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Danielle Maddox

Senior Center Brett Benzio played the starring role in Senior Night March 1 in a 71-43 victory against Houston for the Green Wave’s final home game in the women’s basketball 2011-12 season.

Not only did she claim Senior Night as the only departing Tulane player, but she also scored her 1,000th point and grabbed her 1,000th rebound within just two minutes of each other, becoming the second woman and third Tulane player in school history to reach the 1,000 mark in both categories.

In the game’s second half, Tyria Snow passed the ball under the goal. Benzio went up for a layup and scored the record basket despite a blatant foul. The crowd erupted, and her teammates on the bench swung towels over their heads in celebration, hollering above the cheers from the stands. Then, commentator came over and drowned out the noise with the enthusiastic exclamation that Benzio would go down in history.

“On that play, I realized they were going to foul me,” Benzio said. “They’re mauling me, so I’m just going to put the ball up, get to the free-throw line and get my two free throws. When the ball went in, I was speechless. My teammates jumped me, and I can’t even describe the joy I felt at that moment. Nobody can take that away from me.”

Between Benzio’s aggressiveness and the Wave’s conscious effort to pass the ball into the lane, Benzio racked up double figures against the Cougars with 21 points and 10 rebounds, in addition to four blocks.

“My teammates were always there reminding me, ‘Brett, two more … one more’ the whole time,” Benzio said. “It was great to have them support me like that. I’m the only senior, and for the underclassmen to be enjoying it just as much as me – I think they enjoyed my Senior Night as much as I did.”

The following day Benzio was named Conference USA player of the Week, and Tuesday, she claimed Second-Team All-Conference USA to become the fourth Green Wave player to earn a spot on the C-USA All-Defensive Team for women’s basketball.

“Olivia and Brett have both been true leaders on this team both with their performance on the court and their work ethic away from it,” head coach Lisa Stockton said. “I challenged them very early in the year to step up their efforts and lead what is a very young team. With 20 wins already, I think it’s easy to see that they did a great job stepping up to that challenge.”

Benzio took the court this season as the only senior, and she said Stockton helped her take the court with confidence.

“I think I didn’t feel a lot of pressure because Coach Stockton did a really good job about helping me figure it out before [the season] even started,” Benzio said. “She definitely gave me advice the whole way through.”

Benzio gave Stockton credit for helping her become the person and player she has developed through the Tulane program.

“She really tries to develop her players as not only athletes but as people, as well,” Benzio said.

Though Benzio’s career as a player will end with the 2011-12 season, she has no intention of leaving the game behind.

“I just really love the game,” Benzio said. “I’ve played since I was in the fifth grade. I can’t see my life without basketball, and I want to be a coach eventually. There’s more to it than just playing games and all that. You see people grow. Now that I’m seeing the end of my basketball career as a player, I’m not ready to walk away.”

The Green Wave traveled to Memphis, Tenn. to win its first C-USA tourney game 67-51 against East Carolina last night. The team advanced to semifinals and played at 10 a.m. Friday. The championship tournament will conclude 7 p.m. Saturday, and the winning team will receive a guaranteed bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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