Fans in True Blue Nation were clamoring after the story surfaced that their University of Memphis Tigers had been beaten, quite handily, by the Baylor Bears at a secret scrimmage last week. Memphis is ranked No. 13 in the nation preseason and this private game had many questioning what to expect this season.
So when Memphis took the floor for an exhibition game last Friday (Nov. 8) against Christian Brothers University, Memphis fans packed the house to get a look at the Tigers for themselves.
And what did they see?
Memphis head coach Josh Pastner deployed a very heavy rotation – with 11 players getting quality minutes. No one player put in more than 22 minutes during the 40-minute exhibition. Pastner would often substitute all five players on the floor, much like a hockey line switch.
"I don't know if I will keep doing it, but I liked it," Pastner said of the rotation. "It really wears teams out."
Returning contributors Joe Jackson, Shaq Goodwin and Chris Crawford logged 17, 16 and 15 minutes of playing time, respectively. It seems as if the heavy rotation was Pastner's way of getting a better look at his new players in a live scenario.
With news that Tiger transfer David Pellom would under knee surgery, another big question mark was who would fill that void. Freshman Austin Nichols started the game and looked very good offensively, scoring 9 points and pulling down 4 rebounds. Nichols and Goodwin looked to be developing some chemistry in the high-low game and should be something to watch for this season.
Nick King, another Tiger freshman, recorded a double-double (12 points and 10 rebounds) and added 3 steals and 2 assists in 22 minutes. King looked very strong, but he knows he has worked to do. He went 2 of 6 from the free throw line and admitted that he was starting to cramp up towards the end of the game.
"Take it day by day," he said, referring to taking care of his body and practicing his free throws.
The surprise of the night was the 6'10, 310-pound freshman forward Dominic Woodson. Woodson went 7-7 and scored 14 points in 18 minutes. Woodson is a load, but with the ball in his hands around the rim, he was a graceful as a ballerina. If Woodson keeps improving, he could play a serious role this year frustrating the other big men in the American Athletic Conference.
As for the actual game, CBU was able to keep it close for a while, but the depth and rotation of the Tigers eventually wore the Buccaneers down. Memphis won 92-63 and this tune-up game looks to have the Tigers firing on all cylinders.
Pastner and his Tigers are focused on the task at hand.
"Winning is not a birth right," Pastner said at the end of the press conference. He wouldn't answer any questions concerning his goals for the season, saying he is "always only focused on the next game."
NOTE: The Tigers open their season this Thursday night (Nov. 14) against the Austin Peay Governors at the FedExForum.