Women Advance In C-USA Via 80-73 Win

Marshall senior Reshundra Smiley hit 4-of-6 three point shots and scored her Marshall career-high of 30 points, which could not have come at a better time, as fifth-seeded Marshall needed someone to step up in a game that most expected to be a runaway win for the Herd. The Herd hit free-throws late to pull away from No. 12 Memphis and win an 80-73 victory in first round action at the 2006 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship presented by Aeropostale at Moody Coliseum on Thursday.

The Thundering Herd made 11 of their final 12 attempts from the free-throw line in the closing two minutes, including an 8-for-8 effort from Smiley. Marshall advances to play No. 4 Southern Miss in Friday's second quarterfinal at 4:30 p.m. (EST) and the game can be heard on the MU student station, WMUL 88.1 FM or on their site at www.marshall.edu/wmul on the world-wide web. It can be seen on the CSTV All-Access package on www.herdzone.com for just $4.95 for the month, which will also include the Marshall men's games at UAB Saturday night and the men's tournament at Memphis next week.

Marshall trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, but Smiley and fellow guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, playing back in her native Texas to finish her career, combined for 27 points after the break as the Herd shot 54.2 percent from the field (13-for-24) in the comeback in the second half. Smiley went 8-for-13 from the field. Shepard-Hall, from Houston, tallied 23 points for the game, while forward Crystal Champion went 5-for-5 from the field to finish with 13 points.

Sikeetha Shepard-Hall scored 23 against Memphis, readies for rubber game with Southern Miss at the C-USA Women's Tournament at SMU's Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas.file photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"I have to hand it to Memphis, they definitely played the way they are supposed to in March," said Marshall head coach Royce Chadwick of his team's tough game with C-USA's last-place team. "(Reshundra) Smiley really stepped up for us today. Both teams put on a great show and I'm glad we had the opportunity to survive another day." Memphis guard Tamika Butler scored 10 of her team-high 22 points in the final 2:22 to keep the Tigers in the game. Tiger junior Devin Necaise finished with 15 points and UM's Ashley Howard grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with nine points.

Memphis had led by as many as 10 points in the first half, as Necaise led the effort with 11 points in the opening stanza. The Memphis lead was completely erased by halftime, however, after Smiley buried a pair of three-pointers to fuel a 12-2 run to even the score at 36-36 at the break. After MU took a brief lead to start the second half, Memphis (3-25) reeled off 13 straight points to regain the lead at 49-40. Memphis freshman Paris Leonard, the C-USA Sixth-Man of the Year, sparked the run, scoring eight of her 12 points during the Tigers' streak.

Marshall and Southern Miss will face each other for the second time in six days and third time this season. The Herd and Golden Eagles split the season series thanks to MU's 66-53 win over USM in Sunday's regular-season finale, a game dominated by Marshall on Senior Day, while the Eagles won in Hattiesburg, Mississippi by 67-63 in a game that saw numerous players foul out on both sides and a number of technical fouls.

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