Women Power Past Memphis To 5-1 Mark In C-USA

The Thundering Herd women's basketball team, behind 19 points from Tynikki Crook, overcame a 15-point deficit to top Memphis, 72-57, in Conference USA action Saturday afternoon.Marshall was down by 15 points midway through the first half, but outscored the Tigers, 44-22, in the second stanza. Crook led all Marshall players with 19 points while Chantelle Handy and Alyssa Hammond notched 16 apiece.

The win for Marshall (12-7, 5-1 C-USA) gave it a 5-1 mark in conference play, its best start since joining C-USA and its best conference start since the 1988-89 season in the Southern Conference. The loss drops Memphis to 9-12 overall and 1-6 in league play.

Chantelle Handy scored 16 points, including this jumper over the Tigers' Shae Seagraves in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"I'm very proud of my team for the simple fact that early in the game we got down. I thought Memphis did a really great job of taking us out of our game plan," head coach Royce Chadwick said. "Our team adjusted and kept fighting. No deficit became too much for us and we were able to fight back and get into the game. I'm proud that my team got down and fought back and that shows an awful lot of character."

Things did not look good for Marshall early on as Memphis opened up a 19-4 lead over the first eight minutes of the contest. Paris Leonard had the hot hand for the Tigers early on, scoring their first 12 points, which included two three-pointers.

Rashedah Henriques battled with Memphis's Alex Winchell for a loose ball in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

A Handy jumper stopped the run as Marshall would close the gap to ten points, 24-14, at the 12:22 mark, but a 5-0 spurt in less than a minute time helped Memphis re-establish the 15-point cushion.

Over the final five minutes of the opening period, the Herd chipped away at the lead. A jumper by Angelica Harris with 3:30 remaining cut the lead to single digits and with under a minute left, two Hammond free throws cut the lead to five, 33-28. Two Shekeira Copeland free throws finished off the first half scoring as Memphis held onto a 35-28 advantage at the half.

Early in the second half, it looked as if the Tigers were poised to grab their first win in eight tries against the Herd. Marshall cut the lead to four, 37-33, two minutes in, but a 9-2 stretch saw Memphis push the lead back into double digits.

Tynikki Crook led all Marshall scorers with 19 points against Memphis, including this lay-in in the second half over the Tigers' Ashley Thornton. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

At that point, the Herd made its move. Back-to-back buckets cut the lead to seven and with 12 minutes remaining, two more back-to-back shots cut the Tiger lead to three, 48-45.

Casey Baker then made her presence known, hitting a jumper at the 11-minute mark, making it a one-point game and, coming out of a timeout, she found an open Chantelle Handy streaking under the basket to give MU its first lead since the opening minutes. She was not finished there. After a Memphis turnover, Baker hit what would be the Herd's only three of the game to put Marshall up 54-50.

Up 58-53 with six minutes remaining, six straight points by Hammond gave the Herd its first double-digit advantage of the contest. The lead would grow to as many as 16 points with 1:25 remaining before a late Tiger free throw made it a 72-57 final.

Both the offense and the defense were responsible for the second half turnaround. After shooting .345 in the opening half, the Herd offense improved that to .529 to close the game. On the defensive end, Marshall allowed the Tigers to shoot .519 in the first half, but turned that around, holding the Tigers to just a .207 percentage from the floor in the latter half.

Another contributing factor was the Herd's perfect 15-for-15 performance from the free throw line, its first time hitting at least 90% of its free throws since doing so in the road contest at East Carolina last season. Crook led the way in that department, hitting all nine of her attempts. She also recorded five rebounds and three steals.

Alyssa Hammond recorded the first double-double of her career, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career high 11 boards. Handy also has 16 points to go along with five rebounds and a pair of assists. Baker scored 11 points while recording four helpers.

Paris Leonard led the Tigers with a game-high 20 points. Ashley Thornton scored ten for Memphis and fell just a rebound short of a double-double.

Entering Saturday's action, Marshall was one of five teams tied for the C-USA lead and will face two of those squads on the road next weekend, beginning with Southern Miss on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. and wrapping up at UCF on Saturday at 6 p.m. Both UCF and Southern Miss will be in action tomorrow.

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