MEMPHIS, Tenn. (SMU) – Akil Simpson scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season to lead the Mustangs to a 53-52 win over seventh-seeded Marshall in the first round of the Conference USA Championship in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse Wednesday.
Samantha Mahnesmith scored with 3:35 left in the game to give the Mustangs (14-16) a 53-46 lead, matching the largest lead of the game by either team. Marshall (16-14) increased the defensive pressure and cut the lead to three, 53-50 with 1:38 left on a steal and fastbreak layup, and pulled to within one with 35 seconds left. With 27 seconds left, Marshall came up with another steal, possessing the ball with a chance to win at the buzzer.
Alisha Filmore was matched one-on-one with Lateidra Elliott, who drove to the basket. Filmore forced her into an off balance shot, which didn’t go down. Veronica Ruiz got the putback off as the buzzer sounded, but it didn’t fall either, giving the Mustangs the win.
SMU held Marshall to just 24.2 percent from the field in the second half, holding the Thundering Herd to just two field goals in the first 13 attempts of the final 20 minutes. The Mustangs opened the half on a 7-2 run to take
their first lead since the first three minutes of the game.
The Mustangs opened the game hitting seven of their first 10 shots, but still found themselves trailing Marshall 18-15 eight minutes into the game. The lead remained three for the Thundering Herd at halftime, 27-24. Each team hit 11 field goals in the first 20 minutes, but Marshall went 3-for-4 at the free throw line to gain the advantage, while SMU missed its only attempt.
Marshall stretched the lead to as many as seven points during the first half, but Raven Short scored five points in back-to-back trips with 5:24 left to pull SMU within one, 23-22. The sophomore connected on what appeared to be a pair of 3’s, but the second was ruled a two-pointer by replay. Simpson led SMU in the first half with eight points and five rebounds, and Short and Mahnesmith each scored five points.
SMU finished the game shooting 46.9 percent, going 12-of-25 from the field in the second half. Marshall shot 31.7 percent for the game, making just eight of 33 attempts in the second half. Simpson was 7-of-11 from the field, and Short went 4-of-9 for nine points. Christine Elliott finished with six points and four rebounds, but was most effective on the defensive end.
The Mustangs move on to play second-seeded Memphis in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.