Feb. 6, 2006
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
Behind a total team effort, the Lady Tiger basketball team notched its first league win of the season and snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 71-66 win at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, Monday. The nip-and-tuck game featured 16 lead changes and no lead bigger than eight before the final 10 seconds of the game.
"I thought that we got the rebounds and played defense down the stretch and that was the difference in this game," Head Coach Blair Savage said. "UTEP did a smart thing and went with a box and one on Devin trying to keep her from scoring and that flustered us for a bit because that was the first time we had seen that this year. But we recovered and got into the flow and I think we had our best offensive series of the year when (Megan) Gooch hit that jumper in the lane."
The game started with Memphis being the aggressor, out-rebounding UTEP 19-13, behind eight first half rebounds from center Jamie Bradley. But UTEP's 3-2 zone on the defensive end kept Memphis from getting any offensive run going and when Jonna Launiainen hit a half court shot at the buzzer, Memphis took just its second lead of the season into the locker room, 34-29.
But UTEP adjusted to Memphis driving the lane and either kicking out to open shooters or drawing fouls and started the half on a 5-2 run that pulled the Miners to 36-33 with 18:12 to play. Memphis would pull back away off a Necaise three, but then UTEP went inside to 6-5 Izabela Piekarska, who scored all 12 of her points in the second half, primarily by catching the lob and turning around and shooting over smaller Lady Tiger players.
"She (Piekarska) is a great player," Lady Tiger guard Tamika Butler said. "She scored some big buckets for them, but at the end, I thought our post players, Gooch, Sherika (Montgomery) and JB (Jamie Bradley) did a good job with our post defense on her."
Piekarska would hit the first of a pair of free-throws to pull UTEP into its first tie of the second half at 42-42, and when she hit a jumper at 10:59, she gave the Miners their first lead of the half, 44-42. But senior Jamie Bradley would go to the line for Memphis and hit both free-throws to knot the game again. The two teams would trade the lead eight times in the next four minutes, with Launiainen nailing a three to put UTEP up 57-56 with 3:47 remaining in the game. But Tamika Butler drove and drew a foul on the Lady Tigers' offensive end, stepping to the line and hitting both free-throws to knot and then break a tie and put Memphis up 58-57. On the ensuing Lady Tiger possession, Devin Necaise's defender fell down, leaving her wide open at the top of the arc, where she hit a three to put Memphis up 61-57 with 2:52 remaining in the game.
But UTEP would fight back as Launiainen again got lose on the wing and knocked down a three of her own, pulling UTEP back within one at 61-60. Memphis came down the court, and worked the ball out to a wide open Tamika Butler, who knocked down the three and gave Memphis a four-point cushion again, 64-60. But UTEP hurried back and when Ana Valtierra missed a lay-up, Megan Gooch was whistled for a foul on Piekarska while trying to box her out for a rebound. Piekarska stepped to the line and made both free-throws, for 64-62 with 1:55 remaining.
Despite the continued responses to their buckets, Memphis still did not panic and when Butler hit a floater in the lane as the shot clock expired, she again put Memphis up by four, 66-62, with 1:28 remaining. Following a timeout, UTEP again went back inside to Piekarska who hit a shot from the paint to again threaten at 68-64. But Gooch made up for her foul call on Piekarska by getting loose in the UTEP defense in the paint and hitting a jumper from just inside the free-throw line to secure a Lady Tiger victory.
"I always think we can win, but playing with the team I played with tonight, this is what we have been capable of all year," Devin Necaise said. "Everyone played their role and showed a lot of character tonight."
All eight Lady Tigers scored, with Necaise leading the team with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-7 from three-point range. Paris Leonard added 18 off the bench, snapping her shooting drought with a 5-for-10 shooting performance, while Butler added her second double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 assists. Jamie Bradley finished with nine rebounds, eight in the first half, while Ashley Howard added eight rebounds and six points.
Kasia Krezel and Launiainen led UTEP with 13 points apiece, while Whitney Thornton and Izabele Piekarska each added 12. Piekarska also added seven rebounds and three blocks, while Thornton added 11 rebounds for the double-double.
Memphis will now embark on a four-game C-USA road trip, starting Friday at East Carolina. The Lady Tigers will stay on the East Coast and will play at Marshall, Sunday, at 4:30 p.m. (ET). That game will be televised on CSTV. ECU will be returning home following a 73-65 road loss at Rice, while Marshall is coming back following a 57-50 win at Houston.