• January 24, 2022

Confidence and poise give SMU the edge in victory over Tulane

SMU celebrates their victory over Tulane.

DALLAS – Down-to-wire games seem to be par for the course for Southern Methodist University (11-10, 4-4) in conference play this season.

“These close games are going to give me a heart attack,” joked SMU head coach Rhonda Rompola after her team managed to yet again pull out a last minute victory Thursday night with a gripping 77-73 win over Tulane (17-5, 6-3). The two teams have split their season series as the Mustangs lost to Tulane, 62-58, in the conference opener for both squads on January 6 in New Orleans.

During the last home game for SMU, a win over UTEP was decided with less than three seconds on the clock. And last Sunday afternoon at Houston, the Mustangs suffered a defeat in a matchup that was decided in the last 30 seconds to the conference-leading Cougars. Thursday night’s game against Tulane featured 17 ties and 16 lead changes.

SMU’s self-assurance down the stretch and into the last minute of the thrilling win was the key in the triumph.

“Confidence is the key word,” said Rompola of her team’s effort. “We’ve been involved in a lot of close games in this conference. We lost to this team by four. We’re overcoming a really heartbreaking loss against Houston the other day. And so I think for us, one of the keys to this game was to play for 40 minutes. We talked about this before the game. Play for 40 minutes and we’re going to win games. And we did today. In previous games we didn’t finish strong. And today, we finished strong.”

Despite a sparse crowd due to the effects of a winter storm that caused the SMU administration to close the school down for the day and icy roads all around the Dallas-Forth Worth area, Tulane arrived safely to Moody Coliseum.

The first half of the game was a see-saw of scoring in between numerous turnovers and scrappy play for both teams. However, Tulane had the edge in field goal percentage with 38.5 percent (10-26) to SMU’s 28.6 percent (10-35). SMU’s poor shooting percentage was partly due to Tulane’s defensive efforts in the first half. The Green Wave combined for ten steals and accrued 14 points from turnovers in those 20 minutes. Tulane also went to the free throw line more often (10-16) in the first half than SMU (7-7). At the break, Tulane led 31-29.

“It was a tale of two halves,” said Rompola of her team’s turnaround in the second half. Tulane’s Olivia Grayson scored the first basket of the half putting Tulane up 33-29 but then SMU went on an 8-0 run to take a four-point lead. Tulane turned up the defensive pressure and two quick steals and rebounding fueled a run that put them up by eight points at 13:19, the biggest lead of the game. The eight-point spread lasted for only a minute as SMU scrapped their way back into the game to tie it up at 54 with about nine minutes left.

Tulane seemed to have momentum on their side when senior forward Tifanny Aidoo made a three-point shot at 7:36 to give her team a five-point lead. But Aidoo and teammate Lindsey Barnes made a couple of fouls and SMU went to the line, made their free throws and tied the game again.

With approximately a minute to go in the game, SMU had a three-point lead, but a trey by Tulane’s Tiffany Aidoo dashed their hopes of finishing the last 60 seconds without another last-minute scramble to eek out a win. The game was on the verge of overtime twice in the last minute with two ties but with just 4.2 seconds left on the clock, SMU senior Alisha Filmore made an aggressive offensive move to the basket, made her second layup in the last minute for the Mustangs and gave them a two point lead. Sam Mahnesmith sealed the victory by nailing two free throws with two seconds left for the SMU win.

“I’m so proud of Alisha Filmore and the way she turned a corner with her aggressiveness at the end,” said Rompola of the senior’s crucial layups in that last minute. “She made two huge drives.”

For Filmore, revenge was on her mind in getting the win over Tulane.

“I didn’t have a great game against them at their house so I was ready to show them that that wasn’t the Alisha you’re going to see the rest of the year,” said Filmore. “So I was really excited to do that.”

Filmore finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Senior Delisha Wills also had 18 points for the Mustangs.

Tulane was 19-21 from the free throw line in the second half compared to 7 of 10 for Tulane. Overall, SMU was 26-28 at the line.

Tulane coach Lisa Stockton talking to her team during a timeout.

“I really think it came down to free throws,” said Tulane coach Lisa Stockton about the game.

“Tonight, we put them on the free throw line 28 times and they made 26 of them,” she said. “That’s the game. You can look at any other stat. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Although she was pleased with her team’s defensive effort in the first half, it was last the last three or four minutes where she felt they lacked poise.

“We’ve got to execute in those last three or four minutes,” she said. “We’re in control of games until then and we’ve just had a few mistakes that have lost us two overtime games and this one.”

Even though Tulane lost the game, they have had an impressive season.

“We’ve won 17 games so it’s not like we’ve had a bad season,” said Stockton. The Green Wave defeated LSU in Baton Rouge earlier in the season and has six conference victories.

Roshaunda Barnes led Tulane with 20 points. She also had six steals. Danielle Nunn added 19 points and four steals for the Green Wave. Aidoo contributed 11 points.

The Green Wave head back home to New Orleans to face league leader Houston on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. CT.

SMU’s next outing is on the road at Rice on the same day at 2:00 p.m. CT.

Conference USA Standings
Team C-USA Overall
Houston 8 0 17 4
Tulane 6 3 17 5
Memphis 5 3 16 6
Rice 5 3 13 9
SMU 4 4 11 10
Southern Miss 4 4 9 12
UTEP 4 4 12 8
UCF 4 4 11 10
East Carolina 4 4 10 11
UAB 2 6 10 11
Tulsa 1 6 5 10
Marshall 1 7 5 16

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