Women's Basketball to Wrap up Regular Season With Two-Game Swing
Go Tigers! The Tigers have two conference road games left in the regular season slate.
Go Tigers!
The Tigers have two conference road games left in the regular season slate.
Go Tigers!

Feb. 25, 2009

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Note: The UCF game is being televised by three different channels. Bright House Networks will carry the game live, beginning at 7:05 p.m. (ET). Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) will carry the game on a same-day delay, beginning at 9 p.m. (ET). CBS-C will also carry the game on a same-day delay, beginning at 10 p.m. (ET). CSS is available in Memphis on Channel 6 on cable. CBS-C is available on satellite and digital cable in the Memphis area.

The University of Memphis women's basketball team (11-16, 4-10 C-USA) has just two regular season games remaining to try to improve on its No. 10 seed, and to try to stay ahead of Tulsa, in the C-USA standings. That task gets a bit more difficult following a home loss to Marshall, as the Tigers will now take on UCF, a team that was in the top two in the league before a three-game losing streak dropped the Knights to fifth heading in to the last two regular season games. Following the Thursday game at UCF, the Tigers will then face Southern Miss on Senior Day in Hattiesburg. USM is currently in a three-way tie with SMU and UTEP for the top seed in the conference, and needs wins to stay in the tiebreaker with USM and UTEP. Neither UCF nor Southern Miss has lost a conference home game this year, but the Tigers are 2-0 on the road in their last two games and are hoping to play the role of spoiler to each opponent's perfect home mark.

The Tiger underclassmen have had big weekends as of late. At Tulsa, Shekeira Copeland, Shae Seagraves and Alex Winchell all helped Memphis to a road win. Back at home against East Carolina, Memphis again got a boost from the underclassmen, as Winchell scored a career-high 17 points with a career-high five rebounds in the win over ECU. A pair of Tigers (Ashley Thornton and Shekeira Copeland) added double-doubles, with Copeland's 14 point night matching up with a career-best 14 rebounds.

But the youngsters could not match their performances against Marshall. Winchell came out and led Memphis with 11 points in the first half against Marshall, but the Herd defense held senior guard Paris Leonard to just eight points on the night, her second consecutive single digit scoring outing of the weekend, and a tough ending to her Elma Roane Fieldhouse career. The last time Leonard was held to single digits was against UCF in the regular season finale last year, and in the conference tournament against Tulsa. Leonard was Memphis' fifth-leading scorer last weekend, behind freshman Ramses Lonlack's, who had a career-high 20 points against Marshall, mark of 16.5 ppg and Winchell's 15.5 ppg. Fellow senior Ashley Thornton fared a bit better, with 12.0 ppg last weekend, while Shekeira Copeland used the big night against ECU to average 9.5 ppg. Leonard averaged 8.0 ppg last week, eight under her average, and fell from being the second-leading scorer in the league to being the fifth leading scorer.

Memphis will also look to defend better in the post against UCF than they did in the first meeting. Sophomore center Emma Cannon rang up the Tigers for 34 points and 20 rebounds in the first meeting, grabbing nine offensive rebounds and shooting 12-for-20 from the field. She has not slowed down since then, and is still averaging a double-double of 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. At guard, Chelsie Wiley adds 14.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, and is a prolific three-point shooter, connecting on 56 triples so far this season. At one of the other guard spots, Aisha Patrick quarterbacks an offense with 82 assists on the season against 68 turnovers, adding 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. She also leads UCF with 64 steals.

UCF was tied for first with Southern Miss, when the squad dropped a tough 86-83 overtime game at East Carolina. That started a three-game skid that the youngsters are hoping to snap out of now that they are back home.

Memphis will have to take care of the basketball, as UCF has 9.6 steals a game, and allows just 7.2 steals against them. UCF is +3.0 in the turnover category heading in to Thursday night.

About UCF
The Knights are happily back home following a four-game road swing that saw them go 1-3, falling from tied for first in the league to fifth in the current standings. Back on their home floor, the young Knights are looking to sweep the series meeting with the Tigers, having downed Memphis 85-67 in the first meeting on the strength of 34 points and 20 rebounds from sophomore center Emma Cannon.

