University of Memphis sophomore guard Brittany Carter is not exactly the type of brash or ostentatious personality that we may have come to expect from talented basketball players these days.
Her high school coach Tiffany Johnson once commented, "Brittany works hard and she’s a good kid. She’s not as vocal as I would like but she does a good job of leading by example." Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin echoed Johnson's sentiment, describing Carter as a "great young kid". Meeting her lends credence to Johnson's assertion that "she's not as vocal as I would like" as she almost exudes an unassuming and reserved demeanor upon first meeting her.
So maybe it’s just her personality or perhaps she was simply exhausted from all the post-game attention, but it was hardly evident that she had just scored 49 points in a 98-83 victory over Sacramento State University on Black Friday. She was so composed that it almost made shattering records seem routine.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," said Carter matter-of-factly. "When I’m aggressive that’s when I’m at my best and I know that’s what I need to do for my team so I just wanted to get the win and I’m so happy I got 49 points."
If her performance against Sacramento State is what happens when she "tries to be aggressive", then she might end up monopolizing the space in the Memphis record books.
In addition to her 49 points on 16-28 shooting (57.14%) and 15-20 free throw shooting, she added a game-high 11 rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Although her rebounds, field goals made, and free throws made and attempted were all personal bests, the 49 points undoubtedly made the biggest mark on history, both in Memphis and Seattle.
Brittany Carter Scores School-Record 49 in 98-83 Win Friday - MEMPHIS OFFICIAL ATHLETIC SITE
The win is the third straight for the Tigers and bumps them to 3-2 on the season. Carter's 49 points broke Tamika Whitmore's school record of 45 points against Arkansas State on Mar. 17th, 1999.
"I never imagined breaking (Tamika Whitmore)'s record. I hadn't even thought of it," Carter said. "I'm excited, I'm more excited we got the win," Carter said. "I had a lot of help from my teammates, (LaToya) was making plays, Alex hit those threes...it was a team effort, it was fun playing with them and this is exactly how I like to play. My uncle and my mom flew in from Atlanta. It's exciting to have them here to see me play."
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Memphis sophomore guard Brittany Carter scored 49 points, setting a Tigers women's basketball record and the mark for most points scored by a woman at Edmundson Pavilion. The previous record was 43 by former Husky Giuliana Mendiola in 2003. Former Washington player Megan Franza held the previous high for points scored in a Husky Classic game — 35 in 1999.
"She was amazing," said McFerrin. "And I’ll tell you, Brittany has been a little inconsistent for us this year. Amazingly, yesterday in practice, I talked to Brittany after practice about how her focus wasn’t there and her aggression level wasn’t there and that we needed her to be a good player every day.
"And I just told her that – that’s why I love coaching Brittany Carter because she’s not defensive, she takes your words to heart, she internalizes them, and she comes back and fixes ‘em. And wow just what an amazing effort. What an amazing effort."
Her obvious talent level combined with her willingness to respond to feedback is resulting in rapid improvement that might indeed make record setting routine. After first earning a place in Memphis’ record books with a game winning jumper that gave her 30 points against Missouri -- tied for 10th all-time among Memphis sophomores (Tamika Butler at Austin Peay, 12/3/03) – it appears as though Carter is rapidly becoming the type of player with the ability take over a game consistently.
However, similar to her unassuming post-game demeanor, Carter’s ability to score points within the flow of the game without much flair or outward display of emotion made her 49 point performance seem so natural that it was almost mundane.
A versatile offensive player
After smoothly blowing by Sacramento State defenders for a coast to coast layup, one of the guys on press row looked up at the jumbotron and said, "Whoa – Carter has 40?"
It’s not necessarily that someone casually watching the game could miss Carter’s presence on the court, but how she scored almost became more impressive than how much she scored, making the exact number of points seem immaterial.
Carter’s athleticism and wiry strength immediately stands out as she slashes through the defense to get to the rim. Whether it be in the open floor in transition or within the flow of a half court set, she is not afraid of taking contact and getting by opponents as she gets herself to the rim for an easy layup or to the free throw line.
Not to be locked into the mold of "one-dimensional slasher", Carter demonstrated a versatile offensive skill set that demands attention from the defense. Although one of her noted weaknesses coming out of high school was a suspect perimeter shot, she is developing range on her shot as evidenced by her 2-5 shooting from the three point line. With just over eight minutes left, she showed off her mid-range game by lulling Sacramento State forward Kylie Kuhns to sleep before hitting a step-back jumper from the right wing.
Perhaps most importantly, Carter shot 57% from the field and hit 15 free throws -- this was not a performance where a player eventually meandered their way to fifty as the result of a barrage of threes or recklessly shooting the ball and hurting her team.
The performance could be summarized by saying that she was aggressive, but controlled and decisive.
"Her aggression level was just so high," said McFerrin. "She caught the basketball and there was no doubt in her mind that she was gonna go get a shot and she typically got a very good shot."
