For the University of Memphis, game two of the regular season was one they should have won, and they did. The story, however, is how the Tigers managed to "get by" a Samford Bulldogs team that seemed determined to leave the FedExForum (Nov. 17) with an upset victory.
The final score was 65-54 Memphis, with the double-digit margin courtesy of the last minute fouls by Samford that sent Tigers' players to the line to close out the game and seal the win.
It was a far from impressive outing that left Memphis fans wondering if their hometown team is going to live up to its No. 17 ranking.
Memphis has been up and down thus far this season. The Tigers played with an up-tempo pace in their private scrimmage against Alabama, came out flat against CBU, were up tempo again against North Florida, and back to flat against Samford.
Head coach Josh Pastner admitted that he was "disappointed in the tempo of the game." He thought his team was "slow in all areas, offense and defense," and said there were "no excuses."
Memphis was out-rebounded by a smaller Samford team. In the locker room after the game, Tarik Black pointed to Samford's high shooting percentage as a reason his rebounding performance wasn't up to par.
Black had two rebounds in the game. Adonis Thomas also had a hard time coming away with the ball, notching 39 minutes of playing time and zero rebounds. Shaq Goodwin, another Tiger big man, only managed to grab two rebounds in his 12 minutes.
The sentiment about Samford's hot shooting echoed in various quarters of the locker room, yet Memphis actually had a higher overall percentage (47.8 percent compared to 46.2 percent) at the end of the game. Something didn't add up and instead of merely taking the blame for a weak rebounding effort, the Tiger players seemed to be looking for something to blame for the lackluster performance.
It has been a long held notion that the Tigers play "down" to their competition. When Black was asked if he thought that was the case, he was direct. "I think tonight, we did," he said.
Rebounding aside, the 2-3 zone Samford deployed in the second half also was a problem for Memphis. It forced the Tigers to slow their pace and really allowed the Bulldogs to stay in the game.
While well aware of the problem areas, Pastner said, "bottom line is we got the W," and "being 2-0 is better than 1-1."
The Tigers, Pastner believes, will ultimately live up to their potential, although that "doesn't mean we aren't going to win ugly at times," he said.
Memphis' next opponent is Virginia Commonwealth in the opening around of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Thursday (Nov. 22) in the Bahamas.
Question: Will Memphis treat it like a vacation or a business trip?