Tigers to face two Big 10 schools, three 2014 postseason teams and will play two games in Washington, D.C.
Rowser posts third 20-plus point game of her career.
Four Tigers score double-digits, led by 18 from Ariel Hearn.
Memphis wins at UCF, 88-52.
Hearn scores 22 in American Athletic Conference loss.
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As a freshman in during the 2012-13 basketball season, Mooriah Rowser started off strong before being sidelined three game into her rookie season with a serious knee injury. After surgery and almost a year of rehabilitation, Rowser is back on the court donning the Blue and Gray.
Memphis vs. No. 4 Louisville photos by USA TODAY Sports
Memphis women's basketball
Memphis Women's Basketball vs #1 UConn on January 4, 2014 at FedExForum. Photos by Lance Murphey.
USATSPI: Memphis vs. UConn - 01/04/14
Memphis vs. Southern Miss at FedExForum.
Head coach Melissa McFerrin enters 2014-15, her seventh at the helm of the Tigers' program, having set a foundation for her young Tiger team to compete in the American Athletic Conference. Coming in to 2013-14 on the strength of four straight post season tournament appearances, McFerrin put a short roster on the floor for Memphis' first season in the American Athletic Conference. But even with an overabundance of youth on the roster, McFerrin still surpassed her 100th career victory at Memphis, guided the Tigers' to their first win over a top 25 ranked team since 2003 and had three players earn post-season honors from the league office.
The four straight post seasons is a first for the Memphis program since the Tigers made seven straight post season tournament appearances from 1995-96 to the 2000-01 season. In the next seven seasons, Memphis made just one post-season appearance, prompting the Tigers to pursue McFerrin as the new head coach. She was hired at Memphis on April 19, 2008, and immediately began overhauling a program that was 10-20 in 2008, to a team that was 25-8 and advanced to the Conference USA semifinals just four seasons later.
Included in that overhaul has been the Tigers' on campus arena, which underwent a $1.3 million renovation that delivered two new locker rooms, an officials' locker area, a team video room, a renovated player lounge and a coaches' locker room and meeting area. The second phase of the renovation was completed in June of 2013 and includes a brand new weight room and athletic training facility, complete with therapy pools. Also new, thanks to McFerrin's fundraising prowess, are two endzone scoreboards in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, including a video scoreboard on the North end of the building. McFerrin has guided Tigers to eight all-conference honors and 17 post-season awards, including Jasmine Lee's C-USA Player of the Year award (2012), Ramses Lonlack's Defensive Player of the Year honor (2012) and Brittany Carter's three all-conference (2010, 2011, 2012) and one Newcomer of the Year (2010) awards.
After McFerrin took Memphis back to the post season for multiple trips, she was awarded a contract extension that will keep her at the helm of the program through 2016-2017.
The latest Tigers to be recognized in the postseason were Ariel Hearn and freshmen Mooriah Rowser and Breigha Wilder-Cochran. Hearn finished third in the league in scoring with 17.8 ppg and ranked fourth in the American with 2.2 three-point field goals made per game. Rowser and Wilder-Cochran were both named to the all-freshman team. Rowser, coming back off a redshirt season, was third on the team in scoring with 8.1 ppg and Wilder-Cochran became just the third Memphis freshman in school history to dish out 100 or more assists in a season. Wilder-Cochran also ranked 11th in the league in steals per game (1.6) and ranked third with 4.2 assists a night.
McFerrin and her Tigers team had a stiff new challenge facing them at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, as the university joined the American Athletic Conference, joining one of the elite college women's basketball conferences in the country. Suddenly, Memphis was playing home-and-home conference series with some of the best women's basketball teams in the country, including Connecticut and Louisville, USF and Rutgers. Louisville and Rutgers departed the American following the 2013-14 season, but were replaced by some long-time Memphis' opponents - East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, some of the top women's programs out of Conference USA.
"You do have more opportunities to build an RPI when you are playing teams like UConn two times a season, and we are already recruiting players in some of those same areas that The American is in. Part of our current team already hails from Ohio, where we'll return to play Cincinnati each year, and we're also recruiting from markets like Chicago and Washington, D.C."
