The University of Memphis women's basketball team (1-1) will round out its Preseason WNIT slate on Sunday at Illinois State (1-1). The game can be heard in Memphis on 91.7 FM. Fans outside of Memphis can listen to the audio-only portion of the game with an All-Access subscription (starting at $9.95/month) through www.GoTigersGo.com/AllAccess.
Tigers vs. Illinois State
This is the eighth meeting between Memphis and Illinois State. Memphis leads the overall series, 6-1, but the two teams have not met since the 1979-80 season. Illinois State won that last meeting, 72-58 to snap a six-game winning streak in the Memphis series that had been a yearly meeting dating back to 1974-75.
With the Loss at Middle Tennessee
- Memphis Falls to 1-2 in the Preseason WNIT. The Tigers' only other experience in the Preseason WNIT was in 1995, when they lost 89-81 to Drake.
- Memphis falls to 0-1 in road openers. Memphis is now 2-3 in road openers under Melissa McFerrinin her fifth season. Memphis went 1-3 in true non-conference road games last year, losing at Illinois, Missouri and St. John's and winning at eventual NCAA tournament team UALR. Memphis is 6-12 in true non-conference road games since McFerrin took over the Tigers' schedule and added some new opponents to the schedule. Since McFerrin has taken over, Memphis has road wins at Tennessee Tech (2008-09), Missouri (2009-10), South Alabama (2009-10), Indiana (2010-11), Saint Louis (2010-11) and UALR (2011-12) since the 2008-09 season.
Another Veteran Opponent
Life does not get any better for Memphis with the announcement that the Tigers would be playing Illinois State in the Preseason WNIT Third Round Consolation. The Redbirds have the Missouri Valley Conference Player and Freshman of the Week on their roster coming into the non-conference match-up. Senior guard Jamie Russell started her season with a bang, scoring 20 points against Morehead State in the first round game, then dropping 30 points and tying her career high in the road loss at Iowa in the second round. Russell just missed a triple double in the Iowa game, finishing with 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight steals. Transfer Janae Smith was named the MVC Newcomer of the Week after averaging 12 points and 7.5 rebounds in the two games last week.
The Redbirds sport a roster with five seniors and two juniors for third year head coach Stephanie Glance. Glance guided the Redbirds to the WNIT last season, marking the program's sixth consecutive post-season bid. Glance sports a significant coaching resume, having spent time as an assistant with Pat Summitt at Tennessee (2009-10) after spending 15 years as the associate head coach at North Carolina State working with the late Kay Yow.
Aging the Youngsters
Memphis' run in the Preseason WNIT this year is giving the five-member freshman class plenty of high-level competition to start the season. Against Middle Tennessee, a team that has gone to the NCAA tournament in six of the past seven seasons and which sported the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, the Tigers countered with a line-up that at times included three freshmen on the floor at once. Ariel Hearn and Mooriah Rowser have started both games to date for the Tigers in their freshman campaigns, while teammates Jaymie Jackson and Asianna Fuqua-Bey have come off the bench for significant minutes in both contests as well. Freshman Courtney Powell played against Grambling State, but with senior forward Nicole Dicksonplaying the full 40 minutes at the four against Middle Tennessee, Powell was the lone freshman to not hit the floor on Sunday.
About the Freshman Starters
When Ariel Hearn and Mooriah Rowser appeared in the starting line-up in the season opener against Grambling State, they were doing something that isn't done often at Memphis. They became the first two freshmen to start the regular season opener since Malissa Bush and Kelly Herron appeared in the starting line-up in 1997-98. Memphis lost that game with Bush and Herron in the line-up, 68-65, at Southern Illinois, but that team went on to post a record of 22-8 overall and 13-3 in Conference USA play, winning the C-USA championship and appearing in the NCAA Tournament. Bush and Herron did have some more experienced teammates to help them out though. Former WNBA players Tamika Whitmore and LaTonya Johnsonwere Tigers teammates to the duo.
Two Tigers scored 20 or more points in Friday night's win. Freshman Mooriah Rowser led all players with 24 points, on 12-for-20 shooting. Senior forward Nicole Dicksonalso went for 20 points,shooting 6-for-11 from the field and 3-for-5 from three-point range.
It's appropriate that Rowser and Dickson both went over 20 in the same game. The last time a Memphis freshman scored 20 points in her first collegiate game, it was then-freshman Nicole Dicksonscoring 20 points on Indiana in FedExForum.
Melissa McFerrin already has her hands full with a roster with eight newcomers and two new assistant coaches, but that task got a little tougher on Sunday at Middle Tennessee. Mooriah Rowser and Nicole Dickson, two of the Tigers' starters, had two fouls at the half and reserve guard Lauren McGraw had three fouls, leaving McFerrin with freshman guard Jaymie Jackson left on the bench from the guard corps. Dickson played through her foul trouble, but McGraw and fellow sophomore starter Ann Jones both fouled out of the game. After fouls were 14-8 against the Tigers in the first half at Middle Tennessee, McFerrin had to juggle the line-up to adjust for the loss of Rowser, who scored 24 points in her college opener. Rowser played just six minutes in the first half at Middle Tennessee, as did starter Ann Jonesafter Jones picked up a quick foul early in the game.
