By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
College basketball sometimes is just a crazy game. Sometimes, up is down and down is up. That might be one explanation for what happened Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
The Tulane Green Wave women entered the matinee at UTSA with an 0-4 record in their four American Athletic Conference road games. UTSA came in 4-0 at home in the AAC.
So, what happened? Tulane knocked down 13 three-point baskets, held UTSA to 39 percent shooting and emerged with a 75-64 victory.
Amira Mabry, a Tulane sophomore from Judson High School, led the Green Wave with 15 points. She hit six of eight from the field, including two of three from the three-point arc.
For Mabry, the day was made all the more special given she had fans cheering her on from one section of the West Side seating of UTSA’s home arena.
“It felt like a home game,” Mabry said. “You know, this is the first time that I’ve been able to play in front of my whole family and support system since I’ve been in college, and it just felt really good.”
Guard Marta Golic led five Tulane players with multiple three-point baskets made with four. Mabry, Kaylah Rainey, Chiara Grattini and Kyren Whittington sank two apiece.
Another factor in the outcome turned out to be Tulane’s zone defense and its effect on UTSA’s offense, particularly early in the game.
Struggling to find a rhythm, the Roadrunners shot 4 of 19 from the field and turned it over five times in the first quarter. In the second period, the UTSA shooters did a little better, making 5 of 12 afield. Nevertheless, the offense continued to falter with another five turnovers for a maddening total of 10 in the half.
By that time, Tulane really started get hot from the perimeter. The Green Wave hit six triples in the second period and took a 36-23 lead into intermission.
“I think when we play together and communicate and work together, our zone (defense) is really our man,” Mabry said. “That’s just a big asset that we have.”
For the Roadrunners, a good sign for the program emerged with an announced crowd of 990 turning out on a sunny weekend afternoon in February.
UTSA coach Karen Aston thanked the fans for their support and said she wished her team could have played better.
“It just seemed to be one of those days that we didn’t have our best in us,” she said. “I didn’t think we had a sense of urgency about us, but I think Tulane played really, really well.
“I think sometimes you have to give some credit to your opponent and how they played the game. They shot the ball really, really well and we just didn’t have an answer for them today.”
Center Elyssa Coleman led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Aysia Proctor scored 14 points and Sidney Love 10. UTSA finished with 26 of 66 shooting (for 39.4 percent) and 17 turnovers.
The Green Wave, who shot 55.1 percent for the game, played particularly well in the middle two quarters. They led by 18 at the end of the third period and by as many as 22 in the fourth.
For UTSA (11-10, 5-5 in the American), the loss was a tough way to open the second half of the conference schedule after winning games in the first half against the Charlotte 49ers, the South Florida Bulls and the North Texas Mean Green.
The Roadrunners had beaten North Texas, the leader in the American, in overtime on Wednesday. A victory over Tulane would have elevated them into a six-way tie for fourth place. Instead, they fell back to ninth.
For Tulane (10-11 overall, 3-7 in the American), the victory represented a step forward. Last Sunday, the Wave lost at home to Temple by 18 points for their fourth straight loss. Since then, they have pushed ahead, winning at home against the 49ers on Wednesday and now on the road against the Roadrunners.
Tulane 10-11, 3-7
UTSA 11-10, 5-5
UAB at UTSA, Sunday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m.
UTSA outrebounded Tulane 39-21, including a 22-6 margin on the offensive glass. Coleman was a force on the offensive boards with nine. UTSA finished the game by hitting only six of 22 from the three-point arc. Tulane sank 13 of 28 triples.
Much to the Roadrunners’ chagrin, the Green Wave scored the last eight points of the period and took an 11-10 lead after the game’s first 10 minutes.
Guard Marta Galic sparked the outburst with two threes, one from the top of the arc and the other from deep off the left wing.
Tulane’s zone defense was effective, limiting UTSA to 4 of 19 shooting from the field. The Roadrunners also turned it over five times.
Tulane’s inspired play at the end of the first period carried over into the second. The Green Wave hit eight of 13 from the field and knocked down six of of nine from three-point distance.
In the last three minutes, Tulane made four straight three balls to take a stunning, 36-23 lead on UTSA’s home court.
First, Kyren Whittington dropped back-to-back triples on the Roadrunners. Later, to end the half, Chiara Grattini did the honors with two straight.
All told, Tulane knocked down nine triples in the first half. Defensively, the Green Wave executed a zone defense that held the Roadrunners to nine of 31 shooting for 29 percent.
Even though the Roadrunners started off well, with Kyra White and Proctor making consecutive three-pointers to trim the lead to Wave’s lead to seven, Mabry and Galic answered with consecutive triples of their own to push the lead back to 13.
Later, UTSA constructed a 7-0 run capped by Siena Guttadauro’s corner three. When Guttadauro’s shot found the mark, UTSA was within eight with 4:27 to go. But Tulane promptly went on a 12-2 burst to take a 56-38 lead into the final period. Galic knocked down two threes in the streak.