In the True Blue Nation of University of Memphis Tigers men's basketball, an exhibition game is an opportunity to practice big-time fandom. And a large crowd gathered on Wednesday night (Nov. 7) to watch their Tigers take on the Christian Brothers University Buccaneers at the FedExForum.
Memphis enters the season ranked 16th or 17th in the nation, depending on which poll you trust. Their opponent, CBU, was no slouch, ranking 16th in the D-2 polls.
Head coach Josh Pastner had intentions of starting all Memphis natives in the first of Memphis' exhibition games. The lineup was supposed to be Joe Jackson, Tarik Black, Ferrakhon Hall, Chris Crawford and Adonis Thomas. That would have marked the first time since 1995 senior day that all the starters for the Tigers were from the Bluff City.
Crawford and Thomas didn't get the start. Why? A train. Any alumni of the U of M or people that frequent the campus area know that a train can be your worst enemy. Especially, when time is of the essence.
It turns out that Crawford and Thomas were late to a film-study meeting by two or three minutes. A minor offense, but one that Pastner takes seriously. And he is quite sure that it won't be an issue again.
The little tweak to the starting lineup threw a wrench in the game plan, and the heavily-favored Tigers went to the locker room at halftime trailing by two (28-26).
Halftime served as a break for Memphis to think about the mistakes they had made, and about how to correct them in the last twenty minutes of regulation.
Pastner decided to put in his original "starting lineup" at the beginning of the second half and it paid dividends. Memphis got the ball first and Thomas drained a three on the first possession to put the Tigers ahead.
It was a lead that Memphis held until there were only four and half minutes left in the game. The long-range shooting of CBU's Pat Graham kept the Bucs in the game. The Tigers did not appear prepared to guard a big man that had a jumper.
Yeah, but if you live by the three, you die by the three.
After hitting three 3's in a row, CBU went cold from beyond the arc and Memphis' fast-paced tempo became too much for the Bucs to handle. The Tigers ended up winning the game by double digits (65-54).
CBU showed enough to make a good case for a good season in the D-2 circuit, and that the Tigers have much to improve upon going forward.
Last year's Tigers crushed their exhibition opponents, leaving the team " not hungry and not humble, (even) arrogant and cocky," said Pastner. And that showed going into the Maui Invitational.
The CBU game, said Pastner, might have served as a "wake up call going forward."