With 27 seconds left in regulation, Memphis guard Emani Jefferson surveyed the floor, looking for a way to help the Tigers end a 43-43 struggle with UCF. She found an opening and when her layup didn’t go in, the Tigers regrouped for overtime.
In OT, the Tigers were two points better than the Knights and emerged a 50-48 winner.
Jefferson, the game’s leading scorer with 19 points and 11 rebounds, sparked a Memphis squad that was uneven throughout the game. Jamirah Shutes (12 points) was the only other Memphis player with double-digit points.
Memphis (14-9, 6-4 AAC) celebrated the win on Senior Day, overcoming a poor shooting performance. The Tigers only connected on 15 of 79 shots (29 percent). UCF (11-11, 2-8) was equally inefficient, also shooting 29 percent (16 of 55).
“We are going to figure it out, and hats off to Central Florida for making our looks at the basket tougher than normal,” said Memphis head coach Katrina Merriweather.
The Tigers’ top three scorers – Shutes, Madison Griggs (7 points), and Jefferson – shot 11 for 51.
The Memphis defense slowed a UCF attack that averaged 60 points in the last 3 games. The Tigers turned 27 UCF turnovers into 18 points. Memphis turnovers (11) yielded four points.
The Knights had the Tigers down by eight (15-7) after the first quarter. Memphis responded with a 17-4 spurt in the second quarter and went into halftime with a five-point lead.
UCF flipped the script coming out of the break, outscoring the Tigers 15-9 to take a one-point lead into the fourth. The see-saw battle continued into the low-scoring fourth quarter, with Memphis one point better (10-9).
The Tigers were strong on the boards, grabbing 58 (to UCF’s 52), including the 29 on the offensive end that led to 12 second-chance points. Memphis freshman Destiny Thomas posted 10 rebounds and sophomore forward Hannah Riddick had 9.
Accounting for the offensive struggles, Merriweather was pleased with the Tigers’ overall effort.
“I’ll attribute our offensive struggles to only having played two games in the last two weeks,” she said. “I think that the shots will fall as we play in more games in the next few days. …
“Also, our team knows that they will face adversity, but I like that they embraced it and didn’t run from it.”
(NOTE: Designed a Play4Kay game, the Memphis-UCF match-up raised money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.)