The city of Memphis has proved to be fertile recruiting ground throughout the years and the University of Memphis usually has its basketball star of choice. But, there are only 12 roster spots.
And it seems Southeast Missouri State University and coach Dicky Nutt have established a pipeline to pull some of the excess talent out of the city. Case in point: five of the 12 players on Southeast Missouri are from the Memphis area and four of those are in the starting lineup for the Redhawks.
Now, it has already been established that it would be impossible for the Tigers to sign every recruit that comes out of the city, but that doesn't stop those players from feeling a little slighted. And when those that got overlooked return home to the Bluff City, they often use that added motivation to produce some stellar games.
As the rained poured down this past Saturday (Dec. 21), the Tigers took the floor against the SEMO Redhawks. The bad weather wouldn't deter the Memphis faithful, as just over 15,000 fans found their way to the FedExForum to see how it would all play out.
Early on this season, a few of the Tigers' opponents have been able to stagnate Memphis' offense by packing the lane on defense. By shrinking their defense down, opponents try to stop the Tigers from getting the ball to their big men and force the guards to shoot more mid-range jumpers and three pointers.
Even though Memphis took a 38-30 lead into halftime, SEMO's strategy seemed to be working in the first half, as the Tigers only went 1-8 from beyond the arc and missed several open jump shots.
Memphis' three-point percentage wouldn't get any better in the second half and the Tigers would finish 2 of 17 from deep (11.8 percent). Nonetheless, Memphis was still able to come away with a 77-65 victory.
Coach Josh Pastner used a press in the second half, causing multiple Redhawk turnovers (11 in the second half) that resulted in quick scores for the Tigers. Pastner mentioned in the post game interview that he believed that the press was what helped Memphis ultimately win the game.
Going forward, a possible cause for concern is that the Tigers were out-rebounded by their opponent once again. Pastner believes that winning the 50/50 balls made up that difference. He also thinks that Memphis' success will come from their senior-laden frontcourt.
The problem with that is if teams continue to pack the lane against Memphis, which they probably will, the guards are going to have to get much better at coming up with rebounds. The Tigers will not have another 2-17 game either, but against better teams they will have to make open shots at a greater volume to stretch the defense.
For now, Pastner and his Tigers have a few days to rest and recuperate over the holidays. They take the court next on Saturday (Dec. 28) against Jackson State in a final tune up before they open their conference schedule.