Yet as a sophomore, Carter is focused on development
Marlon W. Morgan of the Memphis Commercial Appeal described two weeks prior to this breakout performance that McFerrin wanted to Carter to work on creating scoring opportunities for others while Carter is intent on stepping up her game defensively as well.
McFerrin called Carter an amazing physical athlete with great explosiveness. She can not only finish at the rim, but is a capable 3-point shooter as well. And because teams will soon be gearing their defenses to stop Carter, McFerrin expects her to be able to set up her teammates for easy baskets.
"We've got to rely on her to create some shots for other people," McFerrin said. "It's going to take a little bit of time. She's been out of the game for 18 months. But she's anxious for that role and she's more than capable in that role."
Because of the Tigers youth, Carter has already emerged as one of the team's leaders. While sitting on the bench last season, it was then that she realized she needed to step up her game defensively.
Although she only had two assists against Sacramento State, her 11 rebounds – 5 offensive – shows the many ways that her athleticism can be valuable to the Tigers.
"I was very impressed with was her rebounding and it’s what we talked about – when she loses her focus, she loses her aggression and she loses her rebounding," said McFerrin. "But that was not the case this evening. She was stellar."
Unlimited potential with more consistency and focus
University of Georgia head coach Andy Landers once compared Carter to former Lady Bulldog and 2006 WNBA Finals MVP Deanna Nolan, another seemingly unflappable, athletic, 5’9" guard.
Brittany Carter Rounds Out Lady Dogs' Recruiting Class - Official Athletics Site of the University of Georgia Bulldogs
"Brittany is incredibly athletic," Landers said. "She’s someone with a great passion for the game and someone who really wants to be as good as she can be. She has (Deanna) Nolan-like athleticism."
Nolan is a former Lady Bulldog who was MVP of the 2006 WNBA Finals while leading the Detroit Shock to their second title in four seasons. Carter is a two-year starter at Newton County, transferring there after playing at Redan as a freshman.
"She’s one of the most athletic players I’ve seen in a long time," said Newton County coach Tiffany Johnson. "Brittany’s athletic ability is tremendous. She’s grown a lot since her sophomore year. She’s a lot more confident and has stepped up to a leadership role."
Granted, it is probably unfair to compare a sophomore with five non-conference games under her belt to an athlete the caliber of Nolan, who literally seems to glide along the floor and float inches above defenders on her jump shots. Nonetheless, Carter’s combination of decisiveness, skill, speed, and strength, as well as the personality traits that multiple people seem to identify make the lofty comparison almost sound plausible.
Carter knows what she has to do to continue performing at the level she did Friday afternoon.
"I just have to stay aggressive at all times and not relax," said Carter.
Whether she reaches the level of Deanna Nolan remains to be seen and given that she has yet to even complete a full year in a Memphis uniform all such prognostications should probably be put on hold. However, it’s hard to ignore the lofty praise bestowed upon her by McFerrin, who has coached and recruited the likes of former Minnesota Gopher stars Janel McCarville and Lindsay Whalen, not to mention five years of WNBA experience.
"I’ve coached a lot of really good players and I don’t know if I’ve coached a player that was as good as Brittany Carter was tonight," said McFerrin.
- Prior to Carter’s record-setting 49 points, only one of the top 10 single game scoring performances for Memphis occurred on the road (Regina Street at Cincinnati, 12/6/83). Street and Tamika Whitmore each hold three of the top ten single game scoring performances in Memphis’ history. Former WNBA player LaTonya Johnson is now tied for sixth with 40 points (vs. Mississippi State, 12/20/95).
- Carter's 49 points also ties the record for most scored in the the Bank of America Arena -- men or women -- with Bob Houbregs (vs. Idaho 1/10/53), whose #25 jersey is now retired.
- After Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings scored 55 on the Golden State Warriors, I joked with a friend that perhaps there should be an asterix next to the associated records he set since my beloved Warriors are obviously not known for their defensive prowess. However, when you get into the rarefied air of 50 points, it’s something special, regardless of the competition. It may be tempting to dismiss Carter’s performance because it came against Sacramento State -- a team that has maintained a RPI somewhere in the 300 range in recent years – but it’s still quite a remarkable feat to score 49 points in 40 minutes.
- Carter and Memphis will be playing again in the Bank of America Arena at 12 pm PST on Sunday against Eastern Washington University, who the University of Washington took care of on Friday afternoon.
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UW’s opening opponent in the annual Husky Classic couldn’t take care of the ball, couldn’t shoot straight and couldn’t compete with the hometown team, helping the Huskies get back on the winning track by way of a 64-46 victory over the Eagles. By halftime of the afternoon game, EWU (3-2) had 16 turnovers, a 23-percent shooting percentage and an 18-point deficit in the Eagles’ first trip to Bank of America Arena since 2005.
- Speaking of Sacramento State, they played Memphis quite competitively -- they were down two at halftime and the game was tied with 5:00 minutes left. Memphis' superior athleticism and strength made the biggest difference, as they grabbed 61% of the available offensive rebounds in the second half.