Carnegie Mellon freshman grows along with women's program

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon women's basketball coach Jacquie Hullah remembers the first time she saw Lisa Murphy play: It was on a videotape that Murphy's coach at McLean (Va.) High School sent to her.

That was enough for Hullah. She saw a talented player who could help her budding program.

Watching Murphy in person has done nothing to change her mind.

Murphy, a 6-foot-1 freshman, is leading the University Athletic Association in scoring (19.0 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.654) and is second in rebounding (8.3). More importantly, she has helped the Tartans to a 9-3 start and has them well on their way to continuing the steady improvement they have experienced since Hullah took over two years ago.

Hullah arrived at CMU following a season in which the team went 2-23. Now the Tartans, 13-13 last year, are using phrases like “conference title” and “NCAA Tournament,” and Murphy has been a big part of that.

“She is everything we thought she would be and more,” Hullah said. “With all of her natural ability, and you combine that with a high basketball IQ and a great work ethic, she has no idea how good she can become.”

Murphy's high point this season came in a victory over Allegheny in November when she had 36 points and 21 rebounds.

“I didn't have a lot of expectations coming into it,” said Murphy, whose scoring average this season has exceeded even her high school totals. “If someone told me that (I would be leading the conference in scoring), I probably wouldn't believe it.

“There's a lot of different things that go into winning games. But I'm really glad I'm able to contribute to the team in that sense.”

Her height, coupled with CMU's ability to shoot from the outside, affords Murphy a lot of good looks at the basket down low. But, Hullah said, it's Murphy's ability to run the floor that sets her apart from other post players.

In CMU's aggressive offense — the Tartans average a conference-leading 87.6 points — Murphy's athleticism has enabled her to score in transition. And she isn't finished developing her offensive repertoire. She has the ability to shoot 3-pointers, consistently making shots from beyond the arc in practice. All that she's lacking, Hullah said, is the experience and confidence to try it in a game.

While excited about Murphy's upside, Hullah keeps her expectations tempered.

“We want to allow her to be a freshman,” Hullah said. “We know that it's going to be a learning curve because of the physicality of the league and the size of the players she'll be going against and the speed of some of the players she'll be going against.”

Murphy and the Tartans got a taste of how difficult conference play will be in a 77-54 loss to Case Western Reserve over the weekend in their UAA opener. Murphy was held to 12 points, and the 54 points were a season-low for the Tartans.

With CMU's next two games on the road against Emory and Rochester, which finished 1-2 in the conference last year and were considered by Murphy before she chose Carnegie Mellon, it doesn't get any easier.

Murphy admits she felt like “the weak freshman” in the conference opener and is determined to correct that. She hopes that as she becomes stronger and more polished so, too, will the Tartans.

“We start a freshman and two sophomores, so it's a young team, and I think we still have a lot of room to grow in the next couple years,” she said. “But I think we have really good prospects.”

Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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