Nov. 30, 2007
Complete Game Notes in PDF Format
The University of Memphis Lady Tigers will host Mississippi State University, Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m. This will be the 31st meeting between the two programs. Memphis holds an overall series 19-11, but it's the Lady Bulldogs who have won four of the last six meetings, including two straight heading in to the 2007-08 match-up.
MSU head coach Sharon Fanning picked up her 200th career win Thursday night with a 77-56 win over Southern Miss, and brings a 6-2 squad with her that returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last season's team that advanced to the third round of the WNIT.
Senior forward Imesia Jackson, who played her junior college basketball at Southwest Tennessee Community College, leads the Lady Bulldogs with 12.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Tysheka Grimes adds 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Sharpshooter Alex Rack has knocked down 18 three-point field goals on 60 tries so far this season, and is averaging 11.0 points per night and is second on the team with 24 assists. Junior guard Marneshia Richard leads MSU with 34 assists against 22 turnovers on the year, also adding a team-best 17 steals.
Memphis has four players averaging double-digit points. Junior forward Ashley Thornton leads the team with 15.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while junior guard Paris Leonard is second with 12.3 ppg and leads the team with 16 steals on the season. Redshirt junior guard Jessica Hall is next on the scoring average list with 10.8 ppg, adding 15 assists, which ranks second on the squad. Senior Aroha Jennings used her second career double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds to move in to the double-digit scoring realm, and is now averaging 10.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Mississippi State forces its opponents to turn the ball over an average of 25.1 times per game and is out-rebounding its opponents by an average of three boards a night. The perimeter offensive game of the Lady Bulldogs will also test a Memphis perimeter defense that is allowing opponents to hit just 24.7 percent so far this season. Nine different MSU players have hit a three already this season, with four players having already connected on four or more attempts in the first eight games. MSU attempts an average of over 17 threes a game, more than Memphis has allowed any opponent so far this season. The only two times the Lady Tigers have allowed the opposition to hit five three-point field goals were the loss to Southeastern Louisiana and last weekend's loss to Louisiana Tech. This will be the second true road game of the year for MSU, as they snapped the nation's second-longest home winning streak with a 66-51 win at Belmont, then participated in the neutral site Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, where they suffered a pair of losses to Iowa and No. 10 Oklahoma.
Memphis vs. Mississippi State
This is the 31st meeting between Memphis and Mississippi State. Memphis leads the overall series, 19-11, but has been on the losing end of four of the last six meetings. The one edge Memphis has had in the series is playing at home. The Lady Tigers are 11-2 in games played in Memphis against the Lady Bulldogs.
Mississippi State is one of five teams on the upcoming portion of the Memphis schedule who participated in post-season play last year. The Lady Bulldogs advanced to the third round of the WNIT tournament, where they fell at Western Kentucky. Head Coach Sharon Fanning, who just picked up her 200th career win Thursday night with a 77-56 victory over Southern Miss, has 10 letterwinners and four starters returning from that squad, including forward Imesia Jackson, who played her junior college ball at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.
Jennings Posts Second Career Double-Double
Senior forward Aroha Jennings picked up her first career double-double in the last game of the 2006-07 tournament, but didn't wait nearly as long to post her second double-double. Jennings finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Alabama A&M Wednesday. At the halftime break, Jennings had six points and five rebounds before Coach Savage challenged her and fellow forward Ashley Thornton to step it up at the under eight minute media time out with the game tied at 60-60. The 16 points pushed Jennings' scoring average to double-digits, joining three of her teammates.
More Offense, But Needing More Balance
With four players averaging double-digit points for the first time since Blair Savage took over the Memphis program, the offense's 70.5 ppg average is the second-best point per game average since the 2003-04 squad averaged 71.3 ppg. The biggest difference is that 2003-04 team allowed just 64.3 ppg, while the Lady Tiger defense is still learning and is giving up 78.2 ppg.
