Sunday, November 16, 2008
After the first major weekend of college basketball, Tigers fans can say one thing...
Our team did what they were supposed to do.
The once heralded Kentucky Wildcats lost to a powder puff Virginia Military Institute, 111-103. 111 points to VMI, yielding some quality headlines, such as...
Speed Kills Kentucky, Which Loves Embarrassing Losses
Season Begins and Kentucky Wants a Do Over
And possibly, the most insulting... Kentucky Fans: Don't Worry, Be Happy
Not to mention, Duke's Near Miss Against Rhode Island, which they won by, gulp, free throws at the end of the game, 82-79.
And let's never forget UCLA, who barely edged out a mediocre Miami-Ohio team, 64-59. Does that make UCLA slightly more than mediocre? I like to think so.
So, what does think mean for Memphis? Should they fear a sharp-shooting Fairfield team? Will they overlook the Stags, while looking forward to Puerto Rico and everything it has to offer?
... such as Miss Puerto Rico?
Breath in, breath out, Tiger fans. Our boys did what they were supposed to do... Show up against a weaker opponent, work out some of their early season kinks and win easily, with a final score of 90-63.
As expected, the game started out a bit slower than a lot of folks at the FedEx Forum had hoped. The Tigers were down by as many as 9 points mid-way through the first half. They looked disjointed, awkward and in search of some playmakers. Enter: Tyreke Evans and Shawn Taggart.
After Anderson tied the game at 23 with eight minutes left in the first half, Tyreke and Tag scored 18 of the next 23 points to end the half. Here's a little Tiger goodness that just 'rekes of what's to come...The Tigers closed the first half on a 25-7 run, taking a 15 point lead into the locker room, 45-30.
The second half was a much more balanced effort from the Tigers. Ten different players scored to push the score to 90-63. The Tigers shot 52% from the field, while "holding" Fairfield to 50%. This is a far cry from the 12th-best 39% defensive field-goal percentage the Tigers boasted last season. The lackluster defense was one of the more glaring deficits of the Tiger's game, as compared to last season. There was a lack of defensive intensity, missed assignments and new players learning the defense, so a drop-off is expected. Let's just get it out of our system early (cough... Dozier... cough... Spoon).
The Tigers won the rebounding battle, 30-20, about 10 boards fewer than our 40 rpg last season. This number will increase as Niles gets more comfortable and we get some of our new bigs out there... if the NCAA ever gets off their #$%^@ and grants them eligibility.
It was an interesting game to watch, as the Tigers appeared to play better in the second part of each half (11-20 and 31-40 minutes). The first half surge can be attributed to Tyreke and Tag. The second half was a product of the Tigers excellent conditioning. With about 10 minutes left to play, the Stags were visibly tired. It seemed their only players who had any wind left were big man Edney (24 pts on 8-12 shooting) and point guard Mr. Han...
Oops... This is Mr. Han.A few high points, low points and game awards:
Tyreke. If you didn't see the game on Saturday, go Monday night. That's a direct order. Go to watch Tyreke. Dude is playing with a bum leg, but he finds a way to get it done. He gets to the basket with the efficiency of CDR, but the fluidity of OJ Mayo. His game is a sight to behold, so get a hold of it Monday night... Tickets are still available. I know it's at 11pm. Grow a pair.
Tag. Of our big men, Tag was by far the best prepared. He hustled, he scored, he rebounded, he flashed gang signs. It was beautiful. With the spirit of last year's Dozier floating around in the locker room, Tag stepped up in a big way with 14 points and 12 boards in 26 minutes. At it's core, Taggart hustled and played smart, whereas Dozier seemed to be running around like Memphis was supposed to win the game. The poor showing from Dozier made Tag's game almost reach "Break-Out" level. We'll need Taggart to step up this year with Dorsey gone.
Defense. As noted earlier, opponent field-goal percentage was up, while rebounding and blocks were down... against Fairfield. Granted, Fairfield came out and played well. They had some sharp-shooters. Especially in the first half, it seemed that whenever the Tigers got anything going, Mr. Han would hit a three or find someone who would. Edney was all over the court, too. If he plays at that level, he should rise to the top of the Metro Atlantic.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of mental lapses. Anderson did his best to direct the new guys on defense, but he can only do so much. Fairfield got too many wide open looks from outside and too many easy garbage points down low. This is one area that I believe time will help with the guys we have playing. Unfortunately, we have several important players injured or out and their defense will be lagging upon their return. Hopefully they are paying close attention while they're out.
