Less than two weeks ago America had its most recent opportunity to watch Josh Pastner’s Memphis Tigers in a “big” game, as they visited Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. With the amount of talent on the roster, the Tigers were expected to put up a fight at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Instead Marcus Smart went off in the first half and Memphis didn’t respond when punched in the mouth, resulting in a 101-80 defeat that wasn’t as close as the final margin would indicate.
That was the backdrop for Sunday’s rematch in the title game of the Old Spice Classic, with many wondering if Memphis had what it took to win a high-profile contest such as this one. Could the Tigers respond with the mental toughness needed to win a game of this magnitude? Sure enough Memphis did, coming back from a ten-point halftime deficit to beat the Cowboys 73-68 to take home the Old Spice Classic crown.
Shaq Goodwin, named MVP of the event, led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds and his steal of a Marcus Smart pass in the game’s final seconds proved to be the difference. And the guards who didn’t show up in the first meeting did so in the rematch, with Chris Crawford (16 points) and Michael Dixon Jr. (12 points) both hitting key shots down the stretch and Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson also contributing. The most important feat for the Memphis perimeter: their work in defending Marcus Smart.
Smart scored 39 points in the first meeting, doing just about whatever he wanted on that night. In the rematch Smart shot 4-for-13 from the field, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. Memphis made Smart work for everything, especially in the second half, and if the national Player of the Year candidate got past the guards there was a big man (or two) waiting for him in the paint.
As a team the Cowboys shot 8-for-21 from the field in the second half and turned the ball over nine times (by comparison, Memphis committed just two in the half), and while their poor execution can be noted Memphis’ defensive effort should be mentioned as well. Memphis landed the first blow in the second half, immediately going on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to just three points. Would that have happened in Stillwater just 12 days prior? Probably not.
The headlines will focus on Josh Pastner’s team getting a Top 25 victory, and given how the Tigers have struggled in such games since Pastner was hired that’s certainly fair. But there’s also value in the improved mental toughness displayed by Memphis, and that’s something that can benefit the Tigers as the season rolls on.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.
Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.
Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.
Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.