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Men’s basketball to battle SMU

sports@dailyhelmsman.com

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 02:02

The Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team (18-3, 7-0 Conference USA) looks for their 13th straight victory on Wednesday when they travel to Dallas to play against the Southern Methodist Mustangs (11-12, 2-6 C-USA).  With a win Memphis will improve to 19-3 overall and could increase their conference record to 8-0. Playing on the road has served the Tigers well this season, as they possess a 4-0 road record.

Memphis looks to carry its momentum into Wednesday’s game, coming off a blowout 94-64 victory against Tulsa. However, the Tigers must play hard in order to continue their winning streak.

“We’ve got a tough game Wednesday at SMU. They’ve got a good basketball team,” Tigers head coach Josh Pastner said. “They’ve got good players. They obviously are well coached, and we’re going to have to bring our A-game. This is going to be their Super Bowl, their World Series.”
In order to leave SMU with a victory, the Tigers need to play together as a team. However, they will also lean on their veterans, such as senior forward-guard D.J Stephens and junior forward Tarik Black. Stephens and Black are both looking for their second double-doubles of the year. Both players have been key contributors to the Tigers’ success this season along with the help of other key players such as freshman forward Shaq Goodwin and junior guard Joe Jackson, both of whom also have a double-double under their belts this season.

The Tigers will also need to control the turnover game after giving up 12 in the last game and 13 in the previous two games before that. In order to fix it, “we just need to play smart simple basketball,” Pastner said.

Though the Tigers are favorites to win, Pastner is not looking past what he considers to be a very tough SMU squad.

“No game is any bigger than any others,” Pastner said. “Whatever the next game is, that’s the biggest game on our schedule. With our schedule, everyone we play, it’s our World Series.”  
The Tigers are currently ranked No. 30 in the Associated Press poll, but coaches and players don’t seem interested in rankings or projections.

“We put together games like this and if we do get ranked or whatever that’d be cool, but at the same time that don’t really matter,” Black said.

Instead of looking toward the future, the Tigers are content on taking the rest of the season one game at a time.

“We just have to stay focused. I know we’re on a little streak right now but it keeps us humble and we always got to look forward to the next game,” Stephens said.

The Tigers’ fans have enjoyed the hard play and hustle that has brought the team this far. And while the Tigers may make it look easy on TV, Pastner continues to stress that in order to win, the team must play at peak performance every time they tip off.

“Without our A-game anything can happen,” Pastner said. “We got to bring our A-game every time we step on the court. If you don’t bring it, you get your butt kicked.”

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