Tigers Eliminated From C-USA Tournament Field By Inside Game of ECU, 73-66
March 9, 2010
TULSA, Okla. - - The University of Memphis (17-13) women's basketball team had no answers inside for the East Carolina (22-9) in a 73-66 loss in the second quarterfinal in the GMC Sierra 2010 Conference USA Championships Tuesday afternoon.
"First of all, I just want to say that I am happy about the strides that all the Memphis players have made this year, " Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said. "East Carolina is a very good basketball team. They score a lot of points and that's challenging to a lot of teams. They did a great job of isolating our post play, keeping key shooters in the game and making us choose how we were going to play them. They were outstanding in their execution. We fought back, kept the pressure on, were able to get some offensive rebounds and in transition and got ourselves back in the game. Hats are off to East Carolina because they were outstanding today."
The Pirates build a 37-32 first half by lead pounding the ball inside, outscoring Memphis 20-6 in the paint and getting five different Tigers in foul trouble with a pair of fouls (Chatia Kelsey, Alex Winchell, Savannah Ellis, Brittany Carter and Nicole Dickson). Memphis was in danger of going down by 10 helping in to the break after Ramses Lonlack was helped off the court after a loose ball scrum resulted in an ECU player diving non top of Lonlack to try to tie up a ball. With the All-Defensive Team member out of the game, Memphis gave up another easy look inside, then set up All-Freshman Team honoree Nicole Dickson for a last second three to pull Memphis closer, just five down.
After pounding the ball inside for most of the first half, ECU then went to work outside to open the second half, hitting a three and two quick buckets in transition to push the lead open at 44-34, forcing a Memphis timeout.
After regrouping at the timeout, Memphis came out and got back to back layups from C-USA Newcomer of the Year Brittany Carter to start a 9-0 Tiger run that trimmed the ECU lead to 44-43 after Carter knocked down and an-one attempt following a layup.
But with dangerous shooters all over the ECU roster, freshman Kelly Smith stuck a triple and Jean Best converted a high post feed to make the ECU lead six at 49-43 with 13:13 to play.
Nicole Dickson then hit the second of two free-throw attempts to start another Memphis run, 7-1, that pushed the Tigers in front after Dickson hit a three with 10:52 to play for a 51-50 Tiger lead. Memphis then used a series of offensive rebounds to keep the ball on the Tiger end of the floor, and slowly built the lead to 55-50 with 8:11 to play. ECU would trim that lead to one at 55-54 following another combination of buckets from Kelly Smith and Best. But Carter knocked down one free-throw, and Ramses Lonlack knocked down one of two free-throws to help build the lead back to five at 59-54 with 6:51 to play. But then Kim Gay, the player who hit a three at the buzzer for an ECU win over Memphis just over a week ago struck again, knocking down a three to start 7-1 Pirate run powerd by the high-low game and Best. Following Gay's bucket, Best scored five unanswered points to push ECU back in front 63-60, with her Tiger defender, Savannah Ellis, on the bench with her fourth personal foul.
By the time Memphis could get Ellis back in the game to deny the high-low offense, the momentum had permanently shifted ECU's way. Brittany Carter hit a jumper to pull the Tigers back within one at 63-62 with 4:07 to go, but Memphis could never get comfortable in its offense from there, as ECU switched to a zone defense late that stagnated the Tigers' offense.
ECU used 6-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line down the stretch from sophomore guard Ashley Clarke and back up guard Celeste Stewart to seal the 73-66 victory.
With the win, ECU advances to the semifinals, where they will face top seeded Tulane, Wednesday.
Memphis returns home to await its fate at the hands of the WNIT selection committee. The WNIT field will be announced Monday night after the NCAA Selection Show is complete.
Carter led Memphis with 29 points in 29 minutes of play, adding five rebounds, two assists and a steal while shooting 8-for-13 from the free-throw line. Dickson was Memphis' only other double-digit scorer, finishing with 11 points and two offensive rebounds. LaToya Bullard added nine points and seven assists in 37 minutes of play in her first game back after missing three games with an elbow injury.
ECU was led by Best's double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kelly Smith added 10 points and six other Pirates scored five or more points in the win. ECU got 32 points off its bench, while the Tiger bench scored just four points, all coming from Starkitsha Luellen-Higgins, who was playing in her first game in three weeks since suffering a concussion in practice.