Slow Second Half Start Costs Memphis in 81-72 Loss to FIU
Dec. 4, 2009
MIAMI - Memphis shot 47.7 percent for the game, and led at the half, but came out and hit just two field goals in the first 9:05 of the second half in an 81-72 loss at Florida International, Friday night.
"We maybe didn't get it done in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but we competed hard, we played hard every minute of the game.," Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said. "We weren't perfect, we made some mistakes in the first 10 minutes, but we never died and we never put out heads down against a good FIU team that had some size on the inside.
The Tigers led at the break 41-40, after shooting 47.2 percent in the opening half and using a 7-0 advantage in fast break points to build the lead.
Sophomore guard Brittany Carter scored the Tigers' first two points, but FIU answered with a pair of threes for an early 8-4 lead. Junior guard Alex Winchell, playing in front of a vocal group of her family members, answered with a three of her own, and two Carter buckets and a Nicole Dickson jumper later, the Tigers were in front 13-12 with 15:28 to play.
But FIU possessed a significant size advantage inside, and the Cougars used three blocks inside and some post-to-post passing to start a 12-3 run that pushed the FIU lead to 24-16, forcing a Memphis timeout.
The Tigers, undermanned with a pair of players back home in Memphis due to health issues, stiffened up the defense, drawing a five-second in-bounds call. The Tiger freshmen then started a Memphis 7-0 run, with Dickson knocking down a three and Chatia Kelsey breaking loose for a pair of fast break buckets to put Memphis back in front 28-26 at the under eight minute media timeout.
The game then slowed down, as both teams had worked on the other enough to make defensive adjustments, and Winchell knocked down her third triple of the game to tie the score at 26-26. The junior guard then drove the length of the floor for a layup to give the Tigers a 28-26 lead with 7:11 to play in the half. The two teams would tie up two more times before the Tigers hit the locker room up 41-40 at the half.
The second half had a physical start, with the two teams tying up jump balls three or four different times before the 18 minute mark. While FIU was also starting a little slow, the Tigers had a long cold stretch, hitting just two field goals in the first 9:05 of the game.
While Memphis was cold, FIU point guard Michelle Gonzalez took over, converting seven straight points to push the Panther lead to double digits at 57-45 with 11:55 to play, forcing a Memphis timeout.
The Tigers, who have battled back from first half deficits in three other games this season to take a lead, used a 12-6 run to cut the deficit to 63-57 in the next three minutes, but Fanni Hutlassa snapped the Tiger run with a jumper at 8:38 to push the lead back to eight at 63-55, but Memphis answered with a 7-0 run off a pair of Carter buckets and a Chatia Kelsey layup and steal pulled Memphis within one at 63-62 with 5:34 to play.
The two teams traded threes again to keep FIU up one, but the Tigers had no answer for Gonzalez, who knocked down two of her four threes in the final 2:34 of the game, including a triple at the buzzer that made the final deficit 81-72 in the Panthers favor. Gonzalez scored 13 of her 28 points in the last 2:34 of the game to push FIU to 4-4 on the season and to drop Memphis to 3-4.
"Our problems began on the offensive end of the floor where we were crashing hard to the boards, but we gave up the long out," McFerrin said. "We didn't get their guards contained and they got some easy stuff in transition. But I'm proud of our kids, we had kids out there who never gave up and just kept fighting., but their No. 5 was the difference in the game and she hit some runners were just, `wow'. But there wasn't a kid on our team who didn't fight and work hard tonight. FIU was even bigger than I thought they were. They certainly contested some shots, and we were on someone else's floor tonight, so it was a bit of a battle, but I'm proud of our kids. "
Carter led Memphis with 21 points, while Winchell finished with 16, all in the first half. FIU had four different players in double-digits, including two players with double-digit rebounds, as Elisa Carey finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, including 11 offensive, for FIU.
The Tigers were out-rebounded 45-37 for the game. Ellis and Dickson each had seven rebounds for Memphis, which falls to 1-2 on their season-long four-game road swing. Memphis will wrap the swing Wednesday against another Sun Belt member, South Alabama. That game will be played at 5:05 p.m. in Mobile, Ala. Fans can listen to the Memphis play-by-play of the game at www.gotigersgo.com, beginning at 4:45 p.m.