After a hard-fought opening game, the Tigers managed to earn their first win of the season after defeating the Lady Braves, 57-51 at the Elma Roane Field House. They were able to overcome the growing pains that come with the start of the season and showed why they were the better team.
Tigers made it difficult for the Lady Braves to get an offensive rhythm going
Even with the Tigers’ struggles last season, they still managed to be one of the American Athletic Conference’s top defensive units. They played just as good of a defensive game against Alcorn State as they did in 2018. Memphis held the Lady Braves to a shooting percentage of 30.8%, allowing makes on just 20 of their 65 shot attempts, and also forced 25 turnovers and blocked seven shots in the process. With their defensive prowess, they were able to mask some of their own offensive shortcomings.
The Tigers’ head coach Melissa McFerrin said the team’s defensive performance was better than what she had been seeing.
“I thought our positioning was better from the exhibition game,” McFerrin said. “We guarded the gaps a little bit better, but we got to recognize that it’s our responsibility to do so, instead of being told to.”
With new Tigers, three-point shooting needs work before it can become a strength
As the Tigers get their new players used to their environment, it is clear that they are not afraid to bring their own brand of scoring to the team. Memphis already showed they were going to make shooting three-pointers more of a priority, but getting the shots to fall has been a struggle.
On the night of the game, they shot three for 11 from the three-point line, making all three attempts in the first quarter. Freshman Lanetta Williams led the team with two made three-pointers and every shot made from behind the arc. McFerrin talked about her team’s inconsistency from three-pointers and said that it all comes down to sinking their shots.
“It’s been our big focus all summer long,” McFerrin said. “It’s no magic, it’s getting in the gym and putting up game shots.”
With it being so early in the season, I expect Memphis to continue to test their limits from range and put the ball more in the hands of known sharpshooters like Madison Griggs and Lanettea Wiliams.
Lanetta Williams is bound to have a big season
After starting in the team’s exhibition game and then seeing significant minutes in the season opener, it is clear Williams is going to be a focal point for the team. The 6-foot-3-inch freshman played 26 minutes, scoring 11 points and recording nine boards. She also had a great defensive game with five blocked shots.
When asked about her performance in the season opener, Williams said she was comfortable in her debut thanks to her fellow players.
“I think I did pretty good with the help of my teammates,” Williams said. “They helped me so much to get my shots open. I was a bit nervous coming in, but the coaching staff and my teammates made me feel comfortable.”
McFerrin echoed those same sentiments discussing Williams’ first game as a Tiger and said she just does not know how good she is.
“The thing about Lanetta [Williams] is that she doesn’t always think that she’s a good player,” McFerrin said. “Even when she’s out of position, that length really gives her an opportunity to make some plays on the defensive end of the floor.”
This game served as a sign of what is to come for the talented freshman, and who is to say she will not make an appearance in the starting lineup sooner rather than later?
Even though the Tigers walked away with the win, they are far from a finished product. They committed 30 turnovers of their own and had difficulty getting their shots to fall consistently.
With their next game on Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, they have a few days to do a better job of working on their consistency. Still, Memphis has quite a few positive sights from this game they can take away from and build upon.
Tip-off against the Colonels is set for 2 p.m. at the Elma Roane Field House.