This is the kind of performance we expected to see from Memphis all season long.
With the Ohio Bobcats — who took North Carolina to overtime in the Sweet 16 last season and returned, literally, everyone — coming to town, most expected a battle on Wednesday night. Instead, the Tigers beat OU 84-58.
It wasn’t just the final score, either. It was how they did it.
Memphis scored 48 points in the paint. They outrebounded Ohio by 11 (for those statistically inclined, the Tigers posted 35.4% OR and 79.5% DR). They forced 17 turnovers and scored 23 points off of them. In other words, they attacked the basket, they took advantage of their size in the paint, and they played the kind of defense you would expect from a team with that much athleticism.
More importantly, Geron Johnson finally blew up. The former top 50 recruit — who has all kinds of legal and academic issues in his past — finished with 21 points on 8-11 shooting and looked as talented as any perimeter player that has come through Memphis in the Josh Pastner era.
And the Tigers did all of this while Adonis Thomas and Joe Jackson, the two guys expected to be stars this season, finished shooting 7-22 from the floor. While it’s concerning that those two are still trying to work through their issues, but it is promising to know that Memphis can win without them playing their best basketball.
Tarik Black can be thrown in that conversation as well. Shaq Goodwin played the bulk of the minutes at the center spot — Memphis played the majority of the game with Thomas at the four — and finished with 20 points and nine boards.
The Tigers still have issues to work through, and they have a ceiling so long as Jackson, Thomas and Black struggle, but this was an impressive and promising performance by the Tigers.
Now build on it.