Facing a hungry opponent with one of your primary scorers and your starting pointing guard injured can be tough for any team.
That was the challenge for the University of Memphis women's basketball team (3-2) against Prairie View A&M (1-4) on Sunday (Nov. 25) at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. The Tigers fell to the Panthers 70-58.
"The pieces were just starting to fall into place with the eight new players that we have," Memphis head coach Melissa McFerrin said.
Freshman guard Mooriah Rowser suffered a knee injury during the game against Illinois State and guard Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir broke her right hand during the Texas-Arlington game on Nov. 21.
The injuries notwithstanding, McFerrin was not happy about the level of play Memphis showed against Prairie View.
"I'm very surprised," she said. "That is not the way we practice. That's not the way we play. That's not saying that it never happens, but that does not happen to us very often. That's why I'm so disappointed."
There were several Memphis lineup changes during the first half but no combination yielded the defensive presence needed to stop the Panthers.
"Once I found five players that were willing to do what I asked them to do, then I was just going to stay with those five players," McFerrin said.
The Tigers went into the locker room trailing 42 to18. They came back scrappy and ready to chip away at the deficit.
In the second half, the Tigers out-rebounded the Panthers (25-19) and shot 42.4 percent from the field compared to Prairie View's 33.3 percent.
But it just wasn't enough to overcome the lackadaisical effort in the first half.
When asked what was said to the Tigers at halftime to give them the momentum to go out and fight, McFerrin said, "We don't play with a lack of effort. That's unacceptable in this program. The expectation when you wear Memphis across your chest is you play very hard."
Freshman guard Ariel Hearn, who was an important piece in the Tigers comeback, brought the intensity that McFerrin wanted on the floor. Hearn led the Tigers with 16 points, followed by Nicole Dickson with 13 points and Ann Jones with 12. Asianna Fuqua-Bey contributed nine rebounds toward the Tigers' comeback attempt.
Hearn said McFerrin's halftime talk was a difference maker.
"She (McFerrin) always preaches to us to be intense and play defense with intensity. So we came out and tried to make a come back by being intense."
Dickson, who was named CUSA player of the week following the Illinois State game, said the Tigers are going to regroup.
"We came out real slow and put ourselves in a hole that we just couldn't come out of," Dickson said. "We knew at halftime that there was a chance that we could still get in the game."
Prairie View's Latia Williams led all scorers with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
The Tigers will face East Tennessee State University in Johnson City (Tenn.) on Friday (Nov. 30).