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Danielle Maddox

Tulane lost against Texas Tech 69-55 on Sunday in the Women’s NIT to end the Wave’s 2011-12 season with a final winning record of 23-11.

While the young team did not advance to the NCAA Tournament this season, the Green Wave has a bright future ahead.

The squad began this season with uncertainty, bringing in seven freshmen who filled several spots to completely change the dynamic of the Wave. Despite early nerves, however, these freshmen took the court with confidence.

Tulane began the season with a four-game winning streak, bringing its season to an early climax by defeating then-No. 20 LSU for the second time in a row in overtime.

“That was definitely the most intense game I have even been in,” freshman forward Danielle Blagg said. “Fogelman Arena, the fans, the last few seconds of overtime – it was an out of this world experience.”

Shot selection and a lack of college experience worked against the Green Wave, but the season was a success overall.

“I’m so proud of this team and I told them so,” Stockton said. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I ever coached a team that achieved’ – and I don’t know if that’s a good word – ‘as much as this group probably should have.’ They’ve got something special.”

Coming in, outside shots were expected to be one of the strengths of this season’s squad. The most pressing matter for the Green Wave, however, was shot selection. Following Tulane’s season opener against Loyola on Nov. 11, Stockton said finding quality shots was something the team needed to work on.

“I think we’re talented,” Stockton said. “Losing as much as we lost, we’ve got some ways to fill those holes. Right now, it’s just us being a little more disciplined and taking better shots. I thought we did some good things, but our shot selection was probably the worst thing we did tonight. We’ve got to do a better job with that.”

The team certainly improved game after game and later in regular season hit two field goal percentage highs of 57.8 percent and 51.1 percent against SMU Feb. 5 and Tulsa Feb. 23, respectively.

Junior guard Olivia Grayson led the squad, which rolled off winning streaks of five and six games. The Green Wave worked out the substitution kinks, and freshmen took initiative, especially 3-point shooter Blagg who was third on the team with 8.4 points per game, right behind Grayson (13.8) and senior center Brett Benzio (9.4).

“When you look at the competitiveness of Danielle Blagg and Jamie Kaplan, and the younger kids like that, they’re winners,” Stockton said.

The Wave hit a slump not long after. The young team did not respond well to the length of the collegiate schedule. The team struggled with defensive errors, exemplified by the Wave’s season-high 30 turnovers against Tulsa Feb. 23.

Following that 72-59 home loss against Tulsa, Benzio said the squad was struggling to focus late in the season.

“Right now, we have a lot of distractions,” Benzio said. “We just had Mardi Gras. We have a lot of freshmen, and it’s a really long season.”

Nonetheless, the team worked together to advance to the Conference USA Championship. The Green Wave lost in the title game to UTEP and finished its season two games into the WNIT. Overall, the young squad surpassed the fans’ expectations and showed promise for next season.

Benzio is the only departing player, and Grayson will take the reins as a senior.

“I’m excited to see the potential we have in this group,” Stockton said. “We have three great young ladies coming in, and Whitney Bibbins is already here. We kind of kept it simple at times this year, but defensively, we did great things. What we can do with our defense and what we can do with our offense is limitless. I told them that they’re going to have a little time off, but we’re going to really get to work.”