Women's Basketball Blog #69 -- Asst. SID Tammy DeGroff

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Good day all,

I spent all day yesterday updating the records section of the media guide and for that project, had to go through every box score from the season to update some single game records. That gave me the idea for this blog, some of the highs from this season. I don't know if I can get a Top 10 list out of it, but let's see.

1. The First Win (at Missouri) and 21 Seconds--
We were 0-2 and were on the road at a Big 12 opponent still looking for a way to sneak in to the win column, and I'd be lying if I thought that mid-way through the first half that we were getting our first win in Columbia. With 2:31 remaining in the opening half, we trailed by 20 and were being badly out-rebounded. But Chatia Kelsey hit  a bucket and one to send the Tigers to the locker room down 17.

Coming out in the second half, the two teams traded a pair of buckets before Alex Winchell drained back-to-back threes, and all of a sudden, a 17-point lead was just 11 with 17:09 to go in the second. That was all the energy Memphis apparently needed, as Brittany Carter then stole a ball and hit a layup to cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since 14:41 in the first half. 

But Missouri held on to the lead for almost the entire second half  before LaToya Bullard gave Memphis its first lead of the day with a steal and jumper with :38 seconds left. Missouri retook the lead off a pair of free-throws eight seconds later before Memphis got the ball to Carter, who drained a jumper from the top left of the key with 13 seconds remaining to put Memphis back in front, 75-74. Missouri called a timeout and set up a shot they got off with two seconds left that hit the bottom of the backboard. Carter tracked down the rebound to help Memphis hang on for its first win.

If you look at the amount of time we actually led in that ENTIRE game, it was a total of 21 seconds. The remaining 39 minutes and 39 seconds, Missouri led and yet we packed up the bus with the W in hand --and then got involved in a little fender bender with a car on the way home (I'll save that for a bottom 10 moments blog later!). 

It was a big win not only because it was the first of what turned out to be 20 wins on the season, but it also gave Coach McFerrin a win at her alma mater. She had down-played that aspect the whole week because after the Indiana and Murray State losses, we were still reeling a little, but it was important, I think, for this team to get her a benchmark win. This bunch was like that, they could get fired up for one another and for their staff. You don't always have that, but this might have been the first sign for me that this group did.

2. The Florida International game -
 Weird to pick a game that we eventually lost as a big point in the season, but we played about as good a game there as I think we played all year. The team was really upset in the locker room after the game, and I knew if they were that upset after a loss that we were close to turning a corner. A team that just shrugs off a loss (in my experience) is about to experience more losses, so seeing this group so emotionally invested was a big turning point. We played so well in that game, we just struggled with two big posts down low and a point guard who literally played the best game of her career that day against us.

This might have also been the most secure game environment we had ever been in. Since the FIU men's basketball program had recently hired Isiah Thomas, they had also adopted NBA security protocol for both men's and women's basketball. We may have had more ushers than fans in the stands when we started the game.

3. Women's Basketball Invitational Semifinal game vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi--
I have a confession about this game. Someone (ahem, maybe me) may have found a newspaper article where the opposing coach said he didn't think our posts could handle the Islanders post players. The alleged someone may have emailed that link right to our coaching staff who may or may not have shared that with the team. The TAMUCC coach focused on the post play match-up, but I didn't think they had seen pressure from guards like we had last year -- I was glad to be right. They had 33 turnovers in the game, 17 of them coming from their three starting guards. Moral of the story -- don't give me the opportunity to find bulletin board material, I'm not afraid to get it to our coaches for them to use it!

4. Winning at UCF/Southern Miss--
When the conference schedule came out, I remember looking at it with Coach McFerrin and seeing that we played our C-USA road opener at the two teams who had appeared in the league finals the previous year and thinking, wow, what a nice start to the road we get from the scheduler.

The UCF game was a game of two very similar teams in both wanting to push the ball. At one point, the official scorer and I had both looked down to record points for one team, and the ball had already gone in on the other end by the time we got the first bucket wrote down. Luckily the PA person had the bucket, or we would have had some missing points for someone.

Taylor Mumphrey had a huge block (and rebound) that I can still hear on a three-point attempt that would have put UCF back up after Brittany Carter had just scored a go-ahead bucket. That ended up being a big win, made even bigger by the overtime win at Southern Miss two days later.

My memory of the USM game was how short their bench was. I think USM dressed seven players, missing Pauline Love, and we just tried to work inside, but the Golden Eagles are always tough on their court and they came back and made it interesting. Had Ramses Lonlack not picked off a cross-court pass as the clock wound down, USM had enough momentum that they were setting up for an attempt at a game-winning three. AQ drove the ball back and took some hard contact as the clock expired. The TV broadcast of that game signed off with Coach helping AQ up off the floor.

