The University of Memphis womenâ€™s basketball team suffered their third straight loss, 89-69. This time it was at the hands of Cincinnati, dropping them to 9-15 overall and 4-7 against American Athletic Conference opponents. The Tigers managed to keep the score slightly closer in this matchup than they did the last time they faced the Bearcats, but it still wasnâ€™t enough to push the team to a victory.
Cincinnati is shooting too many three-pointers
The Bearcats on the season have been shooting an average of 29.1 percent from behind the arc. Against the Tigers, they caught fire early and connected on six-of-seven three-point attempts in the first quarter. They finished the game connection on 10-of-19 from the field, good for 52.6 percent.
The Tigers did their best to get their three-point shot going as well but only knocked down two of the eight three-point attempts, shooting 25 percent from downtown.
Unfortunately, they were unable to compete and that played into their defeat Wednesday night.
Tigersâ€™ head coach Melissa McFerrin explained this was something she knew her team had to look out for.
â€œWe knew we had two three-point shooters,â€ McFerrin said. â€œWe knew we had to take away those shooters, but we didnâ€™t find them.â€
A tale of two halves
The last time these two teams faced each other, the game was nothing short of a blowout. Cincinnatiâ€™s 80-56 thrashing of Memphis back in January ended the latterâ€™s three-game win streak and took away much of the teamâ€™s confidence.
The Tigers were well-aware of that coming into Wednesdayâ€™s game and came out much more competitive than they were in the last time, determined to not suffer the same fate for the second time.
After the first quarter, they shot 53.3 percent from the field and dominated the paint with 14 points in that area compared to Cincinnatiâ€™s six points. They held Cincinnati to converting on just three of their seven shot attempts (excluding three-point) shots. They were able to tie the game three times in the first half, which reignied their waiting fans.
Their play began to fall off in the second half, and the Bearcats completely owned the third quarter. They outscored the Tigers 24-15 in the third period and seemingly knocked the fight out of them.
The fourth quarter produced a bit more energy, as Memphis started the quarter by hitting each of their first three shots. Guard Jamirah Shutes scored nine points in the fourth and ended up leading the game in scoring, finishing with 24 points.
The curious case of Taylor Barnes
It has been no secret that McFerrin isnâ€™t afraid to change her starting lineups. In fact, there hasnâ€™t been a two-game stretch where the team had the same starting five since January when they faced Wichita State and ECU.
There has always been one constant in the starting lineup, and that has been junior guard Taylor Barnes. She has been the undisputed leader of the team this season and has started 76 of her 83 career games. She didnâ€™t start in Wednesdayâ€™s game and actually only played a minute.
This isnâ€™t the first time she didnâ€™t start this season. She came off the bench for the teamâ€™s Dec. 17, 2018, matchup against Southeast Missouri, but she still played 25 minutes.
McFerrin partially talked about it with the media, but she didnâ€™t go into much detail.
â€œItâ€™s team-related,â€ Mcferrin said. â€œSheâ€™s not hurt.â€
Wrapping it all together
The worst thing about this game for the Tigers has nothing to do with their statistics. It just seemed like they gave up when Cincinnatiâ€™s lead began to grow in the third quarter. It wasnâ€™t just the players who started to look defeated but the crowd at Elma Roane Fieldhouse as well.
By no means is a 20-point loss something to be happy about, but the Tigers could have tightened the gap if they would have kept the pace and energy they had in the first half.
In their next game this Saturday against Tulane, they canâ€™t throw in the towel like they did against Cincinnati. Every game has to be treated as if it were a tournament game and as if it could be each playerâ€™s last of the season.