Joe Jackson’s block sparks second-half rally for No. 24 Memphis (VIDEO)

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No. 24 Memphis was struggling in the first six-plus minutes of the second half in their non-conference battle with No. 23 Gonzaga. Gonzaga led by just three point at the half, but they outscored the Tigers 17-9 to open the second stanza and led 42-31 with 13:41 remaining. Memphis needed a spark, and it was at this point that Joe Jackson (on his birthday) made a play.

7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski went up for the dunk attempt, and with the 6-foot-1 Jackson being the only person between he and the basket it seemed certain that the sophomore big man would extend Gonzaga’s lead to 13 points. But Jackson had other ideas.

That block would spark an 11-2 run to pull the Tigers to within three points, and Memphis would use a 12-2 run later in the second half to grab control of the game. Memphis would go on to win by the final score of 60-54, scoring the final ten points of the game. Memphis ramped up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, suddenly keeping the Bulldogs out of the paint and making them hoist up challenged perimeter shots that missed their mark.

Gonzaga scoring 20 of its 25 points in the paint, with Shaq Goodwin picking up his second foul making it easier for the Bulldogs to work the ball inside. Frankly, Memphis was soft defensively. They got tougher in the second half, with Jackson’s block serving as the catalyst the Tigers needed.

And that carried over to the offensive end as well. Memphis scored just 16 points in the paint in the second half but they attacked, and the result was 24 free throw attempts (making 17) after attempting just three free throws in the first half. Michael Dixon Jr. scored all 11 of his points in the second half and freshman Nick King, while he did struggle at the foul line, provided a much-needed spark on the boards.

The question for Memphis in the aftermath of this comeback win is why don’t they play like this consistently? On too many occasions this season Josh Pastner’s team has settled for rushed perimeter shots instead of attacking the paint, either by way of dribble penetration or the pass. Memphis has some more big games in front of them with Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati and SMU all on the schedule, so there are opportunities for more quality wins.

And if they bring the effort they put forth in the final 12 minutes against Gonzaga, Memphis is certainly capable of taking advantage of those opportunities.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.