Following the Memphis Tigers (13-16, 4-11 American Athletic Conference) loss to the Southern Methodist University Mustangs last Monday, the Tigers will head to Connecticut to participate in the annual AAC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
After the Tigers’ season finale, they wound up as the #11 seed and will face the #6 seed SMU Mustangs on March 6 at 8 p.m.
With their upcoming opponent being their last regular season opponent, they may have the advantage compared to the other AAC teams.
On Senior Day, the Mustangs came away with the 69-60 win, but it was a hard-fought victory that got closer as the game drew to an end. Memphis overcame a 43-27 deficit at the half and outscored the Mustangs in the second half to bring the game into single digits.
Guard Madison Griggs led the way in scoring with 21 points. All of her points came from behind the three-point line, where she shot 7 of 16 from long range. She also had eight rebounds, an assist and two steals. Fellow guard Gazmyne Herndon scored 13 points and led the team with eight assists and a block.
What made things difficult for the Tigers to overcome was that the Mustangs three leading scorers: Amber Bacon, Johnasia Cash and Reagan Bradley, who all shot over 50% from the field and finished with at least 14 points.
SMU wound up shooting 48.3% from the field, while Memphis shot 43.1%. It also did not help that the Tigers turned the ball over 24 times, which led to the Mustangs getting 15 points off of turnovers. The Tigers forced 17 turnovers, but only could capitalize for 10 points.
Regarding the upcoming tournament, Herndon spoke to the media about what it would take for her team to pull out the victory and said it is an issue of mental preparation.
“I just want us to keep pushing through,” Herndon said. “It’s all about being mentally tough, especially with it just being seven of us who can play.”
With Friday potentially being the final game of Herndon’s career, it holds an even higher importance to her than her teammates.
Tigers’ head coach, Melissa McFerrin, said the Tigers' fate in the tournament is about who wants it the most.
“We think we match up well against them,” McFerrin said. “When you go into a conference tournament, it’s really about who can create the mindset of wants to make it to tomorrow. Do I want to get to tomorrow? If you don’t want to get to tomorrow, then you’re probably going to go home in round one.”
Though the odds are stacked against the Tigers to pull out an upset, it is worth mentioning that they have been in this territory before. Last year, they upset Temple in the first round, 59-58. Interestingly enough, they had played them in their regular season finale as well and lost 84-53.
With that in mind and the fact that they had played a closer game than many anticipated, I expect the Tigers to turn some heads, even with a handicapped roster.
Melissa McFerrin instructing players to their positions before the ball is inbounded. McFerrin and the Tigers enter the AAC Tournament as the 11th seed this weekend.