Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tigers 95, Incarnate Word 71

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 10:24 PM

Lawson double-doubles — pick your brother — have become commonplace at FedExForum this season. Not so much scoring outbursts from freshman guard Keon Clergeot. Wednesday night, 7,919 devoted Tiger fans saw both (or all three, if we're being literal).

Sophomore forward Dedric Lawson led the way (again) with 25 points and 12 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season and 27th of his career (one more than Joey Dorsey had in four seasons). Redshirt-freshman K.J. Lawson added 20 points and 12 rebounds, the sixth time he's doubled up his younger brother's stat-line combo. That was the commonplace.
click to enlarge Keon Clergeot - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Keon Clergeot

Into the playing-time void left by center Chad Rykhoek, though, stepped Clergeot. With the senior center watching from the bench, a boot hugging his dislocated left ankle, Clergeot scored 23 points in 21 minutes, hitting six of seven shots from the field, including all four of his attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Shortly after UIW climbed within two points (21-19) midway through the first half, Clergeot scored seven points in 24 seconds, hitting three-pointers on consecutive possessions and draining a free throw after being fouled on the second. (Clergeot hit all seven of his foul shots for the game.) Over a four-minute stretch, Memphis extended its lead from two points to 14 (34-20), and managed to cruise the remainder of the contest.

"It's a relief," said point guard Jeremiah Martin, when asked about Clergeot's impact from the bench. "It takes pressure off me. I can pick up my defensive intensity, play a little harder." Martin had his lightest workload (29 minutes) in five games, but still led Memphis with seven assists.

"He's my roommate," added Dedric Lawson, "and I told him to be ready today, that I thought his number would get called. He did what he's supposed to do."

"He's just got to keep his head clear," said K.J. Lawson. "When a guy comes out of high school averaging 25 points, you just gotta take it game by game. Soak in the knowledge and be ready to play when your number's called."

Markel Crawford added 11 points to help the Tigers improve to 9-3 in their final tune-up before American Athletic Conference play opens next week. UIW falls to 5-6 for the season.

"We came ready to play, focused," said Tiger coach Tubby Smith. "It's easy to look past a game like this, especially with the holiday break. Incarnate Word was aggressive; I knew they'd scrap. I like the way our team played, especially Keon. He's been struggling, but he stepped up tonight and played extremely well."

Smith is now coordinating a limited roster, forced to start junior Jimario Rivers and boost the playing time of reserves like Clergeot and Craig Randall. From mixing defenses to a continued emphasis on moving the ball, the veteran coach seems prepared for the heightened challenges ahead. "For me, a win is giving it your all," he said. "We need to improve our outside shooting, continue to share the basketball. We're going to have to improve between now and December 27th [when SMU visits]."

Frustrated with a first-half possession in which his team did not share the basketball as expected, Smith slammed the scorer's table with his right hand. Like Clergeot's shooting, it was an atypical outburst for the 2016-17 Memphis Tigers. When asked about his display after the game, Smith smiled before answering: "I was trying to wake up the crowd."

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