MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The University of Memphis women's basketball team ran out of steam in the fourth quarter at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse against second place American Athletic Conference foe, No.23 South Florida in an 81-62 defeat on Wednesday evening.
The offense started slow for Memphis (7-11, 2-3 AAC), as they had trouble scoring early against USF's (15-4, 5-1 AAC) defense. USF's 2-3 zone stymied the Tigers into shooting 3-13 in the first quarter for a total of 7 points. USF was relentless on the glass – totaling 9 offensive rebounds – and in transition, where they attacked the Memphis defense on numerous run-outs. Luckily for Memphis, USF was unable to capitalize by blowing multiple point-blank opportunities.
The Tigers offense got it going in the second quarter thanks to senior forward Cheyenne Creighton, senior guard Brea Elmore and sophomore guard Taylor Barnes. The trio combined for 17 of Memphis' 23 second quarter points, including 3-4 shooting on three-point attempts. The last of which was a buzzer-beater by Elmore which gave Memphis a 30-29 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, USF started to get into a rhythm as Memphis defensive breakdowns afforded USF multiple open looks from the outside and inside the paint. USF senior forward Maria Jesperson scored 10 of her 31 points in the quarter, punishing the Tigers in transition with timely cuts to the basket, and on a costly three-pointer off of pick and roll action when the Tigers chose to double even though freshman guard Jada Stinson fought through the screener to stay on her assignment. This left the white-hot Jesperson wide open for the three-point hit. The play was indicative of Memphis' lack of communication and cohesiveness on the defensive end all evening. Despite USF's 27 third quarter points, Memphis continued to give USF's changing zone fits from the outside, including a buzzer-beating three from Creighton, her third of the game and new career high. The shot drew the Tigers within five, at 56-51.
In the fourth quarter, USF put the game away due to a 17-0 run spearheaded by a switch to man-to-man defense. Memphis had trouble creating quality shots after the change, and USF continued to attack Memphis in transition off of turnovers and rebounds for multiple easy baskets. USF junior guard and leading scorer Kitija Laksa finally got involved after a nightmarish first half, scoring all 14 of her points in second half action.
For Memphis, it was a valiant effort against a nationally ranked opponent and one for them to build on going forward into conference play. The trio of Creighton, Elmore and Barnes finished the game with 17, 16 and 18 points respectively. Memphis' eight three-pointers were a season high.
Memphis will look to even their AAC record at 3-3 when they head to Cincinnati to play the Cincinnati Bearcats at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
The University of Memphis women's basketball team huddles during a timeout in its game against UT Martin.