Despite Short Bench, Tigers Secure First Round Bye With Marshall Sweep, 62-53
Feb. 25, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - - It took Memphis 11 tries to score its first-ever win against Marshall in women's basketball. It took them just one more to get their second, 62-53, completing a season sweep of their Eastern Division opponents.
With a win in their next-to-last home game of the regular season, Memphis improved to 10-4 in Conference USA, one game behind Tulane for first place. It's the first 10-win C-USA campaign for Memphis since they went 11-5 in 1999-2000. With an ECU (18-9, 7-7) 65-57 loss at UAB, the Tigers can finish no worse than 10-6 in the league standings, meaning they clinched a top-four conference finish and a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament as only SMU (8-6) and Houston (8-6) could catch the Tigers and win the tiebreaker over Memphis.
Despite allowing 24 points in the paint in the first half, Memphis' defense tightened in the second half, allowing just two points in the paint during the final 20 minutes. Marshall, who shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first half, was forced outside in the second where they shot 23.3 percent. After attempting just one three-pointer in the first half, the Thundering Herd launched 18 of them in the second half.
"Of all year, I think our team followed a game plan tonight as well as they ever have and I'm so happy for them," Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said. "When we found out at shoot-around that Savannah was really not feeling well and might not play, it was a bit of a shock to our team, but over the course of the day, we just got them back to where they were really confident. We talked about how we played without Nicole before, how we played without Taylor, we played without (Savannah), played without Brittany, largely because of foul trouble, but some because of injury, we just encouraged all the players to be the best they could be tonight. We wanted four players in double figures and we got that, we wanted the score to be in the 50's, we wanted to take care of the ball and take good shots, and I think we did that. We had some kids make plays though, they absolutely did. Our defense was an absolute sag in and they couldn't find the three point line and that's the game right there."
Part of Marshall's initial strategy to go inside had to do with Memphis missing starting center Savannah Ellis. Ellis, plus senior point guard LaToya Bullard and reserve post Starkitsha Luellen-Higgins, who missed the game for health reasons, limiting Memphis Coach Melissa McFerrin to just seven players, including walk-on Janeta Reeves, at her disposal for the game.
"It was going to be really, really hard for us to give Taylor and Nicole any rest without using Brittany at the four, and then how were we going to get Brittany any rest? We got just enough minutes from Chatia and Janeta to really help us. The pace of the game really helped us too. We sagged in a zone and we could just run out and I thought that helped us," McFerrin said.
Marshall took full advantage of Memphis' lack of depth early, outscoring Memphis 24-6 in the paint during the first half. They also out-rebounded the Tigers 19-12 in the first half. Kendra King would lead the Herd with 11 first-half points after Marshall out-shot Memphis 63.6 percent (14-22) to 35.7 percent (10-28) in the first half. Memphis would come back to out-rebound Marshall 24-18 in the second half.
Memphis scored the first five points in the second half, the final three by Carter, to take a 30-29 lead. Chantelle Handy's 3-pointer gave Marshall back the lead briefly before consecutive baskets by Carter and Nicole Dickson put the score at 34-32 Tigers.
Handy then connected on a three with 14:59 to play. Two Carter baskets sandwiched baskets by Marshall to leave Memphis trailing by one before a Ramses Lonlack free throw tied the game 39-39 with 12:26 to play. Twenty-nine seconds later, Lonlack netted two more free throws to put Memphis back ahead.
Lonlack kept the hot hand for the next two Memphis baskets putting them up by three before Raechelle Gray's 3-pointer again tied the game 45-45.
Memphis then reeled off 11 straight points before Marshall's Angela Harris ended the streak with a free throw. Dickson would start with streak with two before Winchell netted two free throws and a 3-pointer. Then Carter and Dickson would assist Lonlack on consecutive buckets. After Harris' free throw, Dickson banked in a three to extend the run to 14-1 and Memphis' lead to 59-46.
Two 3-pointers by Angelica Harris ignited a 7-0 run by the Herd before Carter finally hit a free throw to put the Tigers up 60-53 with 41.2 seconds left. With 17.3 seconds left, Lonlack hit two more free throws to make the final score 62-53.
Carter finished with her third career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, adding four steals and two assists. Lonlack added 17 points, two steals and seven rebounds, while Alex Winchell scored 14 points with three assists against just one turnover while filling in at the point for an injured Bullard. The primary ball-handling duties didn't slow Winchell down from beyond the arc, as she connected on 3-of-6 tries from beyond the arc and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. Nicole Dickson rounded out the double-digit scorers in her fourth start of the season with 11 points and four rebounds.
Kendra King led Marshall with 11 points, while Chantelle Handy was the only other Marshall player in double digits, with 10 points. Tynikki Crook led Marshall with 10 rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
Memphis returns to C-USA play on Sunday for a 1 p.m. Central Standard Time tipoff against East Carolina at FedExForum. Memphis will be trying to avenge a 76-59 loss at ECU on Jan. 30. The game will be broadcast live on television at CBS-College Sports Network and via radio on FM 91.7 WUMR.