Tigers Make Magicians Disappear

The University of Memphis’ 119-67 victory Wednesday night over LeMoyne-Owen was far from perfect, but Tiger fans should be pleased with their team’s overall performance. Will Barton showed why he is a preseason player of the year candidate, displaying his all-around game as he amassed 22 points (on 9 of 13 shooting), 5 rebounds and 4 assists in only 20 minutes of action. There were some rough spots of course, such as allowing the Magicians a plethora of open 3s and an occasional lapse in half-court defense, but for the most part, Wednesday’s game served to reaffirm why the U of M has garnered such lofty expectations for this season.

Senior guard Charles Carmouche was one of seven Tigers who finished in double figures as he showed once again why his veteran presence is so valuable to this team. Fellow senior Wesley Witherspoon poured in 16 points and five rebounds, and junior college transfer Stan Simpson had an impressive debut, finishing with 14 points as he missed only one of his eight attempts from the floor. Even more impressive were his 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

It looked for a moment as though the Tigers might struggle as they have in previous exhibitions, posting only a 28-20 advantage with 12 minutes to go in the first half. LeMoyne Owen’s Teshawn Byron torched the Tigers for 33 points, and Memphis gave the Magicians several open looks throughout the early stages of the game. But eventually the Tigers’ superior size and athleticism took their toll on an overmatched Division 2 opponent, going on a 24-4 run over the final eight minutes of the half en route to a 57-29 lead at the break. The Magicians failed to make any kind of significant run in the second stanza.

Next up for Memphis is a second exhibition on Friday, Nov. 11 against CBU at FedExForum.

Player ratings (10 = highest, 1 = lowest)

Tarik Black:  5

Black played 19 minutes and had 3 blocked shots, but for the most part, he was invisible on offense. 4 points and 2 rebounds is simply unacceptable. The good news, however, is that the Tigers top big man didn’t commit a single foul.

Wesley Witherspoon:  7

Witherspoon was impressive, showing leadership and hustle as he dove for several loose balls, grabbed 3 steals and went 6 of 7 from the line. This is exactly the kind of effort everyone should expect the senior to produce every time out. Unfortunately though, fans have seen this kind of game from Witherspoon before, and it is usually followed by several underachieving performances. Although the Tigers next opponent, CBU, isn’t exactly a jump up in class, it will be interesting to see if ‘Spoon can have another solid game.

Joe Jackson:  7

Jackson did little to captivate the crowd, but his showing was fairly impressive nonetheless. The White Station alum’s 7 assists tied for the team lead, and he committed only one turnover. Jackson seemed to relish his role as a point guard rather than trying to force the issue and make sure he got his own shot. The Tigers would probably like to get more than 10 points out of one of their main offensive weapons, but they will also certainly take a steady performance like this any day.

Charles Carmouche:  8

Carmouche played every bit like the senior leader he is, going 6 of 6 from the floor including 3 for 3 from beyond the arc. He was also a perfect 1-1 from the stripe and played steady defense. ‘Mouche is a model of consistency, something that a group of young players can learn from just by being on the floor with him.

Will Barton:  8

If this game had been against a more potent foe, Barton would have been rated even higher. Tiger fans got to see what they probably expected to witness later year, as the Baltimore native was easily the best player on the floor in just about every facet of the game. Whereas last season he often seemed to shy away from contact, Barton appeared to actually look for it at times during this game, eager to draw the foul and finish or step up to the line. If Barton plays this way consistently, this Tiger team may actually deliver on his guarantee from last year.

Antonio Barton:  7

Like Carmouche, Antonio Barton continues to be one of the steadiest presences on the roster. He once again played solid defense and made open shots as he took what the defense gave him, all while impressively running the team at the point.

Chris Crawford:  5

Crawford had a terrible night shooting the ball, going 2 for 10, but he is still a critical piece for this Tiger team. It’s possible that his concentration on guarding the opposition might have affected his shot, but that should get better as the year goes on. His court vision is second to none as his 7 assists tied with Jackson for game high honors. A full court pass ahead to Barton over the head of a Magician defender showed just how good his passing touch can be, and that wasn’t even the most impressive look of the night. His behind the back dish to Carmouche for an open 3 on the break was a thing of beauty and brought probably the biggest cheer of the night.

Stan Simpson:  8

Wednesday marked a fairly impressive debut for Simpson. Besides Barton, he probably had the best showing of any Tiger player. Showing an array of low post moves and a nice outside touch, the newcomer showed that Memphis won’t have to rely solely on Black down low. If he continues to play like this, he will easily be an upgrade over what Memphis lost in Will Coleman.

Adonis Thomas:  6

Thomas struggled early on as it seemed like the speed of the game at this level might be a bit overwhelming. As he got into the flow, however, the freshman managed to contribute some solid minutes and finish in double figures with 11 points.

Hippolyte Tsafack:  5

“Hip” provided some big minutes off the bench, gathering in 7 boards in only 13 minutes. He also committed 4 personal fouls in that time, and it’s obvious he has some adjustments to make as he learns the college game.

DJ Stephens:  3

Stephens played only 7 minutes and for the most part failed to make an impact. Didn’t play particularly poorly but also didn’t seem to be his usual passionate self.

Charles Holt:  5

Holt came in late in the game and hit his only shot, an open 3-pointer. Also committed a turnover and had 1 assist in his 3 minutes. Can’t ask for much more from the walk on.

Preston Laird:  7

The crowd was chanting for Laird as soon as it was evident the Tigers would have a blowout win. Hit a 3 and could have scored more if he had hit either of the 2 free throws he attempted. Also collected a pair of rebounds.

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Michael Jones is the Tiger basketball beat writer for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter @MemphisMJ.

Photo by Justin Ford.

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