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Friday, September 24, 2021

Sports

Shorthanded UH women’s basketball team outlast Memphis in AAC opener


UH women’s basketball guard Julia Blackshell-Fair (23) rises for a contested jump shot at Fertitta Center during the 2019-20 season. | File Photo

UH women’s basketball guard Julia Blackshell-Fair (23) rises for a contested jump shot at Fertitta Center during the 2019-20 season. | File Photo

After sitting out for 11 days due to COVID-19 issues, Houston opened up conference play with a double-digit win over Memphis, getting past the Tigers 75-63, bringing its record to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the American Athletic Conference. 

While the Cougars were able to win by double-digits, getting back into the groove of playing college basketball was not as easy as it seemed for UH, who played with only eight players.

“The girls have to have a great mentality of wanting to do some extra conditioning,” said head coach Ronald Hughey. “Just to kind of push themselves, and open their lungs back up, and almost get to where you were.”

Energy was the team’s word of the day.

“Even when they took the momentum from us a couple of times, our energy stayed up,” said Hughey. “The energy never changed.”

The UH women’s basketball team played without nearly half of its team, which fifth-year guard Eryka Sidney feels motivated the Cougars to go all out on Tuesday.

“Coming into the game, we knew we had to play not only for ourselves, but also for the girls that aren’t here,” Sidney said. “The energy on both sides of the court really set the tone.”

The game started out like a seesaw. The Cougars were paced by junior guard Daphane White, who put up the first four points for UH, along with solid free-throw shooting from sophomore guard Paris Netherly. 

Memphis, however, managed to create some distance, leading by four going into the second quarter. 

The Cougars came out strong in the next period, adding the next six points to regain the advantage at 19-17.

The lead bounced back and forth between the teams again until two 3-pointers by sophomore guard Bria Patterson and Sidney put UH up by six. 

The Cougars carried the momentum to kick-start another six-point lead for a score of 37-27 going into the second half.

UH also took advantage of Memphis on defense, forcing the Tigers to commit 30 turnovers.

“My mindset was just to disrupt the point guard,” Sidney said. “Make it hard for her to get them into plays so we can get those turnovers.”

Memphis showed perseverance, but had trouble inching its way back up, as the Cougars kept the shots rolling in, shooting just over 44 percent from the 3-point line. Two more shots from behind the arc boosted UH to a 51-37 lead late in the third period. 

As the quarter dwindled, the Cougars’ enthusiasm only grew. Two layups set up by Sidney and a jumper of her own, along with three pointers from Netherly and Patterson put UH ahead by 23 going into the final period. 

The game wasn’t over yet, as the fourth quarter saw a strong effort from the Tigers. Memphis jumped out immediately with a three to chip away at the Cougars’ lead. 

Soon after, the Tigers went on an 11-point run to slash the Cougars’ lead to just eight in a little over two minutes. 

“We’re going to have fall-offs. But it’s not about those fall-offs, it’s about what we do after,” Sidney said. “Are we going to continue to let them be on their roll or are we going to do something to stop it?”

UH stopped Memphis’ streak, allowing the Tigers only three more points in the final quarter.

Sidney led all scorers with 18 points and added five rebounds and seven assists. Patterson was right behind with 16 points and grabbed six boards. 

The win gives the program its best start since the 2010-2011 season. 

“I’m happy for them,” Hughey said. “They know what they’re capable of.”

The Cougars improvement in practices and games, along with its shift in culture has given Hughey more confidence in his team, and make a bold proclamation.

“We’re a Power 5 school, whether people want to believe it or not.” Hughey said.

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