Just five days ago No. 24 Memphis put forth one of its worst halves of basketball this season in their 69-53 loss to Cincinnati, shooting 24.3% from the field and turning the ball over eight times in the second half against the stout Bearcat defense. The Tigers didn’t share the basketball or execute, and with their four senior guard combining to shoot 14-for-49 for the game and failing to work the ball inside it came as no surprise that Memphis lost the game.
“We went away from getting the ball inside to our big guys,” Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said after the loss. “This game was reminiscent of the [first] Oklahoma State game where we had individual play. We had a lot of open looks, but when you miss that amount of shots from those guys, it sucks the life out of you.”
The good news for Memphis is that the schedule provided them with an opportunity to rebound from that disappointing performance in the form of Thursday night’s game at No. 12 Louisville. Thanks to a balanced offensive effort and a 7-0 run to end the game the Tigers did just that, beating the reigning national champions 73-67.
Five Memphis players scored in double figures with Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin leading the way with 15 points apiece, and as a team the Tigers shot 50.9% from the field. Despite turning the ball over 15 times Memphis did a better job of finding shots, and that was most evident in the production of Goodwin and Austin Nichols.
After combining to attempt just nine shots (making three) against Cincinnati the duo attempted 17 against Louisville, making 11 and combining for 25 points and 15 rebounds. Much has been made of the Memphis backcourt all season long and with good reason, because that four-man rotation is among the deepest and most talented in the country. In addition to Jackson’s 15 points and six assists Memphis received 13 and 11 rebounds from Geron Johnson and 12 from Chris Crawford, who hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Even with Michael Dixon Jr. struggling Memphis has enough skill on the perimeter to account for an off night from one of its key contributors. But if Memphis is to win the American Athletic Conference and ultimately achieve greater things in the NCAA tournament, those big men will need to be heard from as well. After doing little to get Goodwin and Nichols involved on Saturday the Tigers changed their approach against Louisville, and the result was another quality win for Josh Pastner’s team.