The Tigers served up a frigid dish of revenge to the Mustangs tonight, thanks largely to some sizzling long-distance shooting. Memphis drained seven of 11 three-point attempts in the game’s first 12 minutes to take a 31-14 lead. With eight more triples over the course of the game, the Tigers never trailed, even with SMU going on runs of 14-0 in the first half and 11-0 in the second. The 15 treys were one shy of the single-game record for the program.
Wesley Witherspoon, Elliot Williams, and Roburt Sallie each made three of six from downtown. “Guys were just feeling it,” said Witherspoon after the game. “And they were falling, so why not?” Witherspoon finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and six assists (with only one turnover). Williams showed no ill effects of a bruised right knee suffered last Wednesday at Tulane, scoring 16 points in 33 minutes on the floor. He said he played pain-free, and was only missing some power when he jumped.
After scoring 23 points with 14 rebounds three weeks ago in an SMU victory over Memphis, Mustang junior center Papa Dia was held to 10 points and 11 rebounds tonight. Like the Tigers, SMU did most of its shooting from beyond the arc, where they made 10 of 26 attempts. Derek Williams led the visitors with 18 points.
Despite getting his right contact lens knocked out early in the second half, Tiger point guard Willie Kemp finished with 10 points and five assists. Over the U of M’s last five games, the senior has dished out 23 assists with only three turnovers. “We came out and made every shot,” said Kemp. “They made a run, and we knew they would. But we hung in there and came away with a victory. Everybody was moving the ball, and Coach [Josh Pastner] says if you’re open, shoot it. That’s what we were doing.”
As for his remarkable ball-control of late, Kemp was reserved in his analysis. “I had two turnovers tonight I shouldn’t have had,” he said. “I give it all to my teammates. They’re getting open, I’m making the right decisions finding them, and they’re hitting the shots.”
The win improves the Tigers to 20-7 for the season, the program’s 10th consecutive season with at least 20 wins. “Back in April, when I took over this job, if I’d said we’ll have 20 wins and be 10-2 in conference, people would be doing somersaults down Beale Street,” said Pastner. “There are three reasons we have 20 wins: the players, the assistant coaches, and the fans. The most credit goes to the players; they’re the ones who win the games.”
• There was a moment of silence before the game honoring former Tiger coach Dana Kirk, who died Monday at age 74. The Tigers will wear a patch with “DK” on it the rest of the season, just above the first “M” on their jersey.
• Tiger senior Doneal Mack was kept on the bench throughout the second half for what Pastner described as a mild knee sprain.