|Lisa Murphy has missed just 55 shots in 18 games, helping Carnegie Mellon jump out to a 13-0 start to the season.
Carnegie Mellon athletics photo
By Rob Knox
If it weren’t for social media, Carnegie Mellon junior forward Lisa Murphy might not know she currently leads Division III in scoring and field-goal percentage. If she had her way, she would continue to silently devour the competition, have fun with her teammates and eat plenty of chocolate, her favorite food.
“I don’t pay attention to (the statistics),” Murphy said. “I am pretty introverted and don’t like a lot of attention. I mean, a lot of people tell me things, so I am aware. It’s just so humbling and I am grateful. I hate attention because my focus is helping my team win games. I love the game because it’s fun.”
Murphy is enjoying the best of both worlds.
Averaging 24.3 points per game, Murphy has helped the Tartans to a 14-4 start to the season following Sunday’s 66-60 road win against Brandeis that halted a four-game losing streak. She also has the best field goal percentage in the nation. Murphy has made an insane 75.6 percent of her shots this season while missing 55 times.
Making her videogame-like numbers more remarkable is Murphy is constantly double and tripled team when she gets the ball, which is perfectly fine with her. Since the Tartans are balanced with Jackie Hudapohl (14.5 points per game), Lindsey Poss (12.9) and Liz Otto (11.8) averaging double figures, Murphy is more than content to pass the ball to one of her teammates and let them dissect opponents. Freshman Jenn Mayberger is 18th nationally in assists (5.6 per game).
In the win over Brandeis, Murphy scored 15 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. She made all six of her shots from the floor and five from the charity stripe. She also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to record her 10th double-double of the season. Otto finished with 16 points while Poss chipped in with 15.
“She’s just gotten better at understanding how to play against double teams every night,” Carnegie Mellon coach Jacquie Hullah said. “Lisa has always had really solid back to the basket moves. She’s in great shape and is really tenacious on the boards. She’s a very unselfish player and it’s been fun to see how her confidence has grown with experience.”
Since she sprints the floor like a greyhound, Murphy gets plenty of points in transition before teams can set their defenses. She has a smorgasbord of moves around the basket that leaves defenders befuddled. However, it wasn’t always this easy for Murphy. There used to be a time when Murphy would be frustrated by double and triple teams.
“I was turning the ball over a lot and getting called for charges,” Murphy said. “I just became more patient and listened to coaches’ recommendations. Now, double teams have become normal for me. I am surprised when I have one person on me. As a team, we make good adjustments and we move the ball well. We have different scoring threats and have players who can score in a variety of ways so that forces defenses to have to play all us on the floor, which is fun.”
The Tartans are 11th nationally in assists per game (17.2), 18th in scoring offense (75.4) fifth in blocked shots per game (6.8), third in field goal percentage (46.9) and fourth in rebounding margin (+13.4).
“I believe this is best passing starting lineup I’ve had here,” Hullah said. “They have the ability to move the ball. All of the attention on Lisa makes it easier for the other players. At the same time, they are unselfish and get Lisa the ball where she has the chance to do what she can do. We have a very balanced attack, which is fun to watch.”
Murphy, who has scored 30 or more points five times this season, is in the process of demolishing the Tartan program record book.
For starters, Murphy was the only player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in a season and the second ever to average a double-double (20.2 points per game and 10.2 rebounds) when she did it last season. With 1,405 career points, Murphy is the Tartans’ third on the all-time scoring list. She needs 50 points to move into second place and 191 markers to become Carnegie Mellon’s all-time leading scorer.
She has 701 career rebounds, which is eighth all-time and she is 233 from becoming the all-time program leader. Murphy is 52 blocks from owning the school record in that category.
Last season, Murphy set single-season program records in points (505), field goals (182), field goal percentage (.664, which also led the nation), free throws made (141) and blocked shots (70), Murphy also blocked a school record 10 shots against Brandeis last season.