Balancing the Bench
The upside with so many young players is that all of them are scoring to start the season. The Tigers' bench has out-scored its counterpart in each of the first two games, 46-24.
And in Other Freshmen News
Ariel Hearn was the other true freshman in the starting lineup on Friday night. She made the most of her opportunity to get some playing time, playing 30 minutes and dishing out 12 assists, adding seven points, three rebounds and two steals. That was the first time a Tiger has had double-digit assists since Bilqis Abdul-Qaadirhad 10 assists in a win at Southern Miss last season.
With the win over Grambling State , the Tigers improved to 22-19 all-time in season openers. That was the first time Memphis has opened its regular season in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse since 2008-09, Coach McFerrin's first year at Memphis. The Tigers won that first game 64-47, then for the next three seasons, opened their respective seasons in games played at FedExForum.
The 50-point margin of victory was the third-largest margin of victory in a season opener for any Tigers squad and the biggest margin of victory in a season opener since 1976. It is the biggest margin of victory for a Memphis team since an 88-38 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 13th, 2003.
Margins of Victory in Season Opener
64 points 1976
58 points 1978
50 points 2012
46 points 1972
26 points 2003
Dickson Named Pre-Season All-C-USA
Senior forward Nicole Dickson was voted to the Conference USA Preseason All-Conference team by the league coaches. The Greeneville, Tenn., native was a second team, all-conference honoree last year and has already started working her name into the Memphis record books. She currently ranks 20th in school history with 1,064 points through three seasons and eighth in Memphis history with 112 three-point field goals made. She needs 19 more triples to move to seventh in career threes, where former Tiger Kelly Herron(1995-2001) currently sits. In the exhibition game against Rhodes, Dickson played just 23 minutes and almost had a double-double, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Tigers Picked Fifth in C-USA Preseason Poll
Despite the loss of five seniors from last year's roster, including C-USA Player of the Year Jasmine Lee, C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Ramses Lonlack and three-time All-C-USA honoree Brittany Carter, the C-USA coaching pool has still has lofty expectations of the 2012-13 Memphis roster with eight newcomers, picking the Tigers to finish fifth in the C-USA Preseason Coaches' Poll.
2012-13 C-USA Coaches' Poll
1. Tulane (5)
2. UTEP (5)
3. UAB (1)
5. Memphis (1)
7. Southern Miss
11. East Carolina
(# of first place votes in parentheses)
Grambling State (0-1): Dropped their opener, 92-42, in the Preseason WNIT First Round; plays at Liberty, Friday.
Middle Tennessee (2-1): Lost at Iowa in Preseason WNIT Semifinals in overtime, 69-63.
Illinois State (1-1): Lost at Iowa, 74-64; hosts Memphis Sunday.
Texas-Arlington (0-2): Lost at Michigan State, 83-39; plays Oral Roberts, Friday, in their home opener.
Prairie View A&M (0-2): Lost to Stephen F. Austin, 62-55; plays in Great Alaska Shootout, starting Nov. 20th against Utah State.
East Tennessee State (0-1): Lost to High Point, 85-76; plays Chattanooga, Saturday.
UALR (1-1): Fell to Missouri State, 78-68; plays at SMU, Monday.
Illinois (1-1): Lost to Bradley, 83-77; hosts Cleveland State, Sunday.
Alabama A&M (0-1): Lost to UAB, 72-53; plays at Auburn, Sunday.
Saint Louis (0-2): Edged at UMKC, 56-53; plays at No. 11 Oklahoma, Sunday.
Seton Hall (2-1): Suffered first loss of the year at Temple, 54-38; plays at Michigan, Monday.
Missouri (3-0): Held on against Western Illinois, 70-61; travels to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge; plays Wichita State, Thursday.
Tennessee Tech (1-1): Dropped a non-conference game to Akron, 78-67; hosts Rice, Saturday.
Wright State (1-1): Picked up first win of the year, 75-71, over IUPUI; hosts Buffalo, Sunday.
Houston (0-2): Fell just short of upending Alabama, 83-74; plays at Yale, Saturday.
Southern Miss (0-1): Dropped opener, 78-41; plays at South Alabama, Friday.
East Carolina (2-0): Won second game, 84-41, over St. Andrews; hosts College of Charleston, Saturday.
Tulane (2-0): Picked up a 70-60 road win at UL Monroe; plays at Southern, Friday.
UAB (1-1): Suffered first loss at Vanderbilt, 69-54; hosts Mississippi Valley State, Saturday.
UCF (1-2): Downed North Florida for first win of season, 53-41; hosts TCU, Friday.
Rice (1-1): Lost 101-48 at No. 24 Tennessee; plays at Tennessee Tech, Saturday.
Marshall (1-1): Fell on the road at Indiana State, 55-49; hosts Ball State, Saturday.
SMU (3-0): Improved to 3-0 with a 67-63 win over North Texas; hosts UALR, Monday.
UTEP (1-0): Ran past Loyola in their opener, 79-51; hosts Houston Baptist, Friday.
Tulsa (0-3): Lost in overtime to Arkansas, 64-56; plays at Illinois in the Bahamas at the Junkanoo Jam.