Playing in its seventh NCAA Tournament, MSU advanced to the second round for a sixth-straight time. However, it was the first NCAA Tournament win for third-year head coach Vic Schaefer.
MSU knocked off Tulane in the postseason for a second-straight year, as the Bulldogs got the better of a meeting in the 2014 WNIT.
“[That was a] heck of a basketball game,” Schaefer said. “Hats off to Tulane. They really competed like I knew they would. [Tulane head coach] Lisa [Stockton] and her staff do a tremendous job. Those kids play extremely hard. Their point guard [Jamie Kaplan] does a good job and does what she is supposed to do. [Tiffany] Dale played really well today.
“We knew we were going to be in a dogfight with the 12-5. Don’t think it wasn’t on my mind ever since last night with everything that happened on the men’s side. Glad to see our kids respond. We didn’t play very good. Give Tulane credit, they had a lot to do with it, but we didn’t play very good, and it’s good to know you can win an NCAA Tournament game knowing you didn’t go out there and play your best.”
After both teams struggled offensively in the first half, MSU found its separation where it does most nights – on the defensive end.
Tulane (22-11) scored the first seven points of the second half to grab a 29-27 lead with 15:46 left in the contest. Breanna Richardson then scored on back-to-back possessions to give MSU the lead for good at 31-29. Tulane hit two free throws to pull within 33-31 but did not score again for better than seven minutes.
MSU held Tulane without a point during three different stretches of five minutes or more in the contest.
“The start of the second half they really stuck it right to us and went up two on a 7-0 run. After we went to the media timeout, they went 10 minutes and scored two points,” Schaefer said. “I wrote it on the board and showed it to them. I just felt like we had gotten out-toughed, out-played and really just weren’t locked in. I thought we really responded at that moment. From there, I thought we really played well and executed well.
“I’m really proud of them. I’m really proud of Bre [Richardson]. We’re just not very good unless her and Ketara [Chapel] can really add something, and I thought Ketara came in the first half and was good for us, but Bre was really good the second half,” Schaefer said. “After that timeout, she got to the rim, she didn’t settle and she got some big rebounds, both offensively and defensively. And even the ones she didn’t get, she was involved in. But again, I just wrote it on the board. Sometimes kids just need to see that. It wasn’t any X’s and O’s, it was just ‘7-0 run, out-toughed, out-physicaled.’”
Again, Richardson did the damage during the run starting it with a basket and following with an old-fashioned 3-point play. Morgan William also provided a spark during the run. William hit a 3-pointer before back-to-back baskets by Dominique Dillingham and Richardson capped the run.
“Coach said we got out-toughed and out-played, and that we weren’t playing aggressively enough. We needed some juice, so I had to get it started in some type of way,” Richardson said. “Basically every time somebody shot it was going to the back side, so I was able to get a bunch of simple put-backs to get it started.”
Richardson finished with her third double-double of the season with a team-high 15 points and game-high 12 rebounds. William added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, including a 9-for-11 night at the free throw line. The damage done inside by Richardson helped offset early foul trouble for teammate Martha Alwal, who was celebrating her 22nd birthday.
Alwal finished with four points, five rebounds and six blocked shots.
MSU built an early 10-5 lead on back-to-baskets by Richardson. Tulane bounced back with six straight points for an 11-10 lead. A 3-pointer by Victoria Vivians started a 7-0 run, helping give MSU a 19-13 lead with 6:23 left in the half.
Tulane closed within one before MSU eased back to a six-point advantage at 24-18. Despite shooting 28.6 percent from the field in the first half, MSU held a 27-22 lead at the intermission.
Things remained tight until MSU blew the contest open with its decisive game-changing run. The Bulldogs are now 9-0 when holding an opponent to less than 30 percent shooting from the field.
For the contest, MSU hit 20 of 56 shots from the field (35.7 percent), 2 of 11 shots from 3-point range (18.2 percent) and 15 of 21 shots from the free throw line (71.4 percent). Tulane hit 13 of 47 shots from the field (27.7 percent), 5 of 18 shots from 3-point range (27.8 percent) and 16 of 25 shots from the free throw line (64.0 percent).
MSU held a 43-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 16 turnovers, while the Green Wave had 10 assists and 20 turnovers.
Tulane received a game-high 17 points from Kolby Morgan.