5. Brittany's 49-point game--
If it's possible for a 49-point game to be a quiet, Brittany's 49 points in the win over Sacramento State was it. The media set up at the University of Washington tournament was such that I was squished on the last seat on press row right next to Jeff Brightwell, who had the radio call. About the time I realized Brittany had a bunch of little 2's in her column and started doing some math, we were looking at a 30-point game for her (she had 30 in the previous game at Missouri, so I was following a note about back-to-back 30-point performances). Well, Sacramento State somehow just kept fouling her late and she was converting some amazing-looking drives to the basket and hitting and-ones, and all of a sudden, Jeff and I were scrambling in the media guides looking for the last 40-point game. (I've been a women's basketball SID for seven years and I've seen exactly two other 30-point games and I was now seeing back-to-back 30 point games, so it was already pretty impressive at 30 points).  But Brittany kept scoring and after hitting a free-throw and with the win in hand, the staff substituted her out of the game, to a standing ovation from the University of Washington men's basketball players who were in the gym -- by that time, she had 49 points, the most-ever for ANY Memphis basketball player (male or female) and had also set a Conference USA single game record (breaking Cincinnati's Valerie King's mark of 45). It was the quietest history-setting day I've seen!

The downside to it was because it was a neutral game (meaning Washington wasn't playing), the Washington staff didn't have ANY cameras for their jumbo-tron set-up staffed, so the only video footage that exists from this history-making game is on the coach's angle footage (high above the court). How you host a tournament and don't staff both games adequately....well, my bone to pick with them for another day.

6. The Wins vs. Marshall --
You know how in some program's histories there is just that one team that seems to have the other team's number? Well, for a long time, the Thundering Herd had the Tigers' number -- like since they joined the league. We had never beaten Marshall and I'm not gonna lie, I was a little sick of losing to them. I think a lot of Coach Chadwick and his staff, but going 0-fer against him was driving me batty.

In the past, this series had been physical. The first two times we went to Marshall I saw a total of five different players get hurt during the game. A Marshall player broke her wrist trying to lean on one of our post players. When our post player got sick of her leaning on her, she moved and the Marshall player hit the deck and jammed her hand in the floor, breaking her wrist. That same game, Paris Leonard and Jazmyn Green were both carried off the floor on our defensive end of the's been an ugly series. Marshall is not afraid to lay a body on you and if they grab you and hang on (dislocating Jessica Hall's shoulder the next season), so be it.

It's changed a bit in the past couple of years, it's not quite as physical, but Memphis had a history in Huntington of leading at the half and losing the game on a last four or five minute push from the Herd. And again, we had a coach say something in their local paper about having a player that we probably couldn't stop, this time, it was Chantelle Handy, who honestly, is a handful. Handy is a really long player who loved to drive to the rim and would score through contact, and defensively, when you made that adjustment, she'd pull up and hit jumpers from everywhere on the floor -- she had given us fits in the past, but  this year, she picked up three quick (and I mean in the first three minutes of the game quick) fouls and spent the rest of the half on the bench. That was probably the best news of the game for Memphis because we did not shoot well, our starters had just four field goals in the entire first half, and we managed to the half tied despite a being slightly out-rebounded. Alex Winchell had two threes that enabled us to overcome the rebounding and poor-shooting edge for the tie.

Somewhere in a C-USA scouting report, it says if Winchell hits a first three, expect her to shoot another one, because just like at Missouri, Winchell knocked down back-to-back triples and gave Memphis a five-point lead at 35-30 that we spent the rest of the second half trying to hang on to.

And, unfortunately, Handy hadn't found a way to foul out without being on the floor, so Marshall put her back in the game and she scored six straight points to put the Herd back in front with 7:19 to go. I'm pretty positive the thought "well, I've seen this before," may have floated through my mind -- I'm so glad she was a senior this year.  Anyways, we spent the next couple of minutes trading the lead before Brittany Carter scored 10 of our last 14 points of the game to help the Tigers hang on for their first-ever win over the Thundering Herd, 57-50.

I know Coach McFerrin brought it up at the banquet that there were a lot of times this year that Jeff would mention we haven't done this since whenever.....a lot of that was from my notes, but that's that kind of stuff that those of us who have been here for a while, trust me, we enjoyed getting a win over Marshall, finally. That we added another win over Marshall back in the Fieldhouse with just seven players dressed later in the season, well, that was just a big ole' bonus (actually, that Marshall win at home was probably bigger in terms of securing our first round bye, but at the time, winning any game over Marshall was big).

7. Brittany's Block From Behind the Play vs. UCF
Just watch it....all I can say. I've never seen a ball get pinned to the backboard by a player in a women's game before. I actually asked my stat crew if we knew how to input a goal-tending call. You can watch it here on You Tube.

8. Night Before the UAB Game
When we were in Birmingham getting ready to play UAB, our men's team was playing at UAB the night before our game. We rolled in to the hotel just as the men were loading up the bus and heading to the gym, so we went to our dinner and then the team loaded up and went to the game to watch the men's team (we also got to watch the game at Marshall thanks to the schedule-maker! We got booed as we walked in to the gym at Marshall, it was funny). I stayed back at the hotel to work on some post-season stuff I had to get ready for the tournament and to watch the UTEP/Tulane game online.

