After Memphis’ drubbing at the hands of Cincinnati this past weekend, not many people, myself included, had a lot of hope for the Tigers’ matchup with Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center. But in typical Tiger fashion, they went out and shocked everyone by beating the Cardinals on the road.
Some brief thoughts:
– Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols, when they are on their game, are tough to stop. Last night they shot a combined 11 of 17 for 25 points and hauled in a combined 15 rebounds. This was the game Nichols needed to snap out of his freshman funk. And Shaq is morphing into a premiere big man. He’s a few steps away and might not get there this season, but when he hits his peak, watch out.
– Geron Johnson should be our last option on offense when the starters are in, but he should play with the same enthusiasm and energy he did last night from here on out. He shot a pretty pitiful 3-11, jacking up four three-pointers and only connecting on one, but he had 11 rebounds and played great defense throughout the game. He gets out of control sometimes, but it’s hard not to appreciate his passion. If only he could learn to harness it a bit more.
– Our starters, when they can play together, are an extremely cohesive unit. Four of the five played 30+ minutes last night, and I’m confident it would have been all five had Chris Crawford not gotten in early foul trouble. When these five can be on the court at the same time, fans should feel extremely confident. When two or more are on the bench? That’s when things start to spiral downward.
– Michael Dixon Jr., while not having a huge game, understood his role last night. Play defense, take shots when they are there, find the open man. I imagine most folks would take six points, three assists, and three rebounds from him every game gladly.
– The frontcourt looks to be secure going forward. Between Nichols, Goodwin, and Big Dom Woodson, I think that the future looks bright for our big men in the seasons to come.
– The backcourt could be a mess after this year. It’s hard to argue with Josh exclusively playing the four senior guards, but come next season, there won’t be anyone in the backcourt that has played meaningful minutes. I hope that there are some blowouts so Damien Wilson can get into some games, but I wouldn’t count on it.
– Joe Jackson 1 – Chris Jones 0. In the battle of the Memphis guards, Joe Jackson won. He outscored Jones 15-2, had six assists to Jones’ three, and shot 44% to Jones’ abysmal 11%. The rivalry was still there though. I look forward to seeing these two face-off next month at FedExForum.
– Josh Pastner gets another signature win and proves he’s capable of hanging with the big boys for the second time this season. It’ll be exciting to see how he uses this win going forward.
Last night was a fantastic night for Tigers’ fans. Not just because the team won. Not just because they beat a longtime rival at their place. But because it was fun. And because they got to show the world that they’re more than ready for a big season.
Hopefully there won’t be any backsliding with a quick turnaround to face Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday, but I feel confident the Tigers will take care of business.