Rusty Lady Tigers Fall 78-66 to Belmont
Dec. 14, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
A nine-day break between games haunted Memphis in a sloppy first half in a 78-66 loss to Belmont, Friday night. Memphis, which last played on Dec. 4th, was outscored 26-6 in the paint and gave up 14 points off 10 turnovers to open the game, trailing 41-34 at the break.
"I think we were sluggish to start the game and it showed on the boards," Head Coach Blair Savage-Lansden said. "We gave up 26 points in the paint and 14 second chance points, and you have to give Belmont credit, they came out and played a great game. We knew what it was they did well, we just didn't defend it early and Belmont kept driving to score and we drove to draw a foul and didn't finish."
Belmont took charge right at the jump, as Shaunda Strayhorn opened the game with a three well behind the college three-point line. The score would knot at 5-5 after Alex Winchell answered with a three of her own, but the Bruin combination of Jessica Bobbitt and Brooke Sunday went to work inside, powering a 7-0 run all on their own to put the Bruins ahead 12-5. Memphis would cut that deficit to three off a pair of Jessica Hall free-throws, but an Amber Rockwell three-point field goal started a 9-0 run that pushed the Bruin lead to 23-11 with 10:06 to play. Belmont would keep that lead in double-digits until Jessica Hall hit a three-point field goal and Aroha Jennings hit a pair of free-throws to whittle the deficit to seven, but that was as close as Memphis would get in the opening half, as Belmont took a 41-34 lead to the break.
Brooke Sunday answered an Ashley Thornton layup to start the second half, and from that 19:31 mark until Sunday hit another layup with 11:01 to go, the Bruins would be scoreless from the field, managing to score points at the free-throw line to hold off a surging Memphis team that was feeding off the energy of back-to-back three-point field goals from Alex Winchell.
With Sunday and two other Bruin starters on the bench during that run due to foul trouble, Memphis kept whittling away at the lead, trimming it to one off a Paris Leonard jumper, making it 50-49 with 11:26 to play. But Head Coach Tony Cross got Sunday back in the game, and she immediately answered with a layup to push the lead back to three. Leonard and Sunday then traded another pair of baskets, before Leonard hit her only three of the game, knotting the score at 54-54 with 10:01 to play.
Leonard, who hit nine straight points while helping Memphis claw back from what had been an 11-point second half deficit, added another jumper to push the Memphis lead to four. But each time Belmont had an answer, tying the game for the third time after Bobbitt was fouled while sticking back an offensive rebound. Bobbitt converted the and-one, tying the game at 60-60 with 4:30 left. Memphis came down the court and missed a jumper and a layup and on the other end, Amber Rockwell stuck back a Sunday missed jumper, again drawing a foul on the offensive rebound and converting the free-throw, quickly swinging Belmont back up 63-60 with 3:14 to play. Memphis came down the court and again missed a pair of jumpers, and Kristin Bunch went to the other end and knocked down her only three of the night to power an 8-0 Belmont run that put the game out of reach. Memphis could only foul and try to get off quick threes in the final minute and a half, getting good looks, but getting out-rebounded 4-1 in the final three minutes of the game. Belmont converted 10 of 12 free-throw attempts in the final 1:44 of the game to seal the 78-66 victory, their fifth win in seven games.
Sunday led all players with 19 points, while three other teammates added double-digit points, including a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds for Bobbitt. Strayhorn hit 10-of-10 free-throws to finish with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Amber Rockwell knocked down 8-of-11 attempts from the free-throw line, finishing with 17 points.
Aroha Jennings scored 10 first half points, finishing with 14, while Ashley Thornton and Paris Leonard each added 13 points in the loss. Thornton also added a team-high 14 rebounds for her third double-double of the season and the seventh of her two-year Lady Tiger career. Alex Winchell added 12 points, including four three-point field goals, while Jessica Hall finished with 10 points, all in the first half. Sophomore Latoya Bullard led Memphis with six assists and four steals, adding five rebounds in 23 minutes of play in her first career Lady Tiger game.
"I think we have a lot of positive things that happened in this game," Savage said. "Alex Winchell hit some big shots for us and Aroha Jennings was probably playing as well as she has played since she's come here before she fouled out. When she fouled out, I was worried that we would lose our momentum, but Ashley Thornton stepped up and was more vocal and that filled that void. We had five players in double-digits and held a team that likes to shoot a lot of threes to just three for the game. It's fine to score a bunch of points, but we have to learn to defend too."
Memphis will now hit the road for a three-game swing that opens at Arkansas (10-0), Tuesday. The Lady Tigers will wrap up the trip with a two-game tournament at Florida Gulf Coast University, Thursday and Friday.
Belmont returns to Nashville to finish final exams and will face USF, Tuesday, in the Cancun Caribbean Classic.