Starting power forward Meredith Schulte didn't score in Tulane's home victory against North Carolina State last season. However, Schulte pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, helping the Green Wave to a 41-39 rebounding advantage.
“It was huge,” Green Wave coach Lisa Stockton said. “We were behind most of the game until the fourth quarter. I think we did a good job of just staying in the game with them last year, and rebounding was a big factor.
“I'm challenging our team this year to do the same thing.”
Tulane (4-3) travels to Raleigh, North Carolina, to meet the Wolf Pack (6-2) on Sunday. As it is particularly in games against teams from big conferences, rebounding likely will be a key in this one, too. North Carolina State is averaging 45.5 rebounds per game compared to 32.7 for their opponents.
Schulte also will be needed to help defend against power forward Chelsea Nelson, 6-foot-2, who leads North Carolina State in scoring (15.1) and rebounding 7.9. Nelson is the Wolf Pack's only returning starter but is paired with 6-5 center Akela Maize (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) in the frontcourt.
“I think rebounding will be huge,” said Schulte, a 6-foot junior from Braselton, Georgia. “Their post players are strong. We've got to get a body on everybody and keep them off the boards and not let them get second shots. That's what we did last year.
“And, we've been working on trying to keep the ball out of (Nelson's) her hands and limiting her touches in the paint.”
Before losing 75-67 to South Dakota State on Nov. 24 in the final game of the Puerto Rico Clasico played in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, N.C. State was 6-0 and ranked No. 23 in the USA Today coaches poll. With that loss, the Wolf Pack fell out of the poll then lost its next game 57-53 at Rutgerson Thursday, when it had 22 turnovers and shot just 16-of-28 on free throws.
Tulane schedules such teams in an effort to get ready for tough American Athletic Conference play and to earn a favorable ratings percentage index for postseason consideration.
It will be the seventh game the Wave has played at a neutral site or on the road this season. Tulane is 1-2 in neutral-site, tournament games and 2-1 on the road, beating Maine and McNeese State. However, neutral-site losses by six points to Dayton, picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference, and three points to Iowa State, a Big 12 team that has reached the NCAA tournament 10 of the past 11 seasons, have the Wave thirsting for a good road win.
“It has been frustrating,” Schulte said. “One of the things we're focusing on is coming out with energy. When we don't come out with energy, it's a rough start and a fight the whole way. So, hopefully, we can get on top and have the lead late.”
N.C. State's loss to South Dakota State had a similar ring to its loss to Tulane last year. South Dakota State hung with the Pack on the boards, being outrebounded just 39-36, and made 12 3-pointers to N.C. State's nine. Last season, aside from the rebounding edge, Tulane shot 10-of-23 on 3-point attempts while N.C. State was 8-of-26. The Wave, which drove aggressively to the basket to open up the 3-point opportunities, also made more free throws (13) than the Pack attempted (12, making eight).