The foursome of Ashley Thornton, Paris Leonard, Jessica Hall and Aroha Jennings have accounted for 291 of the team's 423 points so far this year (68.8 percent). Outside of those double-digit scorers, Memphis has just three players averaging four or more points per game and the bench has been out-scored in all six games heading in to Sunday's contest with a Mississippi State bench that out-scored fellow C-USA foe Southern Miss, 18-13, Thursday.
Last One Before the Break
Sunday's match-up with Mississippi State will be the final game of the fall semester for the Lady Tigers. The team will break for exams, which begin Dec. 7 and run through the 13th. Memphis will then host Belmont, an NCAA tournament team from last season, Dec. 14th at 7 p.m. That game could mark the first game for junior Jessica Jackson and sophomore Latoya Bullard. Both transferred from the University of Florida following the fall semester last year and will have sat out the required year per NCAA transfer rules. Before either can step foot on the court during a game though, their semester grades must be posted, so there is a chance that Memphis' Dec. 18th game at Arkansas could be their first of their Lady Tiger careers. Both have been practicing with the team for the past year.
Davis Leads Block Brigade
As a freshman, Alysse Davis led the team last year with 16 blocked shots, with all but five of those coming in the second half of the season. Through the first six games of her sophomore year, Davis is again leading the team with blocked shots, but is already at the 11-block mark on the season. One of the strengths of Davis' game is her ability to defend guards on the perimeter, and with her reach, she can alter shots on smaller players trying to drive and shoot over her.
Leonard Passes 600 Point Mark
With her 23 points against Alabama A&M, junior guard Paris Leonard moved up to 39th overall on the Memphis scoring charts. With 610 career points in 58 career games, Leonard is just one behind Diane Jones' (1981-83) mark of 611, and just eight behind the duo of Kiva Becton (1989-93) and Wanda Simpson (1982-84). Leonard needs 182 more points to break in to the Memphis Top 25 in scorers (792 points, currently held by Melissa Abraham, 1998-2002).
Thornton and Hall Named to All-Tournament Team
Junior forward Ashley Thornton and redshirt junior guard Jessica Hall were named to the all-tournament team last weekend. Thornton led all Memphis players with 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last weekend, while Hall, who averaged 13.5 points last weekend, hit the game-winning bucket against Tennessee State.
Freshman Posts Show Potential
A lot of how the early part of this season goes depends on Lady Tiger freshman posts Shekeira Copeland and Savannah Ellis. With junior Ashley Thornton having played an entire season at the five spot despite only being 6-0, the addition of two seasoned post players is expected to pay off as the duo adjusts to college basketball. Against Louisiana Tech, Copeland was the team's leading rebounder, finishing with five boards, while Ellis added four points, three rebounds and an assist in the loss to Louisiana Tech. Ellis added a career-best three blocked shots against Alabama A&M, including one blocked shot from three-point range that she tipped back in to play, corralling the rebound and pushing the ball ahead to guard Jessica Hall, who converted the lay up on the other end.
Jessica Hall In Midst of Remarkable Comeback
Sitting on the bench for two years following three separate surgeries may cause some players to hang up the hightops. But redshirt junior Jessica Hall has persisted through two years of rehabbing following three separate Achilles operations following tears in the preseason. The end result: Hall is currently third on the team with 10.8 points per game and is tied for the team lead with seven three point field goals made on the season.
Leonard Coming Off Best Game of Season
Paris Leonard is not a player you have to tell to get fired up for big games. In the championship game of the Lady Tiger Thanksgiving Classic against Louisiana Tech, a team with a strong NCAA history, Leonard scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes alone. She was slowed down when she caught an elbow in the nose while trying to strip a defensive rebound from a LaTech rebounder, forcing her to the locker room with 3:59 remaining in the first half. She came back and finished with a season-best 19 points, adding a season-best four steals with three assists and four rebounds. If there was one glitch in Leonard's game, it was the charity stripe, where she hit 1 of 4 attempts. She topped that career high in the next game, hitting 23 points, including three straight three-point field goals to open the second half.