Lack of a Point Guard: Memphis fans got spoiled last season. It is so rare to have a point guard who can not only manage a team, but make his own play when he needs to. That's why Derrick Rose will be an All-Star within three seasons... and that's conservative prediction.
Anderson got most of the PG duties against Fairfield. He did fine getting the ball upcourt and starting the dribble-drive, but he couldn't make anything happen on his own. If Fairfield had any sense, they would've thrown a press on our point guards and scored a few easy turnovers.
Kemp and Spoon handled the rest of the PG duties. Both were underwhelming. Spoon is a freshmen. He's getting accustomed to the speed of the game and he's not strong enough to physically compete with a lot of college players, so his development will be a true test for Calipari this season.
Willie. Oh, Willie. We're all pulling for you, buddy. We need you this year, big time. Good grief. Talk about a let down. He just seems to be inside his head too much. He needs to let his instincts take over and just play ball. He looked nervous. He was robotic. He didn't make the plays to take the job, which is why Anderson was used so much at PG (which diminishes his value to the Tigers, as well). This position is the most important question for the Tigers this season.
Newcomer of the Year: Tyreke Evans. He just flat out makes plays. He's an asteroid screaming toward the earth of NCAA basketball.
(Owen Wilson was in this movie? Stick to crashing weddings, buddy)
Tyreke makes people miss, he gets to the hole and he's not afraid to take the team on his shoulders when they struggle. All-American potential.
Double-D of the Week: Shawn Taggart.
In 26 minutes, Tag had 14 points and 12 boards. He was a defensive force (and will continue to get better). He provided a big man presence when Dozier was asleep.
Dunk of the Night: Tie.
After a steal around mid-court, Tyreke came away with the ball. Dozier woke up just in time to realize the fast break. Tyreke crossed the three point line and lobbed the ball toward the rim and Dozier plucked it out of the air and two-handed it home.
On another break-away, Kemp passed the ball upcourt to Sallie, who hit a trailing PIERRE HENDERSON-NILES for a thunderous windmill dunk! All the folks at the FEF went absolutely crazy. It's not only good to see the windmill back, but to see Niles throwing it down makes it sweet like a rack of Rendezvous ribs.
Celebrity Spotting of the Night: This sighting wasn't necessarily a celebrity, but watching Fairfield's coach, Ed Cooley, from six rows back, I couldn't help but think of the atrocious "House of Payne" commercials that make black people look like loud cartoon characters who stomp around the house and randomly clutch at their chests, a la Fred Sanford (This is the big one, Elizabeth!)Proud to be a Tiger Play of the Night: Having been chided in the papers during the preseason, Roburt Sallie came out of made some great plays. He brought greater defensive intensity than anyone else on the floor. That intensity paid off after he sunk his first basket as a Tiger, a three pointer with 9 minutes left to put the Tigers up by 19. Sallie then stole the ball on the next Fairfield possession, moved the ball upcourt where he took a pass from Anderson, and hit his second three in a row. The place went nuts and it was good to see a new guy rewarded for his effort.
It was great to see the crowd respond the way they did on these plays, considering John Wall and Dominic Cheek were in attendance to watch the game.
A-Hole of the Game: Lyndon Jordan, #22 of Fairfield. As Lyndon drove to the basket late in the game, Anderson was manning him up, running with him to cut off the lane to the basket. A reach-in foul was called on Anderson as he tripped over Jordan's foot. Anderson tweaked his ankle on the play and tried to brace himself on Jordan's arm. When Jordan saw Antonio falling, he did a little Steven Seagal wrist snap and let Anderson fall to the ground.
I took the martial art Aikido at the great University of Memphis. My instructor was a popular local martial arts instructor who had trained with Steven Seagal in the past (as Seagal has a house in Germantown). The instructor was showing us a wrist lock that, when applied correctly, basically made one's body crumble into a heap of throbbing mush. He told us that when he taught Seagal this move, it made Seagal pee on himself.To make a long story short, I hope Anderson peed on Jordan.
Scrub of the Game: Preston Laird. The FEF went crazy when this guy came in at the end of the game. He's the new Root. I wonder what it would take for him to bleach his hair...
at 8:29 PM