Following two straight home wins, the Memphis Tigers (12-10, 3-6 American Athletic Conference) will head back on the road to take on the No.4 UConn Huskies (19-2, 9-0 AAC).
The last time these two teams squared off, the Tigers gave a valiant effort in front of their home fans back on Jan 14. The Huskies walked away with the 68-56 victory, but the Tigers kept the game close and stayed within single digits.
Forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu led the team with 21 points and 10 rebounds. She was one of just two Tigers who scored double-digits in the game.
However, this time that Memphis takes on UConn, it will be under very different circumstances.
For starters, they will be without their leading scorer Jamirah Shutes, who will have to miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. She led the team with 15.2 points per game, including a 32-point performance, before her untimely injury.
Not only is she out, but both Lanetta and Lanyce Williams are unable to play as well. This leaves the Tigers with just seven players. In fact, in the last two games, Memphis have had to play with seven players and have won with limited bodies. Their most recent victory came against the Tulane Golden Wave, where the Tigers had to overcome being outscored 22-17 in the fourth quarter to hold on to a 64-62 win.
Neither team was shooting the ball well - both converting around 39 percent of their shot attempts in the game.
Mendjiadeu lead the team in points with 15 and 11 rebounds, and she is averaging 11.5 points per game this season.
UConn, on the other hand, is coming off of the heels of a loss against the Oregon Ducks, 74-56. This was their largest deficit of defeat this season.
UConn shot 39 percent from the field and turned the ball over 15 times, as opposed to Oregon committing 10.
Their struggles were not just limited to their offense but their defense too. Each of Oregon’s starting five scored double-digits. UConn only had two.
What worked against the Huskies was that they could not stop the Ducks from rebounding, especially on the offensive end where they had 12.
Despite the Huskies’ loss, they are still Memphis’ toughest opponent of the season, and no one in Memphis is counting them out.
Tigers’ head coach Melissa McFerrin spoke to the media about her team’s upcoming game and what it means for their conference standing.
“We got a couple of games back in the conference with these last two home wins,” McFerrin said. “Now, we got to go on the road and steal a couple. “
If the Tigers were fully healthy, I would have a bit more faith in them to be competitive. However, with just seven players, it is going to be an uphill battle.
Typically, when UConn loses a game, they take out their anger on their next opponent - Memphis just so happens to be that opponent.
Barring a major upset, I see the Tigers losing this game, but that does not mean that their players will all play bad.
I expect Mendjiadeu continuing her recent stretch of good games and Madison Griggs making some key three-pointers to keep the game semi-close.
Score Prediction: UConn 75-59 Memphis