The challenge has been balancing a tough conference slate with a non-conference slate that will build up the Tigers heading in to league play. McFerrin has upgraded both the talent and the schedule, adding Big 10 and Big 12 opponents to the Memphis schedule and inking consecutive nationally-ranked recruiting classes. She has also added additional home games at FedExForum, the NBA home of the Memphis Grizzlies, making Memphis one of the few women's programs in the country to play multiple home games in an NBA venue. In the summer of 2011, Memphis also took its game out to an international scale, playing four games over a 10-day stretch during a tour of Italy.
Off the court, the Tigers continue to help their student-athletes grow, actively participating with Girls, Incorporated of Memphis and on various community service projects, including the construction of an all-abilities playground, participating in breast cancer awareness and arthritis awareness walks, distributing shoes to children in need, making visits to Memphis-area children's hospitals and talking to various schools and youth groups about the challenges of making healthy choices.
Working in conjunction with the Center for Athletic Academic Services, in six seasons, McFerrin has watched 17 Tigers cross the stage on graduation day.
McFerrin has also sent some of her first Tigers into the realm of a professional basketball career, as Brittany Carter spent the 2013 season in Israel and part of the 2014 season in Latvia. Former teammates Alex Winchell and Paris Leonard also played some professional level ball overseas. Winchell recently returned to Memphis to begin her coaching career, currently serving as the assistant coach at Christian Brothers University.
Prior to her hire at Memphis in 2008, McFerrin was named the 2008 Patriot League Coach of the Year in her fourth season at American University in Washington D.C. Her 2007 American team advanced to the Patriot League championship game and her 2008 squad won the school's first-ever Patriot League regular season championship, finishing with an 18-14 overall record. That team won 11 of 12 games down the stretch, advancing to the post season for the first time since 1997-98 with a WNIT bid. In four seasons at American, McFerrin compiled a 50-70 record and guided five different players to all-conference honors, while two other players earned all-freshman honors.
"I am extremely excited and honored to be a Tiger," McFerrin said. "I know that the University of Memphis is about winning and that is exactly the type of place that I want to be."
Prior to her stint with American, McFerrin was an associate head coach at the University of Minnesota from 2002-2004. She helped Minnesota to a 50-15 record, including an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2004 and a Sweet Sixteen berth in 2003. She signed two recruiting classes ranked in the top 20 at Minnesota, and helped guide two Kodak All-Americans, including WNBA players Lindsey Whalen and Janel McCarville.
McFerrin's time at Minnesota came after a five-year association with the WNBA. She began her affiliation with the WNBA as an assistant coach with the New York Liberty from 1997-1999, assisting with coaching duties for the 1997 WNBA Championship runner-up Liberty squad. She moved to the Washington Mystics as an assistant coach in 1999-2000, taking over as the Mystics' General Manager in 2000. As the GM, she guided a team that made its first-ever WNBA play-off appearance in 2000, and handled all player trades and draft decisions before joining the coaching staff at Minnesota.
Her WNBA stint followed a 14-year coaching career that made three different stops. McFerrin began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Wayland Baptist University in Texas from 1983-84. She was then hired as an assistant coach at Central Michigan University, where she helped the Chippewas to a 95-77 record in her six seasons, including a 1985 Mid-American Conference championship.
She left Central Michigan in 1990 to become an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at The Ohio State University. At Ohio State, she helped the Buckeyes to a 118-90 record and a 1993 Big Ten championship and an NCAA National Championship runner-up. That 1993 squad benefited from a 1992 McFerrin recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation and featured WNBA player and three-time Olympian Katie Smith, one of seven Buckeye recruiting classes to be nationally-ranked under McFerrin's watch at OSU. In 1996, McFerrin helped guide the Buckeyes to the NCAA Second Round before leaving the following season for the WNBA.
A native of Cassville, Mo., McFerrin was a four-year letterwinner and starting point guard for the University of Missouri Tigers from 1979 to 1983. She helped Missouri to a 1983 Big Eight tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth and a 1982 NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance, earning Big Eight honorable mention honors and Scholar-Athlete awards along the way. She graduated cum laude with a degree in secondary education from Missouri in 1983, and received her master's degree in physical education from Central Michigan in 1988.