Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tigers 90, Bryant 72

Posted By on Sat, Dec 9, 2017 at 3:13 PM

A Memphis Tiger team desperate for a consistent shooter inserted Jamal Johnson into the starting lineup Saturday afternoon and the freshman from Birmingham made the case for regular membership in that quintet. Johnson hit six of 11 attempts from three-point range, including a buzzer-beater as he fell out of bounds at the end of the first half to help the Tigers improve to 6-2 and stay undefeated (6-0) at FedExForum. The game was the first of four Memphis will play in the cross-regional Gotham Classic. (The only game to actually be played in New York City will be next Saturday's tilt with Louisville.)
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Johnson played a game-high 33 minutes and was supported by junior point guard Jeremiah Martin, who also hit six three-pointers (in seven attempts) and led the Tigers with 24 points (two shy of his career high) and seven assists (with only one turnover). Martin wasn't so much impressed with Johnson's point total (18) as he was with out easy he made the transition from bench to starter. "We didn't know [Johnson] was going to be in the lineup," said Martin after the game. "He was excited. I was messing with him during pregame, to see if he was nervous. I was glad to see him look so comfortable."

The Tigers, for a change, started the game with a strong push, taking a 15-6 lead before the Bulldogs closed the margin and tied the score at 20 midway through the first half. The lead exchanged hands a few times before the Tigers began a 22-0 run with less than five minutes to play before halftime. Johnson keyed the run with three treys, including the buzzer-beater and the Tigers' first two field goals after the break. The lead grew to 21 points in the first two minutes of the second half and Bryant never again closed within 10.

"We shot the ball well today," noted Tiger coach Tubby Smith. "That's something we haven't been doing. We changed the lineup, and Jamal was a big boost for us. We had a lot more assists [26] than turnovers [16] and that was huge. We found Mike Parks in transition some, and we need our big guys to play better inside for us."

Junior forward Kyvon Davenport scored 15 points, giving the juco transfer eight straight games in double figures (matched only by Martin among his teammates). Senior forward Jimario Rivers added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds.

The loss drops Bryant to 1-9 for the season.



With five more games before the start of conference play, Smith suggested a significant step may have been taken toward stabilizing the Tigers' rotation of players. "[Jamal] is a guy who can make shots when he's open," said Smith. "But he got into the lineup not just because of his shooting. His defense is solid; he doesn't take a lot of chances. Fundamentally sound. He's getting stronger. Going forward, I think this is something that will inspire him."

The Tigers will next host Albany on Tuesday night (tip-off at 8 p.m.). The Great Danes beat  Bryant, 84-68, on December 6th.

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