UConn Tulane Basketball

Tulane guard Tene Thompson blocks out Connecticut guard/forward Napheesa Collier during a game last season in New Orleans.

Small forward Tene Thompson was smiling during a fast break at Tulane women's basketball practice this week.

Not lost in the moment is that Thompson, who mostly played power forward last season out of necessity, is a player in transition.

“Playing small forward is what I'm used to from high school,” said Thompson, a 5-foot-11 junior from Powder Springs, Georgia, and a Green Wave starter for the first time. “I'm enjoying it, and I feel I'm getting better every game.”

Transition will be a key for the Wave (2-2) against Iowa State (2-1) on Friday in the Junkanoo Jam tournament in Bimini, Bahamas. The Cyclones are among of the toughest teams Tulane will face this season.

The Wave will need its running shoes to win. It will be important that the defense and rebounding they had in their victory Nov. 17 against Vanderbilt carries over to this game, coach Lisa Stockton said.

The play of Thompson is expected to be a key. Iowa State is known for taking a lot of 3-point shots. Guard Bridget Carleton, a 6-foot-1 junior, leads the Cyclones in scoring at 17.7 points per game and 3-point shooting (54.5 percent) and is shooting 47.5 percent overall. She was first-team all-conference last year and is on the Cheryl Miller Award watch list.

“It's easier for me guarding bigger perimeter players because I don't have to worry about getting crossed over (on the dribble),” Thompson said. “Iowa State shoots quickly. We have to be there on the catch and have our hands up.”

Thompson's length and quickness on defense and her rebounding have helped get the fast break going. She has played better with each game. In the third game of the season against Southern Miss, she scored 12 points — two off her career high — and tied for the lead with seven rebounds.

Against Vanderbilt, she had a team-high eight rebounds, and three teammates had seven.

“Coach Stockton has been stressing that every position on our team has to rebound,” Thompson said. “I like rebounding from a guard position. Playing power forward, you have to push and body people out of the way. But coming in from the wing, often they're not boxing out or it's easier to get (long) rebounds. You can also get offensive rebounds.”

Stockton said Tulane is finding its offensive identity. The Wave has the look of a quicker, deeper team, which lends itself to a fast pace.

The winner of Tulane-Iowa State will play the Central Michigan-San Diego State winner for the championship on Saturday.

Central Michigan also beat Vanderbilt 92-75. The Chippewas were picked to repeat as Mid-American Conference champions.