Fifth-year senior guard Jamirah Shutes has experienced highs and lows hooping for the University of Memphis women’s basketball program. During her freshman season, the Tigers won just 11 games.
On Thursday night (March 16), Shutes added to the highs with a postseason victory in what already had amounted to a special season for the Tigers.
In front of an energetic sellout crowd at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, Memphis (21-10) defeated Jackson State 79-68 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Shutes led the way with 24 points while also distributing five assists.
“Playing with the crowd out there was special,” said Shutes. “It had never been like that since I have been a part of the program, and it just felt good.”
Head coach Katrina Merriweather relished the support and encouragement of the Memphis fans.
“It was really important for me to hear the crowd coming out onto the court, and it really set the tone for us during the game,” Merriweather said.
With Shutes (13 points) and fellow guard Madison Griggs (13 points) spearheading the offense, the Tigers surged to a 43-32 halftime lead. After the break, Griggs’ scoring cooled off (two points). Shutes kept rolling, scoring 11 of her game-high 24.
Emani Jefferson, the other element in Memphis’ starting three-guard offense, scored six points in the first half and eight in the second.
Memphis held Jackson State’s Tigers to less than 20 percent shooting from three-point territory. The Tigers’ lead ballooned to 19 points at one point during the fourth quarter.
JSU scrapped back with a succession of free throws and layups as the gap shrunk to 11. JSU scored 22 points in the game off of second-chance rebounds.
“Jackson State had some size in the paint that we did not have, and I was shaking my head in frustration about the number of second chance points they were getting,” Merriweather said.
Familiar with “how good Jackson State is, not just this year but historically,” Merriweather said, “We knew that if we did not come out really aggressive, attacking it could be a very long night.”
Heading into the American Athletic Conference tournament, Merriweather said she put the emphasis on rest for the Tigers, who came out a bit slow. She altered that course for the opening-round WNIT game, with the Tigers playing quarters, segments and “practicing the way we were going to play today and I think that made a lot of difference.”
Memphis now is set to take on Ball State in the second round of the WNIT. With its 101-86 victory over Belmont University, Ball State earned the chance to take on the Tigers at the Fieldhouse on Monday night.
Merriweather and BSU head coach Brady Sallee have a long history.
“I have known coach Sallee since I was a young coach,” she said.
BSU plays “a completely different style than Jackson State,” Merriweather said.
“I am happy that we will get a little time off before playing on Monday.”