Thirty-two point blowouts are confidence-builders in the world of college basketball, as long as you’re on the right side of the score. (On the wrong side, and they’re lucrative public spankings.) The Tigers’ dismantling of UCA tonight should help in a few areas.
Memphis hit 12 of 24 three-point shots, including three of five from sharpshooter Roburt Sallie, who had missed 13 of his first 14 long-distance attempts of the season. “I knew it would come,” he said after the game. “I got some lucky bounces today, and that may help me get out of [the slump]. I’m grateful.” Elliot Williams drained four treys and led the Tigers in scoring for the fourth straight game with 20 points. He also dished out eight assists with but a single turnover.
“We’re gaining confidence,” said center Pierre Henderson-Niles. “It just takes time. We’ve got to get on the same page. If we come together, and can stay together, we’re gonna be a helluva team to beat.” Henderson-Niles had the biggest smile of the night after making a free throw late in the second half (he’s three for eight for the season), but with a single rebound — to match his point total — the big senior’s impact could best be described as intangible.
Even having achieved his first winning streak as a college coach, Josh Pastner was more concerned than confident in his postgame remarks. “Monday’s game against Oakland will be an absolute battle,” he stressed. “They’re well-coached, they’ve got everybody back, they’re picked to win their conference, they’re an NCAA tournament team. If we play the way we did tonight — 14 turnovers and let them shoot 55 percent in a half — that’s a recipe for a loss. We can’t afford that.”
The Tigers will endure two-a-day practices around their Thanksgiving holiday, conditioning for a stretch in which they’ll have three games in 10 days (all at home). “I don’t want the guys to think they can just show up against Oakland and play like they did tonight,” said Pastner.
After missing nine of their first 11 shots — Memphis actually trailed the Bears nine minutes into the game — the Tigers made 25 of their next 39 and shot 54 percent for the game. Sallie (17 points), Willie Kemp (11), and Wesley Witherspoon (11) joined Williams in double-figure scoring for the home team.