Had UTEP won the game, we would've taken to the court against UAB with a chance to tie Tulane for first in the league standings. Tulane was going to be the top seed regardless because of their win over us in New Orleans, and early on, it looked like it wasn't even going to be an issue, because Tulane was up easily on UTEP. But it was UTEP's senior day, and I just wasn't sure the Miner seniors were going to go out with a home loss, and sure enough, the Miners whittled the lead to single digits and were threatening to tie up the game. The entire time that was going on, my phone was blowing up. I had texts from the team, who was sitting at the men's game with their heads down looking at their phones watching for score updates from the UTEP game (Coach said it was funny to see the whole group just looking at their phones during the game, she was forwarding texts I sent to her).

I didn't realize until we got to the conference tournament and I was talking with the UTEP SID, but UTEP managed to steal a ball and missed a wide open layup, twice, so Tulane ended up winning the game, 66-64. So, a top 10 moment, but I didn't get to see it, I was just thankful I had unlimited texting!

The Tigers ended up losing at UAB the following night anyways, but we went in to that game without anything to gain and nothing to really lose (our first round bye was locked in), so maybe had UTEP won and there been more on the line, we might have had a different result, would've been fun to find out though!

9. Seattle Trip
Okay, I'm going to put an off-the-court moment (or series of moments) in here, which isn't fair to you really because you couldn't see it, but bear with me.

After our game against Sacramento State, the team stayed and watched a little of the next game (we already knew we were playing Eastern Washington) before leaving to go walk around Pike Place Market while the coaches stayed behind to scout. We had a designated time we were to meet where the bus would pick us up, but because of traffic, the bus wasn't there on time and, getting closer to dusk, it was getting chilly. The team was also getting hungry and wandered up to an area with some restaurants that was out of the breeze a bit. OK, from here, I have to tell you what I saw on video -- a couple of players decided to fake that there were holding a string between them on opposite sides of a sidewalk. Then they proceeded to video the number of people who were stepping over/going around the (invisible) string -- possibly the funniest thing I've seen. Someone asked them if they were doing that as a psychology experiment....they weren't, but you now see what happens when you give this team too much down time :0)  They will find a way to amuse themselves.

I also missed Star Luellen-Higgins' catch in the fish market while I was down waiting for the bus. Pictures do exist out there somewhere though, fish in hand!

10. Win at UTEP
Well, this was a top 10 and a bottom 10 game. We went to UTEP and were coming off a bad loss at Tulane, where the Green Wave wanted to send a message about who was going to win the league (we were tied going in to the game). The UTEP trip is not an easy one (sorry to say for next year). You fly an hour or so to Houston, sit around on a change-over, then fly another couple of hours that seem a lot longer. And then you land in a city where the Tigers have not won in the previous two trips.

Memphis really came out well against UTEP. This could also be the beginning of Uniformgate (another bottom 10 moment for later in the summer blogs). We wore our pink uniforms in support of the Breast Cancer Awareness game we were playing in, and all during pre-game warm-ups, I'm watching UTEP players turn around and look at Alex Winchell, who is the first one out in shooting warm-ups, in her pink NIKE uniform.

We led at the half and were up 33-24 with 17:12 to go in the second half when LaToya Bullard took an outlet pass off a steal from Ramses Lonlack and drove up the court on the right sideline with it. She made a move to cut to the rim and a UTEP player caught up with her from behind. Problem was, the UTEP player was running to where she thought she was going to trap Bullard on the sideline and the two crossed feet and Bullard went down on her elbow. She had to be taken off on a stretcher after a long delay to wait for the ambulance to arrive and with Bullard out of the game, UTEP slowed down the Tiger offense and the UTEP seniors cut what was a nine-point Memphis lead to  four with 10:23 to go. The momentum seemed to be swinging when Taylor Mumphrey hit two big buckets to stave off some of the UTEP energy, but the Miners again cut another Memphis 10-point lead with a three and two quick layups from senior Tamika Williams. The Miners tied the game twice in the final 1:48, as Memphis went from the 9:06 mark to the 2:32 mark without putting a point on the board. But just when UTEP thought they had the Tigers, Brittany Carter converted a bucket to push Memphis back in front. UTEP got another Williams layup to tie the game again at 57-57 with 1:04 to play, but Brittany again had an answer with :26 seconds left in the game.

We certainly saw enough of other team's last minute shot attempts this year (at Missouri, at FIU, vs. Ole Miss, at UCF, at UTEP, vs. East Carolina), and luckily, this one was partially blocked and Ramses Lonlack came up with the loose ball (after possibly fouling the shooter, but you didn't hear that from me) to hold on for the win.

Savannah Ellis was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the game, including 3-for-4 in the second half while the Tigers were trying to hold off the Miners with 6:19 to play.

After the game, we stopped at the hospital with the team on the bus and the girls were going to go in to see LaToya, but due to swine flu patients inside, we had to stay on the bus. But it would have been a short visit, as LaToya got on the bus and sat down up front (she was a little groggy). She turned around and said "good win" and then fell asleep on the ride to the hotel. We missed LaToya during our last three regular season games, but finding a way to win might have been this team's motto this year.

So there's my top 10....I'm sure there's something I forgot, but that was just stuff that came up while I was looking at box scores....what was in your top 10?

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