Memphis ends Tennessee rivalry with a win, Tigers AD takes blame

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Memphis, for the third consecutive time – and possibily the last time – beat in-state rival Tennessee 85-80 on Friday night in Knoxville.

Behind the strong play of guard Joe Jackson, who finished with 20 points and seven assists, the Tigers continued to get easy shots against a good defensive team, as they connected on 64 percent of their field goals in the first half, opening up a 42-28 lead heading into the break.

While Memphis did whatever they wanted on offense, the Volunteers struggled on their end of the floor, shooting below 30 percent after 16 minutes. Jordan McRae carried the load for the Vols going for 26 points, of 10-of-21 shooting. The Tigers could of blown the game out in the second, but Tennessee chipped away and got it to single digits with under eight to go.

However, the first half offensive woes were too much for the Volunteers to overcome 8-4. Memphis (10-3) got a much needed non-conference win after losses to VCU, Minnesota, and Louisville earlier in the year. This game is the last year of its contract and it is unsure whether this rivalry will resume.

For the last week, the Memphis-Tennessee rivalry mirrored the relationship of Ross and Rachel or Jim and Pam, following the old television sitcom idiom: “will they/won’t they.”

On Wednesday morning, Memphis coach Josh Pastner said the annual game will come to an end based on the notion Tennessee would be given a stage to recruit Memphis-area players. Later on Wednesday, Memphis and Tennessee athletic directors were discussing ways to continue the game. This is after Pastner said he and Memphis AD, Tom Bowen were in agreement about ending the series.

At halftime of the Memphis-Tennessee game, Bowen took responsibility for the miscommunication between he and Pastner.

“It’s my fault,” Bowen told the Commercial-Appeal. “I should have told him earlier.”

Back in November, Bowen did tell Pastner the series would end. Because of the downfall of the Big East, which Memphis is joining, Bowen realized there would be room to continue the series after Boise State backed away from joining the Big East earlier this week.

That is where the confusion came into play, according to the Commercial-Appeal.

“What are we going to do with those uncoupled games?” Bowen told Geoff Calkins at halftime. “Everything is so fluid, Things are changing every day. We’re in a transition. But I’m going to do better with communicating.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.