By: Anthony Sain ( @SainAsylum )
Although their opponent didn’t provide much of a challenge, the Memphis Tigers (1-0) looked like a team with a clear identity defeating the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (0-1) 67-49, Saturday night. Leading by as many as 29 points, the Tigers jumped out early on the Golden Eagles in their opening game, displaying intense defense and a free flowing motion offense.
Senior Shaq Goodwin led Memphis in scoring with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner spoke highly of Goodwin’s effort on both ends of the court.
“Shaq has been great all summer to this point,” said Pastner. “He was bouncy and quick. He played at a very high level. He had 15 points and about eight or nine rebounds. What I am happy about the two assists and no turnovers. He has had more turnovers than assist. It was a great stat for me.”
Coach Pastner would also praise the team’s effort on defense forcing Southern Miss into 19 turnovers on the game, and scoring 22 of their 67 points off of Golden Eagle miscues. Pastner was also critical of the amount of offensive rebounds (21) that USM was able to grab. Memphis’ defense was solid in general. Denying Southern Miss from a lot of the things that they like to do by applying pressure on the ball.
“Good win. I thought we did some good stuff tonight,” said Pastner. “Defensively, holding them to 26 percent from field and 29 percent from the three-point line. I love that we had 17 assists on 23 made field goals. I love the fact we only had seven turnovers and 18-of-25 from the free-throw line.
“However I did not like how many offensive rebounds we gave them. We gave Southern Miss 21 and that is too many. It is two reason one when we get in scramble mode plus we gamble sometimes. We put ourselves in deficit and their bigs get opportunities to get rebounds.”
Goodwin would point to the team’s good start as being a reason why the Tigers were successful. He would also talk about how their ball pressure on the perimeter paid dividends all evening.
“I think the start of the game went really well,” said Goodwin. “We came out with our foot on the gas. We lead the whole first half. Pretty much a turnaround from the exhibition game so I’m definitely proud of the start.”
Goodwin on the team’s on ball pressure against the Southern Miss guards
“That was definitely a point of emphasis in the beginning of the game to put pressure on their guards because we knew that they had some pretty good bigs,” said Goodwin. “So I’m glad that we went out there and executed to the best of our abilities and forced a lot of turnovers. It gave us a big lead.”
Alabama transfer Ricky Tarrant Jr. had another good game as well. Not showed directly in the score sheet, only scoring four points with four assists but Tarrant was extremely active on defense and pushed the tempo consistently. He also added three steals, contributing to the Tigers constant ball pressure. Tarrant is a lot faster with the ball in his hands than many would assume, and he is a great addition at the point guard position, which was a definite area of lack last season.
Shaq Goodwin on Tarrant’s performance
“Ricky definitely in my opinion did what he was supposed to do tonight, “ said Goodwin. “He facilitated. He got the ball across half court. Had the tempo up to speed and found a lot of open guys.
“He found me a lot of times. I think he had a pretty good game. We all know that his shot wasn’t falling like it was in the exhibition but he definitely made an impact in other areas on the floor.”
One of the definite bright spots of the game was the outstanding play of heralded freshman Dedric Lawson. The local Hamilton High School product was phenomenal during an early stretch in the first half that included getting to the basket and drawing contact, dishing off assist, running the floor well and blocking shots. He would finish the game with 13 points, four rebounds, and five assists in his debut and spoke about his performance after the game.
“I think I played pretty well,” said Lawson. “I could have grabbed a lot more rebounds. Shaq took most of them, but it’s all good. I’m just trying to get the flow of college and getting used to the physicality and all of that.”
His older sibling KJ Lawson had a great debut as well which was highlighted by a breakaway slam in transition in the first half. KJ Lawson is a high-energy player on both ends and Dedric would credit playing alongside him as a factor in helping him ease into the transition of his first college game and being successful.
“Me and my brother have been playing together since the age of three and we just know how to feed off of each other’s energy to help each other out when things are not going good for each other,” said Lawson. “Finding an easy shot for him, like the same thing that I would do for Shaq or any other teammate, just find an easy shot to get all of my teammates going and that’s what I do with my brother.”
Coach Pastner would also speak highly on the potential of both Lawson brothers as well
“I think Dedric and K.J. will be two of the best people from Memphis, that came out of Memphis, that played at Memphis,” said Pastner. “I really believe that. I think they have tremendous upside, tremendous potential and I think they will get better with time. There are going to be some highs and lows and some struggles but the more experience and time they get the better they will be, and they are going to keep improving every time that they step on the floor.”
This years Tiger basketball team hopes to improve on last years 18-14 record and gain back some of the fan confidence that they lost last year. I for one believe that a lack of identity on both ends of the court attributed to this, and now that the Tigers seem to show that they have a clear direction, things may be on the way back to where fans would like to see them.
Coach Pastner on his teams potential and the how the fans will receive their effort
“I’ve been saying this and I really believe it – people are really going to love this team,” said Pastner. “That doesn’t mean that we are going to win every game. That just means that I really believe that they are going to leave it on the floor, they are going to play the right way, and they are going to play with the fight and scrap that Memphis wants to see for their team,”
Memphis will face a definite upgrade in competition in their next game as they prepare to face-off against #8 ranked Oklahoma, Tuesday at home as part of the ESPN 24 hour College Hoops Tip Off Marathon. The game will be played at 4 p.m. central time.
Shaq Goodwin on preparation for Oklahoma
“I don’t know anything about Oklahoma,” said Goodwin. “We will go into it tomorrow, start our game-plan, start looking at film and we will go from there. I really don’t know too much about the next opponent besides they’re the next opponent. We will talk about them tomorrow.”