"We're sitting exactly where we want to be with four games left. "We're building everything to be playing our best basketball in March, because momentum is everything this time of year." Memphis (3-20, 1-11 in C-USA) lost its second-consecutive game by 74-54, the same margin as its loss at East Carolina on Friday night. Marshall (13-10 overall) dominated in the paint in both scoring and rebounding and saw five players finish in double digits.
Sikeetha Shepard-Hall lays in two of her 30 points against UAB on Friday night. She had 15 on Sunday against Memphis and now has 1,499 career points.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Reshundra Smiley gave the Herd a 31-22 lead at the halftime with nine points in the first half, 15 total in the game. Smiley hit 4-of-9 from three-point range in the game. KaShawn Curry had eight points in the first also, as Marshall held Memphis scoreless for nine minutes during a 19-0 run by the Herd to take a 25-6 lead. The Tigers stayed in the game with three-pointers, hitting 6-of-14 in the first half and made four in the final 8:36 of the first, led by Devin Necaise's 4-of-8 from three in the first half. UM also did a nice job of rebounding down the final minutes of the first half, going in at the half tied with the Herd 17-to-17 on the glass.
Marshall adjusted the defense and attacked the glass in the second half, just as they did Friday night against UAB. Modupe Ishola had 11 points in the second, hitting 5-for-5, and finished with 15 points for the game. Michelle Hagen added nine points in the second half on 4-of-5 shooting and finished with 11 total on the night. Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, would hit 5-of-10 shots in the game and add five more points at the free-throw line to also score 15 points, had six assists and zero turnovers. Shepard-Hall is third all-time at Marshall, with 1,499 career points. Junior guard Bridget Chacon' was instrumental in the Herd defensive and offensive adjustments, picking up five rebounds, two steals, a block and dishing three assists against just two turnovers and two points. Marshall only had 12 turnovers on the evening.
Modupe Ishola scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, seven of them offensive, against UAB and came back with 15 points and four rebounds against the Tigers in Sunday's game on CSTV, Marshall's first-ever nationally televised women's game.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Especially hot as of late has been post position for the Thundering Herd. Ishola has reached double-digits in points in a career-high five straight games, averaging 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in that span. She followed up a second straight double-double (fourth in her career) against UAB with a perfect 6-for-6 shooting night against Memphis, scoring 15 points and adding four rebounds, two assists and one block, the 70th of her career (fifth all-time). She needs one block to tie Tammy Simms (1986-87) for fourth in blocks in a career. Marshall's other post player, Hagan, hit 5-of-6 shots for 11 points versus Memphis and tied teammate Curry (10 points and two steals) for the most MU rebounds, with seven each. In her last six games, Hagan has made 12-of-16 shots, shooting 75 percent over those games and scoring 27 points (4.5 points per game). She came into the Memphis game averaging only 2.6 ppg on the season and shooting 45 percent for the year.
"The thing about Michelle is no one thinks anyone 6-foot-5 can have the soft hands and good feet she does, but she does," said assistant coach Roxanne White after the game on WRVC 930-AM. "We were able to exploit UAB and Memphis inside, but that will not be the case in the games coming up with Tulane and UTEP." Marshall out-rebounded Memphis 27-to-18 in the second half, with an advantage of 12-to-7 on the offensive glass in the final period. The Herd held the Tigers to just 2-for-11 from three in the second half and just 33 percent shooting (20-for-61) for the game. The Herd also dominated the inside, outscoring Memphis by 38-10 in the paint, and scored 21 points off of 18 Tiger turnovers.
On Friday night against UAB, Ishola went on a one-woman mission with six minutes left in the game. When the dust settled, Ishola's three offensive rebounds in 40 seconds enabled Marshall to pull away from the Blazers, 82-78, for a much-needed Conference USA win. "UAB never let their guard down," said Chadwick. "It was real physical at the start." Which meant the game was slow-starting, in other words. In fact, midway through the first half, both MU and UAB had only combined for 23 points (14-9 Marshall advantage with 9:53 left). Marshall would lead most of the first half, behind Shepard-Hall's 13 points. UAB's Carmen Guzman drained a three with 2:17 left that gave the Blazers their first lead of the game, and teammate Shimena Moore hit a lay-up with :08 remaining to give UAB the slim 30-28 lead at the half.
"It took both teams a while to settle in," Chadwick added. Chadwick went to a trapping Herd defense in the second half, and the result was a 10-0 run to start the second half. Ishola would score 16 of her 20 points in the second half. "We went to the half court trap," said Chadwick. "It helped Modupe, especially." Marshall shot out to a eight-point lead early in the half (38-30 with 17:35 left) on a Curry jumper, but UAB would battle back over the next three minutes to tie the game once again, 40-40.
UAB's Britney Jones hit a three with 8:15 left to give the Blazers the lead once again, at 57-54. Ishola single-handedly kept the Herd within striking distance, beginning with the first of three offensive rebounds in a 40-second span, beginning at the 6:42 mark. Ishola kept the ball alive after a Shepard-Hall missed three, again after a missed Smiley free-throw and finally following another Smiley missed jumper with another rebound and score."She's playing better than she's ever played," said Chadwick. "When Modupe is on, she's really right."
Smiley would hit a crucial three with 3:54 left that gave Marshall a four-point lead, 67-63, which kicked off an 11-0 Marshall run that featured primarily Shepard-Hall and Ishola scoring from the outside and inside, respectively. "It opens things up for us on the perimeter," said Shepard-Hall, of UAB focusing on stopping Ishola late in the game. Shepard-Hall took advantage of that, scoring a career-best tying 30 points to lead all scorers. Ishola added 20 and Smiley scored 18. Ishola also grabbed 12 rebounds for her second-consecutive, and fourth career, double-double.
UAB did get within three points on a Jones three with just :02 left, but Shepard-Hall hit a free-throw (15-of-16 at the line, tying for second-most free-throws in a game by a Herd player in school history) to effectively ice the win at 82-78. Marshall shot 43 percent (26-of-61) from the field, with UAB close behind at 42 percent (27-of-65). The big difference came on the boards, with the Herd out-rebounding the Blazers by a 47-36 margin. UAB was led in scoring by Carmen Guzman with 21 points, and Jones close behind with 20.
Marshall has two games on the road next weekend, Friday in New Orleans with the Green Wave (Tulane is 11-10, 5-7 in league play after losing to Rice Sunday) and at El Paso Texas on Sunday (UTEP beat Houston Sunday to improve to 13-11/5-7 in C-USA). The Herd will finish the regular season at home the weekend of Feb. 24 with UCF (5-18, 3-9) and Feb. 26 with Southern Miss (10-13, 7-5) in the Henderson Center, where MU has won 13 of its last 16 games over the past two seasons. The Herd is currently in a tie for second place at 8-4 in the C-USA standings with SMU, two games behind league-leader Tulsa, who is 10-2. The top four seeds gain first-round byes in the Conference USA Tournament in Dallas, Texas, starting on March 2 at Moody Coliseum, home of the SMU Mustangs. The semi-finals will be on CSTV and ESPN2 will televise the 3:00 p.m. championship game on March 5.