With Tulane women's basketball team having gone 14-17 last season, coach Lisa Stockton said this year's freshman class has to contribute for the Green Wave to have a good chance at a winning season.
In a big early season game for the Wave on Thursday at LSU, 5-foot-9 freshman point guard Erin Gutierrez contributed in a big way, getting nine points, four assists and five steals in helping Tulane to a 56-54 win. Tulane will head into Sunday's home game against Washington (2-0) with a 2-0 record and a little momentum.
“It's a huge win for our school and our program,” she said. “We had a chip on our shoulder the whole game. We knew we came in there for one reason, and that was to win. We executed our game plan and got the win.”
Three of Gutierrez's assists came in the decisive third quarter, when Tulane outscored LSU 16-7 in taking a seven-point lead at quarter's end. And, the assists came in the last three minutes of the third quarter and began with Tulane clinging to a one-point lead.
She assisted on consecutive baskets by freshman center Mia Heide and scored a basket in a 6-0 freshman run. Then she found junior guard Kayla Manuirirangi for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter.
It's always said about freshmen that as they get older, the game slows down. Gutierrez was working on that as soon as fall practice began, asking Stockton lots of questions. Stockton said Gutierrez is very analytical.
“Coming into a college program, you have to forget pretty much everything that you've learned before, because this is a totally different system, a totally different style of play,” said Gutierrez, who played at Nova High School in Davie, Florida. “I knew what my job was in the game. Finally understanding things and being able to make the right plays, that's going to carry on for the rest of the season.”
The five steals were the most impressive to Stockton. With Gutierrez, Heide and Dynah Jones, a freshman from John Curtis, appearing able to contribute, Stockton is tinkering with multiple lineups. Tulane is known for changing defenses often to get opponents out of sync.
“(Gutierrez) has very active hands, which is something you can't coach,” Stockton said. “And, she brings a lot of energy, which is what you want off the bench.”
Ball-handling was an issue for the Wave last year, with Manuirirangi and freshman Kaila Anderson being inexperienced. However, Gutierrez's play enables Manuirirangi — one of the team's best shooters — to play off the ball more. It also will enable three ball-handlers to be in games.
“The game is a lot faster; the players a lot quicker,” Gutierrez said. “So, being able to find the gaps in the defense and being able to take open shots with confidence is something I've been working on.
“The special part about this team is that everyone is going to be a threat, and no one is selfish. Taking this moment (after beating LSU) and running with it is going to be a huge part of our upcoming games.”