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Wed04162014

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Tigers stymie crosstown Magicians

With a nearly sell-out crowd Wednesday night for the first exhibition game against hometown opponent, The LeMoyne-Owen College, it’s obvious Memphis is ready for U of M Tigers basketball. J.R. Moorhead
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for what you all have been waiting for, and with a nearly sell-out crowd Wednesday night for the first exhibition game against hometown opponent, The LeMoyne-Owen College, it’s obvious Memphis is ready for U of M Tigers basketball.

 
The Memphis Tigers’ pressing defense forced LOC into 20 turnovers in the first half. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

 
Teshawn Byron of LOC shoots a 3-pointer over Adonis Thomas of the Tigers. Byron was the Magicians’ leading scorer with 33 points.

Final score: Tigers 119, Magicians 67.

Let’s set the scene.

The Magicians and Coach William Anderson are coming off a 10-19 season. The Magicians played well at home last season and look to improve on their road woes this year. Their 11-man roster features eight upperclassmen and Anderson is going to look for leadership from these players as the season unwinds.   

The U of M is coming off a 25-10 season in which the scrappy young Tigers managed to win the C-USA tournament and earned an automatic bid into the big dance.  In a classic March Madness matchup, the Tigers fell in the first round to the Arizona Wildcats. Head Coach Josh Pastner, an Arizona alum, and the team took the loss in stride. It wasn’t the fairy-tale ending of which the fans had dreamed, but it did bode well for the future.  

That future includes a roster boasting a bevy of returning talent as well as key transfer, Stan Simpson, and incoming freshman recruit, Adonis Thomas. And with the NBA still caught up in a lockout, Pastner was able to enlist Luke Walton, L.A. Lakers forward, to help coach the team.  

So with the NBA postponed, it’s up the Tigers to keep the FedExForum rocking between concerts.

Although the Tigers got out to a slow start, it was not long before the Tiger-heavy crowd got what it came to see. University of Memphis’ sophomore Will Barton and senior Charles Carmouche lead all scoring early and seemed to be able to cut to the basket and dunk at will.   And once the Tigers’ defense warmed up, it became clear the Magicians were clearly outmatched.  

Memphis’ pressure defense in the first half caused LOC to commit 20 turnovers. Senior Teshawn Byron was the bright spot for the Magicians, scoring 21 of the team’s 29 points in the first half, but even with his efforts the Tigers still mounted a 57-29 lead going into halftime.

In the second half, the Magicians only had five more turnovers, but the damage was already done. The Tigers continued to spread the ball around and ended the game with 26 team assists. More good news for Memphis, as their new additions, Simpson and Thomas, added 14 and 11 points off the bench.

 LOC’s Byron ended up fouling out of the game, but finished with 33 of the Magician’s 67 points. Throughout the whole game, Byron looked like a D-I player trapped on a D-II team. He undoubtedly will be giving LeMoyne-Owen’s’ conference opponents all they can handle this season as the Magicians eye a SIAC title.

The Tigers’ showed their usual struggles at the free throw line, shooting a dismal 59 percent. And while it did not matter Wednesday, it just might down the line.

Rated No. 9 in preseason polls, the Tigers have a handful of early season challenges.  They square off against Belmont in a couple of weeks and it does not get easier after that.  Memphis’ next three opponents after that game include Michigan, Duke, and Tennessee. And in December, they play Miami, Louisville and Georgetown all on the road.

So even though the Tigers looked ready to roll Wednesday night, it will not be long until they get their first real test and then another and another. Well you get the point.

By month’s end, it should be clearer what the U of M is really all about. Then it will be time to realistically gear up for another title run or lower the lofty expectations.  

Either way, college Hoops are back, baby!

  
University of Memphis sophomore guard Will Barton has a audience of Magicians from The LeMoyne-Owen College for this layup Wednesday night at the FedExForum.Deandre Gant of The LeMoyne-Owen-College got to see way more of this Charles Carmouche dunk than he probably cared for during Wednesday’s exhibition game at the FedExForum.

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