“Every game she does something that has us saying ‘wow”, Hullah said. “She’s so coachable within a game situation. You can tell her something specific and she’ll make adjustments on the fly. Lisa is very competitive and always looking for ways to help the team be successful. She has an uncanny ability to finish. She’s really gifted.”
Murphy didn’t get serious about basketball until high school. She started playing hoops in third grade, but swimming and soccer also occupied some of her time. She’s making up for lost time.
While Murphy shines on the basketball court, she sparkles off of it.
A psychology major, Murphy has interned at the Children’s School on campus and volunteered the Children’s Institute autism and speech therapy class. She’s also the secretary of the International Psychology Honor Society.
“I have a huge passion for working with any child with a disability,” Murphy said. “I believe it’s what I am supposed to do. This is a something that I know I am going to be happy in. I want to work with kids with autism. My plan is to go to grad school and get my masters in special education. I got involved in Best Buddies. It paired us with kids who have special needs and I loved the organization, which fueled my desire to help more.”
While her future plans are set, Murphy is still focused on the present. At 3-4 in the rugged University Athletic Association, the Tartans have work to do as they trail league leading New York University and Washington by three games in the standings. Carnegie Mellon hosts NYU and Brandeis this weekend.
“We’re really happy with how we’ve been playing this season,” Murphy said. “We’ve been holding our own and we’re excited to play teams for a second time. We want to finish as one of the top teams in the conference. Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament and do as well as we can. Right now we are focused on winning games.”
The Tartans losing streak also coincided with Poss missing three games. She’s back now which is welcome sight. Poss is one of the captains and leaders for the Tartans. She scored a season-high 23 points against Grove City and 21 against LaRoche.
Last season, the Tartans were competitive but not at full strength when it mattered most.
“Last year was unfinished business for us,” Hullah said. “Jackie tore her ACL and was lost for the season. She’s so versatile offensively and defensively. She can knock down 3s and pull down rebounds. We also had some other injuries. Even though we were competing, we weren’t firing on all cylinders. We knew we were so much better than our record. Coming into this year, everybody was hungry and determined and make some noise in the UAA.”
Piedmont’s dynamite dozen
The Piedmont women’s basketball team extended its winning streak to 12 games with a memorable 61-54 victory over 22nd ranked Maryville on Wednesday night. The Lions improved to 16-4 overall and 11-0 in the USA South Conference. The Lions are off to their best start ever in USA South play.
For Maryville, the loss was the first in USA South play this season and just the fifth loss in conference regular season play for the Scots over the last three seasons as MC has won at least a share of the league's regular season title in each of the last three years.
The Lions got solid performances from many players including Brianna Barrett, who scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds, handed out three assists, and collected five steals, two shy of tying a single-game season high seven set against N.C. Wesleyan back on December 15. Barrett is averaging 7.5 points per game for Piedmont.
Mary Kate Rushon has led a balanced Lion attack this season with 10.8 points per game. She scored a team-high 12 against Maryville. It was the 10th time this year she scored in double figures. Rushon has scored 20 or more points three times this season, including a season best 22 against Huntingdon.
Dakota Sullens (10.1 points per game) and Le’Shaunda Jones (9.2) have made some nice contributions throughout the season for Piedmont. Sullens scored a season-high 21 points and 11 rebounds against Oglethorpe for one of her three double-doubles. Jones has scored in double figures in three of the Lions last four games. Included in that stretch is a season best 20 points against Ferrum.
The Lions average 77 points per game as a team, which is 10th nationally. Additionally, the Lions are in top 25 in steals and steals per game as well. Piedmont host Convenant on Saturday afternoon in its next contest. The Maryville rematch will be on Feb. 17 in Tennessee and comes at the end of a three-game road trip.
Since losing to Elmhurst in a classic, second-ranked Augustana has won eight consecutive games to raise its overall record to 20-1. The latest conquest for the Vikings was a 76-68 decision over North Central in a first-place showdown Wednesday night. The Vikings dynamic duo of Hunter Hill (25 points) and Ben Ryan (21) combined for 46 points in the huge road victory.
