When Tulane plays at Georgia Tech on Monday night in the second round of the WNIT, it will be a trip home to Atlanta for backup center Harlyn Wyatt.
Wyatt, however, says this is a business trip. Tulane’s season is on the line against the Yellow Jackets (20-12, 8-8 Atlantic Coast Conference), a formidable opponent playing at home.
“When I was in high school, I never played pickup basketball against any of their players, but I went to a lot of their games,” said Wyatt, who join forwards Meredith Schulte and Tene Thompson as Green Wave freshmen from Georgia. “Georgia Tech is very good team, and the ACC isn’t easy. We’re going to have to be ready from the start.”
Wyatt has played a big role as the primary big player off the bench. In Tulane’s 53-52 first-round win against Alabama on Wednesday, starting center Chinwe Duru picked up her fourth foul in the fourth quarter. Wyatt’s physical defense near the rim and rebounding helped the Wave (22-11) hold on.
That type of play by Wyatt, 6-feet-3, undoubtedly will be needed in helping Duru and power forward Tierra Jones against Georgia Tech’s frontcourt pair of Katarina Vuckovic, 6-3, and Roddreka Rogers, a 6-foot senior. Rogers had 15 points and 15 rebounds in a first-round win against Mercer.
The Yellow Jackets outrebounded the Racers 50-32, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds. Georgia Tech is fourth in the conference in offensive rebounds at 15.1 per game. A big key to the game is Tulane can’t get dominated on the offensive boards.
“(Rogers) is very strong, physical and active,” Wyatt said. “And they are very aggressive. I’d say rebounding will be the most important thing if we are to win the game.”
Tulane also will face a challenge defensively trying to slow Georgia Tech guard Aaliyah Whiteside, the ACC’s leading scorer at 19.4 points a game. Whiteside, 6 0, made the conference’s all-tournament team after averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games.
The Wave has been effective with its 1-2-2 and 2-1-2 traps on the perimeter, and that could help keep the ball out of Whiteside’s hands some.
“Whiteside is an incredible player and a great athlete,” Wave coach Lisa Stockton said. “She’s leading a great conference in scoring, so you’re not going to hold her to a low percentage. We’ll have to have different players step up (offensively) and balance her out.”
Against Alabama, leading scorer Kolby Morgan was the only Wave player in double figures, scoring a game-high 19.
“For us, offensively, we’re going to have to get back in gear to where we’re shooting the ball pretty well, a lot better than we did against Alabama (30.9 percent),” Stockton said. “You’re just not going to beat a team of that quality with one scorer.”