A True Freshman At The Point, Again
For the second straight season, Memphis has been starting a true freshman at the point. Alex Winchell, a freshman from Atlanta, Ga., is leading the team right now with 23 assists against 23 turnovers. Last year, Memphis started true freshman Se'erra Fantroy for 30 of 31 games, and Fantroy responded with 96 assists, the second-best total in Memphis history for a true freshman. But Fantroy has made the most of her opportunities coming off the bench, hitting 4-of-6 shots from the field in the last two games and adding five assists against six turnovers. Winchell currently ranks ninth in C-USA in assists per game (3.83).
Thornton Grabs Sixth Career Double-Double
Junior forward Ashley Thornton helped Memphis to its first win of the season with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. That was her sixth career double-double in just her 35th career game, and moved her in to a tie with former Lady Tigers Shannon Hamp and Heather Newlon.
About our 2007-08 Opponents
Memphis will play 29 regular season games, including seven of the first eight at home. Here are how our past and future opponents are doing:
Tennessee Tech (1-3 overall): Fell 72-56 at Evansville Tuesday morning; hosts Alabama, Friday.
Southeastern Louisiana (3-2 overall): Necaise hit a game-winning three with five seconds remaining to defeat Centenary; plays at Mercer, Friday.
Creighton (4-2 overall): Had 26 turnovers in a 91-56 loss to Kansas on the road; continues their six-game road trip at Big 12 foe Nebraska, Friday.
Tennessee State (2-4 overall): Bounced back from a pair of losses in the Memphis tournament to win over N.C. Central, 74-52; hosts Belmont, Saturday.
Louisiana Tech (2-2 overall): Fell 81-60 at No. 1 Tennessee; hosts Stephen F. Austin, Saturday.
Alabama A&M (0-2 overall): Fell 81-72 at Memphis; hosts Chattanooga,
Mississippi State (6-2 overall): Defeated Southern Miss, 77-56 Thursday; plays at Memphis Sunday.
Belmont (3-5 overall): Got Tony Cross his 500th career win, 75-58, over Alabama; hosts Tennessee State Saturday.
Arkansas (7-0 overall): Remained undefeated with a 66-53 win at Missouri; hosts Clemson, Sunday.
Loyola-Chicago (1-5 overall): Fell 82-51 at Illinois State; plays at Eastern Illinois, Saturday.
Florida Gulf Coast (1-2 overall): Fell in championship game of their own Thanksgiving tournament, 74-56 to Eastern Kentucky; starts five game road swing at Bowling Green State, Friday.
UT Pan American (2-2 overall): Fell 69-58 at Texas State Tuesday; hosts Schreiner University, Saturday.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-3 overall): Fell 85-56 at Mississippi State.
Toledo (2-3 overall): Suffered a slow start and fell 55-48 to Youngstown State; hosts Detroit, Wednesday.
UAB (2-5 overall): Fell 74-62 at Ole Miss; plays at Virginia Tech, Sunday.
Marshall (2-3 overall): Won its home opener 79-66 over Niagara; faces Jackson State Friday.
East Carolina (3-4): Picked up a road win, 75-59 at Appalachian State; hosts VCU, Saturday.
Tulane (6-1 overall): Improved to 6-1 with an 89-61 win against UL Lafayette; hosts No. 7/8 LSU Sunday.
UTEP (3-1 overall): Won in overtime, 72-66 at New Mexico State; hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff Friday.
Houston (2-5 overall): Fell 77-46 to No. 7/8 LSU; plays at Texas Tech Tuesday.
Rice (5-3 overall): Lost 72-55 to host Colorado State in the consolation game of Colorado State's home tournamet; plays at Furman, Friday.
Southern Miss (6-1 overall): Lost first road game of the year, 77-56 at Mississippi State; plays at Jacksonville State, Saturday.
UCF (4-3 overall): Downed Bethune-Cookman, 73-52; plays at Miami (Florida), Sunday.
SMU (5-1 overall): Defeated Stephen F. Austin 66-60; plays at North Texas, Saturday.
Tulsa (1-6 overall): Fell 50-43 to UALR at home; hosts Texas-San Antonio, Saturday.