Eagles ready to crash through Wave

The Marquette women's basketball program can sympathize with the Tulane Green Wave and the struggles they've encountered this season on the way to posting only three wins in Conference USA play.

Last year the Golden Eagles' coaching staff implemented a new offense with four perimeter players and one post player after using a three-out-two system in attack for six years. This year the Green Wave, Marquette's opponent at 3 p.m. today in the opening round of the C-USA Tournament, also switched things up on offense.

"They've always had a very dominant inside presence — sometimes one, but often two post players," said Marquette assistant coach Michelle Nason. "They have Lakethia Hampton this season, but they don't have a really big 6-foot-4 player like they've had in the past."

Tulane head coach "Lisa Stockton has decided to run a more guard-orientated offense," Nason said. "They're going through a transition period and that can take a year."

The Golden Eagles, ranked fifth in the tournament, are proof of that.

After finishing 16-14 and advancing to the second round of the WNIT last season, the Golden Eagles are 19-8 overall, 9-5 against C-USA opponents and hoping a strong weekend can propel them back to the NCAA tournament.

After making the tournament during each of Terri Mitchell's first four years as head coach at Marquette, the team has not advanced to the round of 64 since the 1999-2000 season.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Nason said. "If we get past (Tulane) we'll be sitting in a good position. Without question, 20 wins is a big thing, but realistically we'll probably need to win on Thursday and Friday to make the NCAA tournament."

Playing on Friday would mean the rubber game of the season series against fourth-seeded DePaul, but the Golden Eagles know they can't look past the twelfth-ranked Green Wave.

"There will be an upset in the tournament, there always has been," Nason said. "I'm not worried though; we respect them and their tradition too much."

The Green Wave won the C-USA Tournament in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Last season they finished in second place. Coming into the season, Stockton was 204-75 in her nine years at Tulane.

One of the hallmarks of her success has been her team's ability to play tenacious defense. That still remains the case even during the team's off year.

"They change up their defense from man to zone," Nason said. "They also trap and press. We need to be on our toes and recognize that. We also need to handle pressure in the half and full court.

"They've been a traditional power by getting after teams and forcing them into turnovers."

The other strength for the Green Wave this season has been the play of Hampton. The 6-0 junior forward averages 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, both team highs.

Tulane's second-leading scorer, senior guard Kelly Nadeau, has added 9.8 points per game on the 2003-'04 campaign. She also leads the team in assists with 83 and 3-pointers made with 47.