Red hot Memphis women’s basketball ready to make a run in AAC Tournament
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Not even Katrina Merriweather thought she would get Memphis women’s basketball turned around this quickly.
“No,” said Merriweather on if she expected the tide to run so fast. “We knew that we had talent on this team, but again we had six new pieces.”
But in just her second season at the helm, Merriweather’s team improved from 6-9 in AAC play to 11-4, and won 19 games in the regular season, their most in 11 years.
The biggest difference?
“Just believing in what we can do together,” said Jamirah Shutes, the Tigers’ leading scorer. “I guess everybody buying in and knowing that we all have to be on the same page and trust each other.”
Few teams in the country are hotter than the Tigers, winners of seven in a row. That win streak has them as the #2 seed for the AAC Tournament starting on Monday, their highest AAC finish in program history.
Memphis started conference play 0-2, which led to a meeting that changed everything.
“Sitting in a room and being honest with each other about who we felt like needed to do more, to be more committed,” said Merriweather of that meeting. “Coaches owned up to our stuff too, these are the things we’re going to do better for you to put you in a position to be great.”
It’s already been a year that will go down in program history for the Tigers. But if they want to make this season even more special and go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, they know they’ll likely have to win the conference tournament.
“I think so,” said Merriweather on if she thinks her team has to win the AAC Tournament to go dancing. “And it’s kind of unfortunate when you look at the schedule we put together, we were hoping that it would give us a chance at an at-large bid. But I think we would had to have won at least one of those five games that we lost in the non-conference.
“So we do believe that we have to win the tournament.”
Working in the Tigers’ favor to do just that? The #2 seed comes with a first-round bye, and Merriweather knows the value in that from last year.
“Incredibly important. After we won last year, the first game, we talked about what we looked like and just how our legs felt. You know the idea that we can now go into the game playing someone that played the day before, I think is an extreme advantage.”
The Tigers will play the winner of Tulsa and UCF in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
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