Wave must maintain strong defense to rival leaders of AAC

Mackenna Barker, Associate Sports Editor

The second showdown of the season between Tulane’s women’s basketball team (16-4, 7-2 American Athletic Conference) and South Florida (16-4, 7-1 AAC) ended even worse for the Green Wave than their first meeting. 

USF defeated Tulane 64-45 Sunday in Orlando, Florida and kept the Wave’s offense at check. Sophomore guard Leslie Vorpahl was the only Wave player to score in the double digits with 12 points. Tulane previously lost to USF 53-40 Jan. 4 at Devlin Fieldhouse.

The Wave’s losses against USF are troubling. The Wave is having a strong debut season in the AAC and has dominated the weaker teams of the conference, like Houston (6-14, 1-8 AAC), which Tulane beat 63-46 Tuesday night. The Green Wave sits behind USF and the defending National Champion, Connecticut. The Wave has yet to face UConn but it is clear that Tulane struggles against more talented opponents.

Besides USF, Western Kentucky and Florida State have also defeated the Wave this season. Western Kentucky and Florida State are currently the No. 12 and No. 16 best offensive scoring teams in the NCAA, respectively. Western Kentucky averages 78.5 points per game and Florida State scores 77.8 points per game.

Tulane was unable to contain these scoring machines, which does not bode well for its Feb. 14 matchup against Connecticut in Hartford, Connecticut. UConn is No. 1 in the nation for scoring, with 90.1 points per game.

Some of Tulane’s struggles against better opponents this season lie in its inability to consistently rebound. In every loss, Tulane has been outsized and thus out-rebounded. USF pulled down 17 more boards than Tulane Tuesday night.

The statistics show that Tulane is generally able to out-rebound the opponents it defeats like a weak Tulsa team (9-10, 4-4 AAC) by 12. 

The Wave’s strengths lie in its overwhelming defense. Tulane ranks No. 17 in the nation defensively, restricting opponents to an average of 54.5 points and 34.9 percent in shooting. Tulane also has the advantage of depth as all 13 players on the roster have played and scored.

Freshman guard Kolby Morgan spearheads the offense with 12.2 points per game followed by senior guard Danielle Blagg with 10.1 per game and sophomore guard Leslie Vorpahl with 8.4. 

Tulane will have to put in its best, most concentrated effort yet to contend with the more powerful opponents of its conference. If it can improve its rebounding and continue to play swarming defense, the Wave will make noise in the AAC tournament and go even further.