No letdown this afternoon at FedExForum.
Six days after upsetting the 5th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Tigers returned to their home floor and made easy work of the Demons, a team favored to win the Southland Conference. By the time Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford hit back-to-back three-pointers — just over 11 minutes into the game — the Tigers had taken control with a 31-18 lead. Despite losing Crawford for the second half to an ankle injury (his status was not fully known after the game), Memphis cruised to its sixth victory of the season, shooting 54-percent from the field and piling up 27 assists on 37 made field goals.
"We did a better job [rebounding] in the second half, holding them to three offensive boards," said Tiger coach Josh Pastner. "And we took away the three [Northwestern State shot 16-percent from long distance]."
The rebirth of Shaq Goodwin continues, the sophomore forward scoring a career-high 21 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) and grabbing six rebounds as a follow-up to his MVP performance at last week's Old Spice Classic in Orlando. "We're trusting the process," said Goodwin. "If we came out today and laid an egg, what we did last week wouldn't matter. So we followed that game plan."
Goodwin acknowledged his continued growth (through his ever-present smile), but shared credit with his new partner in the low post. "I feel like I'm a little more aggressive at both ends of the floor, and I have Austin [Nichols] to complement me, so that helps. I'm staying active on both sides."
Also active for the Tigers was senior guard Joe Jackson, who hit six of 11 field-goal attempts and five of six free throws to score 18 points, while also dishing out five assists. (Jackson hit his 400th career free throw, becoming just the sixth Tiger to reach that mark and the first since Elliot Perry in 1990. He also surpassed 1,300 points for his career, climbing to 17th on the U of M chart.) "We played some good defense early," said Jackson. "When we do that — no matter where we play — everything else takes care of itself. We moved the ball, got a lot of transition buckets."
Johnson came off the bench for Memphis, a mild punishment for what Pastner described as a minor "internal issue." The senior scored nine points and led the team with seven assists and six rebounds in 26 minutes. Fellow guard Michael Dixon joined Jackson and Goodwin in double figures with 14 points on six-of-nine shooting.
Jalan West led six Demons in double figures with 15 points off the bench. NSU falls to 3-4 on the season.
Pastner was appreciative of the crowd [15,605] on an atypically cold day in early December. "They were phenomenal, considering the conditions. I'm told about 2,300 fans took advantage of the free tickets. That's what makes this the best fan base in the country."
The 16th-ranked Tigers (6-1) return to the floor next Friday when they host Arkansas-Little Rock.