Tulane weathers scare from Memphis

NEW ORLEANS — The Tulane women survived a scare Sunday, and the Green Wave did it without its leading scorer.

With sophomore Whitney Bibbins, a former U-High star, on the bench because of illness, Tulane saw an 11-point, second-half lead erased by the Memphis Tigers’ 13-2 run with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.

But unlike its previous home game, the Wave didn’t fold, going on a 22-11 run of its own and eventually salting away a 72-62 Conference USA women’s basketball victory at Devlin Fieldhouse, Tulane’s first home league win of the season.

“We’re always intense teammates,” said Tulane sophomore guard Danielle Blagg, who started in Bibbins’ absence. “We have a great, supportive system. Runs are going to happen in games, but we just have to stay together.”

The Wave (14-3, 3-1) has put together a three-game winning streak after dropping its C-USA opener to SMU at home Jan. 10.

The victories have gradually boosted Tulane’s morale, even as illness moves its way through the roster, with Bibbins — who leads the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game — the latest victim.

Helping to lift the Wave’s spirits Sunday was its balanced scoring. Four Wave players reached double figures, led by sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan with 14 points. Blagg and sophomore forward Tiffany Dale each scored 12, while senior guard Olivia Grayson contributed 11.

Grayson and Blagg each had nine rebounds. Grayson also had seven assists, three blocks and two steals.

The Tigers (11-7, 2-2) were led by Nicole Dickson, who scored 31 points.

But Tulane coach Lisa Stockton was just fine with Dickson amassing so many points; no other Tiger scored more than seven.

“I’d rather have one player with 30 than four players with 12,” Stockton said. “We played a zone pretty much the whole game, and we felt like she alone couldn’t beat us.”

On the other side was Blagg, who made the most of her first start of the season by going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Such sharpshooting was key for the Wave, who shot 27.3 percent in the first half but bounced back to shoot 53.6 percent in the second half.

It was all part of a balanced team for Tulane, which kept its wits when the Tigers threatened to take the game over.

“When (opponents) go on a run, you have to keep your composure,” Grayson said. “That’s what you really have to focus on.”

The Wave has a week off before hosting East Carolina on Sunday. Stockton said it will be a much-needed rest to get Bibbins healthy and get ready for the rest of its conference schedule after what she felt was one of her team’s best performances of the season Sunday.

“I felt like it was our best effort of the year,” she said. “We played for the full 40 minutes. We were doing the right things.”