Point guard Leslie Vorpahl led the way with a career-high 25 points, and Tulane, playing an opponent it enjoyed phenomenal success against last season, easily won its American Athletic Conference women’s basketball opener Wednesday night at Fogelman Arena.
The Green Wave pulled away in the second quarter and led by 32 points in the third on its way to a 70-48 victory against Houston.
The victory was the seventh in a row for Tulane (10-3) and gave it an 8-0 home record, as it won its AAC opener for second time in its two seasons in the conference.
The Green Wave had beaten Houston (4-8) by an average of 24 points last season in two regular-season games and in the first round of the conference tournament. Houston was picked by the coaches to finish last in the AAC this season, Tulane fifth.
“Especially in the first half, we played with great intensity,” coach Lisa Stockton said. “And, we were on fire. We shot 52 percent in the first half. We took good shots, we shared the ball, so a lot of positives.”
Vorpahl made a career-high five 3-pointers. Power forward Tierra Jones had 12 points and 13 rebounds, her second consecutive game with double-figure rebounds, and guard Kolby Morgan had 12 points.
Houston’s 2-1-2 press seemed to bother the Wave in the first quarter, but the Cougars couldn’t make shots (5-of-16), making it difficult to set up their defense. Tulane made four of its first six shots in getting in front 11-6 on the way to a 17-11 lead at the end of the quarter.
The Green Wave settled in behind its defense in the second quarter in taking total command, 38-16 at halftime. Houston scored its first field goal of the quarter at the eight-minute mark, and didn’t score another until 1:41 before halftime on a jumper in the lane by forward Jessieka Palmer. By that time, the score went from 21-13 to 34-16.
Morgan then came up with steals on consecutive Cougars possessions. The first led to a putback by Courtnie Latham at 1:08 and the second a runner in the lane by Vorpahl with 52 seconds left, and Tulane went into halftime with a 22-point lead.
“They switched from a 2-3 (defense) to a 3-2 and to a man-to-man, and we didn’t make the right reads,” Houston coach Ronald Hughey said.
Tulane outscored Houston 21-5 in the quarter, holding it to 2-of-16 shooting. Vorpahl scored 13 points in the half on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 on 3-point attempts. Jones had nine rebounds.
Just as important, the Cougars were reduced to simple halfcourt man-to-man defense, their aggressive presses called off.
The Green Wave then built a 32-point bulge – 52-20 – by the five-minute mark of the third quarter on 6-of-9 shooting.
Tulane will play at Memphis on Sunday and at East Carolina on Tuesday before returning home to meet Central Florida on Jan. 10.