After taking recent lumps, including losses to two top-five ranked opponents, head coach Katrina Merriweather’s University of Memphis Tigers thumped North Carolina Central at Elma Roane Fieldhouse on Thursday.
For the Tigers, the 92-66 romp halted a three-game downward slide and edged them back over .500 (5-4), with Middle Tennessee State University visiting Memphis on Saturday (Dec. 10) afternoon.
Memphis’ three-game skid included losses to No. 4 Indiana and No. 1 South Carolina. The Eagles (3-7, 0-0) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, were a different breed. The Tigers sprinted ahead, built a large, second-quarter lead, and never relinquished it.
With Memphis in search of its first victory in two weeks, Merriweather used several lineup changes, including starting Destyne Jackson at guard for the first time this season. Post-player Lanetta Williams shifted to the center position, a tactic that proved beneficial to the Tigers as the game unfolded.
“I liked the versatility of Lanetta Williams playing the 5 (center), along with Destyne Jackson starting for us…,” said Merriweather
“Emani Jefferson coming off the bench benefited us as well because it kept her out of foul trouble for most of the night.”
Memphis’ success against N.C. Central largely was powered by the efficient shooting of the team’s two star players, guards Jamirah Shutes and Madison Griggs. Shutes scored 21 points and Griggs chipped in 18.
With Griggs connecting on four of her five three-point attempts and Shutes getting to her spots on the floor, Memphis’ offense flowed smoothly. The ball movement resulted in a season-high 18 assists, including five apiece from Griggs and freshman guard Tanquel Welch.
“I’m glad Madison and Jamirah got to see the ball go in the net,” said Merriweather. “When I see they’re shooting over 50 percent from the field each, that’s always a good sign for us.”
The game was a homecoming for the Eagles’ Kira Lowery. The red-shirt senior, who scored 1,000-plus points at Southwind High School, led N.C. Central with her Division 1 career-high 22 points, connecting on nine of her 20 shots (45 percent). Lowery once scored 40 points as a junior college player at Dyersburg State.
With the Tigers rolling to the blowout win, extended minutes were afforded players such as junior forward Shelbee Brown and Welch. Brown posted 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Welch’s 3 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists (and a steal) lifted the contributions of the second unit.
“The lineup changes worked for us … and we will see going forward if that’s what we stick with,” Merriweather said.
“We were able to play around with different lineups, and all the credit goes to the players.”