Tigers Lose C-USA Opener at Houston, 77-74

Jan. 10, 2013

HOUSTON - - Ariel Hearn's three point field goal bounced off the back of the rim. Asianna Fuqua-Bey rebounded it and kicked it out to Lauren McGraw, who shuffled it over to Nicole Dickson, but Dickson could not get a shot off before the horn went off in a 77-74 Memphis loss at Houston, Thursday night. Memphis falls to 9-6 on the season and to 0-1 in Conference USA with the loss, while Houston improved to 7-6 and 1-0 in the league.

"I've been talking about it the last two weeks, we have to shore up our defense," Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said. "There's not many teams in this league that are going to score 74 points in a game and lose, so we have to shore up our defense. We had some unease in the close ball game tonight. It's not like we haven't won close games already this season, we won a close game at Illinois State, a close game against Missouri, we just wanted it to come a little easy tonight, and it wasn't going to happen."

Memphis struggled keeping Houston off the offensive glass early, and the Cougars took advantage, sticking back six second chance buckets to go up early in the game. With Houston up 12-11, Memphis worked the inside-out game, as Jamila Ajanaku found Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir for a three to give Memphis its first lead of the game. Then Nicole Dickson stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup to put the Tigers up 16-12. But the ragged shooting night was just getting started for both teams.



The two teams combined to miss 61 shots in the first half, including a number of layups both ways. Houston crashed the glass early to build a 31-22 lead with 3:24 remaining, largely on the strength of 12 offensive rebounds. By the time Memphis got its rebounding squared away on the defensive end, the Tigers were finally able to get their own offense cleaned up, and closed the half on a 10-2 run, but still trailed 36-35 at the half.

"I thought in the first half, we really had difficulty just putting the ball in the basket," McFerrin said. "We did a great job on the offensive glass, but didn't have anything to show for it. We had 18 boards in the first half and just could not score. I think (Pa'Sonna Hope) did a nice job getting her hands on some rebounds down there, she just couldn't get anything out of it."

Memphis opened the second half on a run to go up by four at 44-40, but Alecia Smith hit a three that started an 8-0 Houston run that put the home team back up at 48-44 with 14:10 to play. McFerrin told the Tigers in a timeout that this game would be nip and tuck and was going to be a close game, but the team never seemed to get comfortable, despite coming back to retake the lead late in the game.

The Tigers led 65-64 with 3:57 remaining, but their rebounding went away and Houston either was drawing fouls on rebounds or driving to the rim and used a 12-7 run to put the Tigers on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Houston stretched their lead to eight using the free-throw line.

Memphis tried to mount one last charge with Ariel Hearn driving and hitting a layup in the paint. She then knocked down two free-throws with 39 seconds left to trim the deficit to 76-72 and hit a jumper with 21 seconds left to try to get her team to overtime, but her three-point shot with five seconds left rimmed off, was rebounded by Fuqua-Bey and kicked out, but never got back to the rim before the clock expired.

"Isn't it amazing that we lose by three and we feel like they never really let us get into a rhythm," McFerrin said. "We didn't play very well, we certainly didn't defend everybody, and we still had a chance to win it at the end. If we were committed to defending and didn't turn the ball over much, this was a game we were capable of winning. Take nothing away from Houston, Porsche Landry played a great night and they had other players step up and have a better game than we would have hoped for."

Landry and Dickson, the two seniors on the two teams, each finished with 23 points. Abdul-Qaadir finished with 17 points and Hearn with 15, but Memphis shot 37.8 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from three-point range in the loss.

Besides Landry's 23 points, Houston got 20 points from Marche' Amerson and 13 from Alecia Smith.

Memphis returns home to host Southern Miss, Sunday, at 3:30 p.m. at FedExForum. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Network.

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