After a three-game losing streak, the Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team (14-10) won a hard-fought game against the University of Connecticut Huskies (13-11) at home 78-71. The Tigers will go on the road again to take on the East Carolina University Pirates (9-14) after defeating them earlier in the season 78-72.
Memphis struggled to defeat ECU the first time around. The Pirates were leading for the majority of the game, forcing the Tigers to pull a late second-half surge to put them over the top. The Tigers had the help of the home crowd last game, an advantage that will not be present at ECU’s home court. Memphis has a poor conference road record, currently at a loss of 1-4.
Dominating the glass helped the Pirates nearly pull off a win over Memphis the first game, as the Tigers were out-rebounded 44-31. ECU created multiple second-shot opportunities, securing 19 boards compared to the Tigers’ six. Both teams hauled in 25 defensive rebounds, but Memphis will need to be better at fighting for the rock.
Seniors Raynere Thornton and Kyvon Davenport lead the Tigers in rebounds per game with 6.4 and 7.3 respectively. They will both be key in assuring the Pirates do not get the extra chances they had the first game. Since Memphis are prone to struggling on the road, falling behind again would be a far more difficult task to overcome.
ECU players to watch
The Pirates’ star forward Jayden Gardner currently leads the team in both points per game (17.7) and rebounds per game (8.8). Gardner gave the Tigers’ defense issues during the first game, as he was 7-for-14 from the field and led all players in the game with 18 points while also securing eight boards. Gardner will need to have more trouble finding lanes and getting to the basket for Memphis to have success against the ECU offense.
Forward teammate Seth LeDay gave the Tigers fits on both sides of the rock, getting a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while also being a force at the rim with three blocks and four steals. LeDay also leads ECU in field goal percentage with 52.8 percent, making him a force both on offense and defense.
Tigers to watch
Memphis relied heavily on three-point shooting in the first matchup, connecting only 34.8 percent of their shots. Guard Tyler Harris led the Tigers with 16 points, and was responsible for four of the eight three-point shots scored. Harris hopes to have similar fortune against an ECU defense that is better protecting the rim compared to behind the arc.
Jeremiah Martin is currently leading Memphis in points per game (16.5) and assists per game (4.4). Martin had 10 points and a couple assists in the first game against the Pirates, but will play a larger role as the ball handler for the Tigers’ offense, since Harris has been moved to the bench.
Davenport is fresh off a 26-point game in the Tigers’ win over UConn, and will be eyeing another strong performance against ECU, as he had a double-double the first matchup with the Pirates with 14 points and 11 rebounds.