Tulane will head into its WNIT game against Texas-Arlington on Thursday having gone 12 days since its previous game, which took place in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
After losing seven of its final eight games, coach Lisa Stockton said the Green Wave (16-14) needed that break. Last year, the Green Wave reached the third round of the WNIT. However, Stockton said she just wants this year’s group to have fun.
“I just want us to have a good time, to play and not feel the pressure and enjoy the moment,” Stockton said. “Part of it has to be enjoying our experience.”
Backup center Ksenjia Madzarevic said it feels like the Wave is starting a new season.
“We had lost a lot of close games down the stretch, and it does get you down,” she said. “But, we started back practicing the Monday after our last game (March 4), and it just feels like a fresh start.”
Texas-Arlington is making a quick return trip to New Orleans. The Mavericks participated in the Sun Belt Conference tournament at UNO last week and were outsted by eventual champion Troy in Saturday’s semifinals.
They have enough in their arsenal to make this trip more successful, starting with 6-foot-5 junior center Rebekah VanDijk. VanDijk scored 11 points in the lopsided 88-59 loss to Troy. However, she entered the tournament coming off a final week in which in two games she scored 40 points on 64.3 percent shooting with 23 rebounds.
“She can score, she can rebound, and what makes her really good is she can pass,” Stockton said.
Harlyn Wyatt, 6-2, will start at center. However, at 6-5, Madzarevic is expected to get plenty of playing time. One bright spot for the Wave during the difficult stretch had been Madzarevic playing with more confidence and contributing more offensively.
“I’ve been able to do more of what I do in practice more consistently,” said Madzarevic, a sophomore. “I’ve gotten better, certainly from last season.
“(VanDijk) is strong and gets deep into the post, where she can score. We have to play good defense against her without fouling. And, when you double-team her, she passes out of it for 3-pointers.”
Although Texas-Arlington’s offense starts with VanDijk, Stockton said, that’s not the only way they shoot 3s. They are second in the conference in that department.
“They press a lot and try to get you to turn the ball over, and they make 3-pointers in transition,” Stockton said. “Rebouding is important, because we don’t want to give them any second shots, but we have to take care of the ball against the press, which we’ve proven we can do.”
The Mavericks start four guards along with VanDijk. Against big and rugged Troy, that had them vunerable on the boards. The Trojans pounded UTA 64-30 in rebounds, including 24-7 on offensive rebounds.
“We go over rebounding a lot,” Madzarevic said. “It would just be really nice to get a win.”