The overall series record is knotted a 4-4. Last year, each team on on the other team's home court, with Memphis winning at UCF, 78-68, and UCF returning the favor with a 81-69 win on Memphis' senior night in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.

Thornton Needs 17 More
Senior Ashley Thornton is winding down her Tiger career, and needs 17 more points to hit 1,000 for her career. She has scored 839 points in a Tiger uniform and scored 144 points as a freshman at Birmingham Southern, where she was named to the Big South All-Freshman team before BSC moved to NCAA Division III.

Thornton already ranks in the Memphis career top 10 in rebounds, with 685. She needs just one more rebound to more in to a tie for 8th all-time with former WNBA player LaTonya Johnson (1994-1998), who has 686 career boards.

The team captain has 839 points (9.5/game), 685 rebounds (7.8/game) and 107 steals (1.2/game) heading in to the final week of the regular season.

Winchell Stringing Together Outings
Sophomore point guard Alex Winchell has had a lot on her plate this season. After making the adjustment to college basketball last season, the returning point guard had a new coach and a new system to learn again this year. Then she lost back-court mate LaToya Bullard to back surgery in December. The Tigers moved Tehani Goldsmith from another guard spot to the point, but Goldsmith's asthma has held her out of the line-up in four of the last six games.

In the last three games, Winchell has made sure opposing defenses account for her, hitting double-digit points in three straight games for the first time in her collegiate career. Winchell had a career-high 17 points in the win over East Carolina, shooting 5-for-12 from the field and 2-for-5 from three-point range. Winchell then came on and tried to get her seniors a home send-off victory, scoring 11 of her 14 points in the first half to try to get the Tiger offense on track in the 70-61 loss to Marshall. Winchell knocked down four triples in that game, moving to 40 for the season and 70 for her career.

Through 57 career games, Winchell already ranks as one of Memphis' better three-point shooters, ranking ninth all-time at Memphis, just one behind Lauren Jackson's (1998-2002) mark and two behind former Tiger Raven Rogers' (2001-2005) marks.

Lonlack Has First Career 20-Point Game
Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said she promised her seniors that she would ask the underclassmen to work hard to get them a win in their final home game, and McFerrin's message must have got to freshman Ramses Lonlack. Lonlack was 8-for-10 from the field against Marshall, scoring a career-high 20 points an dadding five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 38 minutes of play. Lonlack, a 21.9 percent shooter from three-point range, was feeling it on Sunday, going a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.

Leonard Stimied in Final Home Weekend
Sometimes the pressure of wrapping up your home career gets too overwhelming. Senior Paris Leonard professes to prefer to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse over home games at FedExForum, but the senior might want to reconsider. In her final three games in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, Leonard was 16-for-53 (30.2 percent).

On the second time through league play, Leonard is finding defenses a little better prepared. In th first 20 games of the year, Leonard shot below 30 percent just two times. She has shot 30 percent or better in just two of the last seven games (Tulane, SMU).

Paris scored just eight points in each of last weekend's games, and committed 11 turnovers with just one steal in her final two home games. That was the first time since the final two games of last season that Leonard has scored single digits in consecutive games.

A Freshman Campaign for All-Defensive Team?
The knock on a lot of college freshmen basketball players is they have not learned to defend yet at the college level. Freshman Ramses Lonlack does not have that next to her name on the scouting reports. The first year player is tied for the team lead with 58 steals and has played 896 minutes on the season, the second-highest total on the team behind senior forward Ashley Thornton.

In fact, Lonlack's 896 minutes this season is already the second-highest total of any Tiger freshman and is just 20 minutes off a new Tiger record for any freshman in the program's 36-year history. The current mark of 916 minutes was set by Ruth Ann Forsythe in 1983-84.

The Tigers' primary defender on the other team's ball-handler, Lonlack has drawn the defensive assignments on UAB's Britney Jones, ECU's Jasmine Young, UTEP's Jareica Hughes and the other point guards in the league.

The Low-Down
Memphis is a team that wants to keep the score low. When the Tigers hold their opponents to 65 points or under, they are 8-1. The Tigers are 3-2 when the opposition scores between 66-70 points, and 0-13 when the opponents' point total is 70 or more points.

Memphis' one loss when holding the opposition under 65 points was a 59-44 loss to Tulane.

