University of Memphis basketball team (20-9,9-7 American Athletic Conference) returns to FedExForum for their final home game of the 2019-2020 season against the Wichita State Shockers (22-7, 10-6 AAC).
This is a must-win game for the Tigers as they are eyeing a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference. The Shockers currently hold the fourth and final bye spot heading into Thursday’s matchup. Memphis will need to come together and piece a perfect game in order to dethrone Wichita State.
“We have to win this game in order to be in the conversation with what’s going on,” head coach Penny Hardaway said.
Take care of the basketball
Everyone in the nation knows that Memphis is a leader when they turn the ball over. Throughout the season, the Tigers committed 16.8 turnovers per game.
Wichita State, on the other hand, is second in the conference that commits turnovers, with 12.8 per game, and forces more than 14 per game.
Memphis will need to be disciplined against this team Thursday night. The careless throwaway passes need to be invisible, and they need to convert on fast break opportunities rather than lose the dribble.
In the previous matchup at Wichita, the Tigers committed 18 turnovers while the Shockers turned the ball over just 10 times. If Memphis can play their style without coughing up the basketball, then they will give themselves a chance to win.
“We got to correct the turnovers,” Hardaway said. “Our game plan when we came out was disrupted and we did not do it properly and that is on us (coaching staff).”
Free throws are crucial
In the previous match-up, both teams shot 30-plus free throws in that game, of which Memphis missed 10. Had they made those 10, the Tigers would have won that game.
Free throws this season has been one of the many hot topics that have surrounded this young Memphis team. But, in the last three games, the Tigers have shot over 70 percent at the charity strike.
One of the easiest ways to put points on the board, Memphis will need to convert them against the Shockers team, who ranks fourth in the AAC in scoring defense.
Shockers head coach, Gregg Marshall, has been known for great defenses and trap sets, so the Tigers need to make free-throws every chance they get to the line.
Precious cannot do it all
Memphis freshman forward, Precious Achiuwa, will no doubt be a lottery selection in this coming NBA Draft if he keeps up this level of play that he is on right now. He was selected to his 10th AAC Honor Roll earlier this week after his 20-20 game at Tulane last weekend.
Although Achiuwa will need to be himself, the Tigers have other talented freshman mixed with their sophomore that can help the superstar. Memphis will need their deep-range shooters, Tyler Harris, Lester Quinones and Boogie Ellis, to get open and knock down shots.
Memphis guards Alex Lomax and Damion Baugh need to be the gritty defense anchors that they have been all season to create pressure on the Shockers. Both lead the team in steals during the season.
Memphis will need all their pieces to come together and play the game that they want to play in order to beat Wichita State.
Memphis and Wichita State both need this game in order to take one step closer to the first-round bye of the AAC tournament. Shockers will be led by their stars, Dexter Dennis and Jamarius Burton but also their outside shooter in Erik Stevenson.
The Tigers will focus on those three guys most the evening while also feeding Achiuwa inside on offense. But if it is not there, then Memphis’ shooters will need to knock down shots.
The game Thursday night will be considered “Senior Night” with celebrating the lone senior on the team in Isaiah Maurice.
“I learned a lot from my two years here, learning from Coach Penny and Mike (Miler) and everyone else,” Maurice said. “Those guys know so much and they stay on top of their stuff.”
The Durham, North Carolina forward has seen almost no playing time throughout this season. He is averaging 4.9 points per game along with 2.8 rebounds per game in his time in the blue and gray.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Thursday night.