Lady Tiger Season Comes to End With 80-73 Loss to Marshall
March 2, 2006
Despite a valiant and gutty effort, the Lady Tiger basketball had its season come to an end with a 80-73 loss to Marshall in the opening round of the C-USA Championships, Thursday. The loss ends Memphis' season with a 3-25 overall record and marks the end of the careers of Lady Tiger seniors Tamika Butler and Jamie Bradley.
"I think our players really played with a big heart tonight," Head Coach Blair Savage said. "They really stayed together and you can attribute that to Tamika (Butler) and Devin (Necaise). They did a good job of getting their teammates motivated and showing the character that I've all along told them we had."
Memphis jumped out to an early lead in the contest, going up 9-5 powered by points from Necaise and Butler. Marshall answered back with a 5-0 run to pull within one at 11-10, but then Memphis went on a 7-0 run of their own which was capped with a three from Gresh Gorman to put the Lady Tigers back up 18-10 at the 11:40 mark.
But then Marshall went to the free-throw line, which would be a deciding factor in the third meeting between the two schools, and converted four straight points. The Thundering Herd followed that up with a pair of buckets from Reshundra Smiley, including one of Smiley's four threes on the night, to again threaten the Lady Tiger lead 22-19. But it was a Memphis freshman that answered back, as Sherika Montgomery went to work inside, corralling seven rebounds in the opening half and sticking in four points in an 8-1 Lady Tiger run which stretched the lead to 30-20.
But Smiley would continue her hot hand, knocking down back-to-back threes to pull to 34-30 and after Butler was whistled for a foul on the defensive end, Sikeetha Shepard-Hall hit the bucket and eventually knotted the game at 34 all. The two teams would trade a pair of trips at the free-throw line, heading into the locker room knotted at 36 all.
"I think that first half was the best half of basketball we played all year," Savage said. "But you have to give Marshall's staff credit, they came out in the second half and really started pounding the ball inside. We had great shots in the flow of our offense, but in that second half, we just started hitting the front of the rim and they had fresher legs than we did and got to some balls before we could."
Coming out of the half, Marshall went up early with a pair of free-throws, before Necaise stepped in to draw the charge to snap some Marshall momentum. Butler helped swing the momentum back to the Lady Tigers with a three, followed by a pair of buckets from Megan Gooch and Paris Leonard that put the Lady Tigers back up 44-40 with 15:41 to play.
With Memphis up 49-40, Marshall then started to pitch the ball inside, scoring four quick points in the paint, eventually cutting the Memphis lead to 53-50. Then the Thundering Herd made a number of appearances at the line, as the Lady Tigers were whistled for six fouls in a 2:37 stretch of the second half. By the end of the game, Marshall would have 31 attempts from the free-throw line, compared to 13 for Memphis.
But despite the trips for Marshall, Memphis kept battling, and when Ashley Howard corralled a rebound with three Marshall players behind her under the bucket, she hurried up the court and kicked out to Butler, who knocked down the wide open three to pull the Lady Tigers within three at 65-62 with 3:40 to play. On the defensive end, Gorman then took a charge, but continued Marshall trips to the free-throw line kept Memphis at bay in the 80-73 Thundering Herd victory.
Butler led Memphis with 22 points in her final game as a Lady Tiger, while Necaise added 15. Paris Leonard scored 12 points with five rebounds in her first action in three games.
Marshall was led by Smiley with 30 points, including a 10-for-10 stretch from the free-throw line. Shephard-Hall added 23 points while Crystal Champion scored 13 while battling foul trouble. With the win, Marshall advances to the C-USA Quarterfinals, where they will face No. 4 seed Southern Miss.
-With her four three-point field goals, Tamika Butler caps her career with 137 career threes, good enough for third in school history. She had 50 this season, the 4th best single season mark in Memphis history.
- Gresh Gorman tied a career high with five assists, the second time in three games she had led the team in assists.
- Megan Gooch had a career high three blocks on the night, adding two rebounds and four points in 35 minutes.
- Devin Necaise was 1-for-7 from three-point range while drawing a lot of attention on defense. She finishes the season with 56 threes, tying Kitty Allen for the second-best single season three-point field goals made mark. For her career, Necaise has now knocked down 117 threes.
- Paris Leonard also got in on the three-point action, knocking down two threes, moving her up to the 8th-best single season three-point mark.