Paris at the Point
With Tehani Goldsmith missing four of the last six games, the Tigers have turned to senior Paris Leonard to provide some back-up minutes at the point in order to give Alex Winchell a breather during games.

Leonard responded with 11 assists in four games, including 10 assists over the three games that Goldsmith has missed. Her assist to turnover ratio slid a bit after the Marshall game though, when she had one assist against seven turnovers.

Sophomores Continue Having Career Nights
It was Shae Seagraves with a career night in the win at Tulsa, and it was fellow sophomores Alex Winchell and Shekeira Copeland with career nights against East Carolina. Copeland had her first career double-double, finishing with 14 points, one off her career high and with 14 rebounds, which was a career-high. Winchell scored a career-best 17 points, surpassing the 16 point mark she had already set and tied earlier this season.

Double Up
The Tigers had two players with double-doubles against ECU. Ashley Thornton had her 15th career double-double, while Shekeira Copeland had her first. The last time two Tigers had a double-double in the same game was a non-conference win over Louisiana Tech when Thornton and Savannah Ellis both had double-doubles.

Ellis Battling Foul Issues
Savannah Ellis had stepped up to become a contributing scorer and one of the best rebounders for the Tigers in the games leading up to the past two weekends. But at Tulsa, the Wichita, Kan., native got in foul trouble, resulting in just 14 minutes of playing time. Then against East Carolina, Ellis again picked up two fouls in the first half. With Copeland stepping up so big on the offensive glass, Ellis was able to stay on the bench longer, but still played just 18 minutes.

History repeated itself again on Sunday, when Ellis picked up two first half fouls, finishing with just two points and one rebound in 19 minutes. Ellis had played 20 or more minutes in six straight games heading in to the Tulsa game, but has not made it to the 20-point mark in any of the past three games. Going against two of the conference's best rebounding teams to finish the regular season, the Tigers will need one of their best rebounders on the floor, not on the pine.

Winchell Moves Up on Career Threes List
With her two threes against East Carolina, sophomore Alex Winchell moved to ninth all-time on the Memphis career three-point field goal list. She passed former teammate Jessica Hall's (2004-05, 2007-08) mark of 65 and now needs six more to move to a tie for eighth all-time with Lauren Jackson (1998-2002).

About Our Opponents:
Here is a look at how our non-conference opponents have fared as of late:
Northern Arizona (8-18, 5-8 Big Sky): Lost in overtime, 83-80 to Sacramento State; hosts Weber State, Thursday.
Belmont (16-11, 11-7 A-Sun): Came up short in a 70-61 loss at Mercer; hosts North Florida, Thursday.
Louisiana Tech (16-11, 9-4 WAC): Remains undefeated under interim head coach Theresa Witherspoon following an 89-71 win at Hawaii, plays final home game against Utah State, Saturday.
Ole Miss (16-12, 5-8 SEC): Upended No. 18 Vanderbilt, 71-69; plays regular season finale, Sunday, against LSU.
Ohio (10-15, 5-7 MAC): Defeated Buffalo, 80-77; hosts Kent State, Wednesday.
Wichita State (10-15, 2-12 MVC): Lost seventh-straight game, 75-65, at Missouri State; hosts Southern Illinois, Thursday.
Stephen F. Austin (13-11, 8-4 Southland): Held on for a 63-58 win at Southeastern Louisiana; plays at Texas State, Wednesday.
Arkansas (17-11, 6-7 SEC): Won fifth straight SEC game, 74-69, over Alabama; plays at Auburn, Sunday.
South Alabama (19-9, 10-7 Sun Belt): Got a 63-48 victory over UL Monroe on Senior Night; plays at Troy, Saturday.
Mississippi State (19-8, 6-6 SEC): Lost to then-No. 13 Tennessee, 82-68; hosts South Carolina Thursday in home finale.
UT Arlington (16-9, 10-2 Southland): Defeated Central Arkansas, 98-69; hosts Lamar, Wednesday.
Winthrop (11-13, 5-6 Big South): Watched a 15-point lead slip away in a 65-62 loss to Gardner-Webb; plays regular season road finale at High Point, Saturday.
Tennessee Tech (8-20, 6-11 OVC): Got a 69-53 win over Austin Peay on Senior Night; plays at Jacksonville State, Saturday, looking for the program's 800th victory.



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