Tulane coach Lisa Stockton pointed to two disparities after the Green Wave fell to South Florida 63-53 in the teams' American Athletic Conference game Saturday at Fogelman Area.
South Florida (18-5, 8-2) outrebounded Tulane 51-26 and shot 28 free throws to the Wave's seven in beating Tulane (11-12, 3-7) for the eighth consecutive time. It was Tulane's third consecutive conference loss, after falling at No. 1-ranked UConn and at fourth-place Houston.
Stockton didn't stop there.
"I thought we were really aggressive," she said. "It's really hard to believe as hard as we played we got seven free throws (making six) and they got 28.”
Asked about South Florida's rebounding advantage, including 20 offensive boards to eight for Tulane, as the Bulls seemingly got easy inside position, Stockton said, “A lot of times when you shove, it's really easy to get inside position.”
Nonetheless, Tulane trailed just 49-46 at the 7:37 mark of the fourth quarter after an 8-0 run to start it. Then guard Kolby Morgan stole the ball at the 7:16 mark, but point guard Kayla Manuirirangi was called for traveling while trying to go around a pick.
South Florida went on a 6-2 burst during the next 2:53 to take back control. A 3-pointer by freshman small forward Sierra Cheatham drew the Wave to 55-50 with 3:36 left, but USF forward Tamara Henshaw had a putback at the shot-clock buzzer, and the Bulls made four consecutive free throws for a 61-50 lead with 52.7 seconds left.
Stockton and South Florida coach Jose Fernandez agreed that the Bulls gained a lot of momentum going into halftime when they received four free throws with 23.3 seconds left in the second quarter. Morgan was in position for a defensive rebound when Bulls forward Maria Jespersen clearly pushed Morgan in the back and got the rebound, and a foul was called on Morgan.
After Jespersen made her first free throw, a technical foul was called on Stockton for vehemently protesting the call. Guard Kitija Laksa sank the two techs, then Jespersen made her free second throw. Just like that, a 29-27 USF lead became a 33-27 halftime margin.
South Florida then went on a 7-0 run to start the third on their way to outscoring the Wave 16-6 in the quarter and taking a 49-35 lead into the fourth.
Fernandez said the first-half burst was the key to the game.
“We had our bench kids in there, and they really played good minutes,” he said. “At the start of the third, we came out of the locker room and defended and kept them off the glass.”
Tulane achieved one of its main objectives in getting out to a good start. The Green Wave shot out to a 14-4 lead by making four of its first five shots, including 3 of 3 on 3-point attempts. All of it came on fast breaks, as South Florida made just one of its first six shots. The Wave led 18-13 when the first quarter ended.
However, the Bulls began drawing fouls, mostly on drives by Jespersen and Laksa, who finished a combined 24 of 26 from the line. That enabled physical USF to set its defense.
Stockton said she liked how hard her team competed against one of the conference's top teams, holding a good shooting team to 30.9 percent, including 15.4 percent on 3-point tries.
“We just came off three difficult games, and this was a gut-check for us,” she said. “Except for Connecticut (Feb. 21), the rest of our games are winnable.”