Hill finished the night nine of 13 from the field, including five of eight from beyond the arc. Ryan connected on nine of 15 from the floor. Brandon Motzel and Tayvion Johnson split 16 points on a combined seven-of-eight performance from the field. The Vikings' shooting performance—.569 (29 of 51) from the floor and .375 (six of 16) from three-point range—was the difference.
Five of the Vikings’ victories during their winning streak have been by double digits. Last Saturday, Augustana’s streak almost ended as it survived North Park, 95-92, in overtime.
Flyers soaring in the Empire 8
Tyler Stenglein and Mitch Ford each poured in 23 points as Nazareth cruised to its fifth consecutive victory, a 98-78 triumph over visiting Ithaca last Saturday at Kidera Gymnasium. Nazareth now sits in sole possession of first place in the Empire 8 with a 9-1 record and improves to 13-6 overall. The Golden Flyers get an opportunity to avenge their only conference setback of the season when they travel to perennial power St. John Fisher on Saturday afternoon.
Stenglein and Ford have powered Nazareth this season. They have been consistently dominant. Stenglein has scored over 20 points in three of the Golden Eagles’ past four games. He was 8-of-13 with seven against Ithaca.
In two wins last week, Stenglein averaged 24 points on 16-of-23 shooting, to go along five rebounds and six assists to earn Empire 8 Player of the Week honors. Last Wednesday, he led Nazareth with 25 points (8-of-10), five boards, five assists, and three steals in a 100-73 win over Houghton. It is the second time this season he has been honored with this award.
Ford continued his brilliance with his 14th double-double of the season on 9-of-12 shooting with 12 boards. Ford is averaging 23.7 points and 11.2 rebounds this season to lead the conference in both categories. Maurice Mills has chipped in with 12.6 points and 8.2 rebounds during Nazareth’s special season. The Golden Eagles have rebounded from a five-game losing streak to win 10 of their last 11 games.
Neumann’s twin threats
Neumann has been fueled by the scoring of James Butler and DeShawn Lowman. The duo are each averaging over 17 points per game. They combine to burn opponents for 35 points every night, making them one of the top scoring duo’s in the Colonial States Athletic Conference.
Lowman led five Knights in double-digits with 21 points while Butler allied 18 points and nine rebounds. The pair had plenty of help, which made all the difference as Neumann handed GMC its first conference loss of the season. Denzel Yard scored 13 points and handed out 10 assists for a double-double. Darian Barnes added 12 points and nine rebounds. Tony Parker rounded out the double-figure scoring with 11 points.
Butler has been a rock for the Knights this season, reaching double figures in every game. He was named the CSAC tournament MVP. Lowman has reached double digits in 18 games this season. He has exploded for some memorable performances like the 36-point effort against Rosemont, which came during an early-season stretch in which he scored 20 or more points in seven consecutive games.
With five games remaining beginning Saturday against Summit University, Neumann is poised to make another long postseason run. Many of the players gained experience from last year’s CSAC tournament title squad and first round setback to Mount Union in the NCAA Tournament.
I am serving as the national columnist this season for D3hoops.com for a second season. To help with telling the best stories, delivering fun and insightful nuggets while providing teams the recognition they deserve, please add me to your email list for news releases and postgame releases at email@example.com. Don’t worry about flooding my inbox. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @knoxrob1.
Around the Nation was writen by Rob Knox during the 2015-16 season. A former Division III Sports Information Director at Lincoln University, Rob Knox also worked at Coppin State, ESPN, Kutztown and at the Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times. He was inducted into the Lincoln University Athletics Hall of Fame, named the CoSIDA Rising Star Award College Division winner and won three writing awards for various game stories including the 2007 D-III sectional triple-OT game between Guilford and Lincoln. In the past, he has also written articles for SLAM magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan, a graduate of Lincoln and is from Chester, Pa.