Chris Crawford is 6’4”. When he gets his feet set to take an outside shot it looks like something from the 1950s. The prototypical college point guard he is not, but since Josh Pastner has inserted the sophomore guard into the starting lineup at the “one,” the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team is 3-0. Billed as a pure shooter when he was being recruited at Sheffield High School, Crawford has likely turned a few heads recently, showing off his playmaking skills. Whether it’s been a floater in the lane or a no look alley-oop, he has been a leader on the floor for the U of M.
In the Tigers 71-54 win over Miami, Crawford finished with a solid 9 points and 5 assists to go along with 4 steals, but some things simply don’t show up on the scoreboard. A couple of nice lob passes inside helped Memphis break open what had been a tightly contested game. And though Will Barton will get much of the credit for leading to the Tigers with his 27 points and 14 rebounds, Crawford has been a big part of the team’s recent improvement.
Crawford’s vision is exceptional, and whether his passes lead to him being credited with an assist or simply serve to get the offense flowing, it’s hard to overstate the importance of his presence in the lineup. The Tigers have had some tremendous point guards in recent years, including last year’s NBA MVP Derrick Rose, but Crawford is arguably the best passer to don a Memphis uniform since some guy named Penny Hardaway.
His height makes it easier than most point guards to see over the defense, and although his flat footed 3-point shot makes him a bit of a throwback, Crawford is a superb athlete. NBA Scouts at the Miami game were apparently impressed with his NBA potential running the point, and it might be hard at this point for Pastner not to play him there the rest of the season.
When asked about what he thought the best part of his game was at the beginning of the year, Crawford said, “My passing. That’s something that a lot of people didn’t know about me I think.”
But it’s something Tiger fans should be well aware of now, and something his coaches and teammates have come to expect. Other teams better be prepared for it as well, starting with Murray State.
Memphis vs. Miami – game notes:
Will Barton turned in another impressive performance, coming up with 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Adonis Thomas chipped in with 10 boards as well, marking a rare occurrence where multiple players amass with double digit rebounds for the Tigers. That feat had not occurred since Dec 5, 2009 when Will Coleman and Pierre Henderson-Niles grabbed 9 and 10 respectively against Arkansas State.
After struggling all season to control the boards, Memphis outrebounded Miami 41-33, including 13-11 on the offensive end. Although Miami was an undersized team, Memphis has been in several games this year where they were outrebounded drastically despite possessing a much larger lineup.
The Tigers committed only 8 turnovers, a vast improvement over their 19 at Austin Peay, a noteworthy feat against a quality opponent on the road. The game marked the first loss for the Hurricanes in 27 consecutive non-conference home games.
Next up for Memphis is a Sunday evening home matchup with an undefeated Murray State team which boasts a 9-0 record that includes victories over UAB, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky and Dayton.
Michael Jones is the Tiger basketball beat writer for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter @MemphisMJ.
Photo by Justin Ford