Tulane women's basketball coach Lisa Stockton went to a new lineup with freshman point guard Erin Gutierrez and senior wing Tatyana Lofton as starters in an effort to get more scoring.
The lineup proved downright defensive and also scrappy, and the Wave slipped past Central Florida 61-59 Wednesday after a steal and two free throws by Gutierrez with 2.8 seconds left at Fogelman Arena.
“I knew they were trying to get the ball back to (point guard Kay Kay Wright), and I just jumped the pass, and then she fouled me,” said Gutierrez, who then ran straight to the free-throw line and began focusing.
A half-court heave by Central Florida's Sydnee McDonald, who had sank three late 3-pointers in tying the score at 59-59, missed the mark.
The Green Wave (15-9, 5-6), which had lost six of its past seven games, ended a three-game American Athletic Conference losing streak and also a three-game home slide. Central Florida (20-4, 9-2), which is second in the AAC, had lost only to No. 5-ranked Connecticut in conference play.
Gutierrez had 10 assists — the most since Leslie Vorpahl in 2017. She also had just two turnovers against the Knights' full-court press., seven points and three steals. Krystal Freeman, playing center in the small-ball lineup, had 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Eight of her rebounds were offensive.
“We were saying on the bench that she was beasting out there,” Stockton said.
Freeman had 12 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, as teammates either drove to the basket or whipped the ball around until the found her.
“They were playing zone, and I have a pretty good game in the middle, so I found my spots,” Freeman said, getting her fourth double-double in five games and her seven of the season.
UCF went into the fourth quarter leding 45-43 on the strength of two late third-quarter possessions in which it scored after getting two offensive rebounds on each possession. The lack of rebounding prowess was Tulane's price for playing a more offensive lineup.
However, for the first time in the game, the Green Wave also outscored the Knights in a quarter, 16-13.
Central Florida led 32-27 at halftime.