Saturday, February 20, 2010

Memphis Tigers vs. SMU (FEF, 7 pm)

Posted By on Sat, Feb 20, 2010 at 8:00 AM

• Tonight’s game will be the Tigers’ first rematch of the season. SMU beat the U of M on January 30th in Dallas, the most damaging loss of the season for the Tigers. In that game, the Tigers managed to take 14 more shots than the Mustangs and still lose, 70-60. (Memphis led by five at halftime.) The Tigers shot only 34 percent from the field, with half their attempts coming from three-point range. SMU won the game at the free-throw line, making 33 of 38 (compared with the Tigers hitting 12 of 19 from the charity stripe). Wesley Witherspoon was held to five points in 28 minutes and Will Coleman was a nonfactor (no points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of play). The Mustangs were led by Papa Dia (23 points, 14 rebounds) and Derek Williams (25 points, 14 of 15 from the line). The win was SMU’s first in eight games against the Tigers as Conference USA rivals.

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• SMU has already exceeded last season’s win total in C-USA play. The Mustangs are 5-6 entering tonight’s game, having gone 3-13 in 2008-09. Overall, Southern Methodist is 12-13, an improvement on last year’s 9-21 mark. Their biggest win to date? You guessed it: January 30th.

• A win tonight would be the Tigers’ 20th of the season, and make this the 10th straight season with at least 20 victories for the U of M. The only stretch of Tiger history that approximates this run is the eight-year period from 1981-82 to 1988-89.

• With two conference losses, the Tigers are only one game behind C-USA front-runner UTEP. (The Miners play at Tulsa this afternoon.) The goal remains to win a fifth straight C-USA regular-season title. After that, Memphis wants to protect its position among the league’s top four, which would secure a bye in next month’s conference tourney. Tulsa and Marshall are essentially tied for fourth place now, with four losses in league play.

• For the better part of three months, I’ve been wondering where the 2009-10 Tigers would be without Duke transfer (and native Memphian) Elliot Williams. We may just get an answer of sorts Saturday night, as Williams will be a game-day decision, having bruised his right knee in the win over Tulane Wednesday night. Should Williams have to sit, look for D.J. Stephens and Drew Barham to absorb his minutes. Best-case scenario would be for Williams to start, help the Tigers to a comfortable lead, and take a seat for most of the second half.

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