With eight players clocking at least 13 minutes, the Tigers routed Xavier 84-64 at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. (Photo: Liaudwin Seaberry Jr.)
by Liaudwin Seaberry Jr. — 

The anticipated coaching debut of University of Memphis Tigers women’s basketball head coach Katrina Merriweather went smoothly as the Lady Tigers (1-0) sailed to an 84-64 victory over Xavier (0-1) Tuesday (Nov. 9) night at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.

The Tigers were led in the scoring by guard Jamirah Shutes, who notched 15 points and seven rebounds.

Fellow guard Emani Jefferson and forward Alana Davis help spur the offense, each scoring 13 points.

Merriweather was proud of the entire team’s effort as every member of the team played.  With eight players playing at least 13 minutes during the contest, she felt the squad’s depth provided everyone with an opportunity to show their talents and skill level.

“A rotation of players on and off the floor keeps players bought into the team for the duration of the season,” Merriweather told reporters after the victory. “We are still trying to figure out who is going to show up consistently for us during the games, and I think it is too early to make any calls yet.”

With 11 players trotting on and off the floor during the first quarter alone, the Lady Tigers grabbed an early 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter behind the efforts of Shutes and junior sharpshooter Madison Griggs.

The opening-game victory over Xavier was a building-block step for coach Katrina Merriweather’s first team of Tigers. (Photo: Liaudwin Seaberry Jr.)

As the second quarter wore on, the Tigers started to expand their lead by feeding off their defense, which produced nine steals in the first half.

Forward Lanetta Williams and Jefferson were credited with three steals each in the half, sparking a 43-30 lead heading into intermission.

In the third quarter, the Tigers outscored Xavier 24-18. Merriweather continued to lean heavily on her rotations. Nine Tigers players scored for the squad during that third session.

In addition, the fresh legs proved vital defensively, as the Tigers limited Xavier to only 38 percent shooting from the field in the third quarter.

Taking a 67-48 lead into the fourth quarter, Merriweather made sure to give her freshman and sophomore players extended playing time in the final 10 minutes.

She felt that games like this give her the opportunity to evaluate everyone’s role on the team and who fits where.

More important, Merriweather said player development is vital to her team’s success. Throughout the final quarter, freshman Makaiya Brooks, Aliyah Green, and Hannah Riddick found ways to contribute on the floor, whether it be through scoring or rebounding.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed by Merriweather.

“I felt tonight was one of those nights that Makaiya’s shooting, and Aliyah and Hannah’s rebounding skills really served us well late in the game,” she said. “It’s important for us to develop our bench and for us to keep our commitment to every player who shows up every day.”

Despite the 20-point victory for the Tigers, Merriweather thinks a few areas can be tidied up.

“We have to be more consistent and crisper defensively, and offensively we cannot be turning the ball over 18 times,” she said. “Those things will be fixed with more time together.”

Notes: The Tigers as a team shot 46 percent from the field while holding Xavier to under 40 percent.

With the number of players who received playing time, Merriweather doesn’t expect chemistry to be an issue.

“This is something we have done since I have gotten here, in terms of the rotations, and it has proved to be very effective for us.”

The Tigers face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in their second game of the season. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 14).