila Anderson to give Tulane what she calls “the fast lineup.” That lineup, which also usually has leading scorer Kolby Morgan, small forward Tene Thompson and power forward Merdith Schulte, is playing longer stretches during games with positive results.
Cruickshank's versatility is a big part of that, Stockton said.
“The first thing with Cayla is that she has amazing energy,” Stockton said. “She's playing within herself now. Having a role that's limited, she probably tried to go in and do too much in the past. Now, she's playing in the system.
“She's coming in an giving us good defense. She's one of our best rebounders from the perimeter. One of the keys to her game is really knowing where her shots are and when to take them.”
Against UNO, she shot 3-of-5 on 3-pointers and finished with 13 points. Two games later against Middle Tennessee, her ballhawking defense made a difference.
“I love being on the floor with Kolby, with (point guard Kayla Manuirirangi),” Cruickshank said. “Kolby will tip the ball away, I'll get the steal, then pass it ahead to Kolby. Then, I'll run straight to the corner for my shot.
“What's really helping us now is that the freshmen and sophomores are coming around, and their confidence is really high. Everybody is contributing, and we're moving the ball, sharing the ball, playing as a team.”
The Wave has not lost in the Tulane Classic since 2007 and has lost just three games total since it began in 1996. Morgan, a senior is averaging 20.9 points per game , needs 13 to pass Carmen Jones (1,876 points) for third on Tulane's career scoring list. Stacey Gaudet (2,080) is second and Grace Daley (2,259) first. Morgan is on pace to pass both.
Morgan also has a chance to become the third Green Wave player to be selected tournament MVP twice, joining Daley (1997 and '98) and Janell Burse ('99 and 2000). Morgan was chosen last season.
If the Wave gets past Troy, it will face the winner of the Samford (6-6) vs. Texas-El Paso (6-3) game. Samford is coming off a 61-56 home win against Southern Mississippi, which beat Tulane 66-58 in Hattiesburg on Nov. 14.
UTEP is coming off a 93-79 win against East Carolina, which like Tulane is a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Miners are led by 6-foot-4 senior center Tamara Seda, who is averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds and is touted as a future WNBA player.