The University of Memphis men’s basketball team did not let Southern Miss hang around like it did last week when LeMoyne-Owen came to FedExForum. The Tigers started strong and never looked back as they defeated the Golden Eagles, in the 89th meeting between the two longtime rivals, 67-49. Here are a few quick takeaways from tonight’s season opener.
--No, the Tigers did not score 107 points like they did against LeMoyne-Owen, but the ball movement was solid for the majority of the game as shown by the team’s 17 assists to just seven turnovers. Point guard Ricky Tarrant’s stat line was far from impressive (four points, four assists and three rebounds) but he orchestrated the offense well, and the team’s tempo from last year to this year is night-and-day, even if it has only been two games.
--Freshman forward Dedric Lawson had a very impressive debut for the Blue and Gray. He finished with 13 points (4-10 FG, 5-6 FT), four rebounds and a team-high five assists. His floor vision has definitely been a plus so far. Yes, while he’ll have his ups-and-downs, Dedric has shown the makings of a very good player for years to come.
--Shaq Goodwin continued to look aggressive, energized and refocused Saturday night. He led the team with 15 points, and at least nine rebounds (he said after the game he knows he had at least 11). For Memphis to be successful, Goodwin will have to average a double-double nearly every night. Through the exhibition and tonight’s game, he has done just that. Also unsurprisingly, the team is 18-4 all-time when Goodwin leads the team in scoring.
--Trahson Burrell, once again, excelled in his new sixth man role. The senior guard recorded 11 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Burrell has seemed to give Memphis the energy the role demands. They will need the productivity to continue, especially with No. 8 Oklahoma coming to town Tuesday.
--Tiger coach Josh Pastner said after the game he was happy with his team’s transition defense. Memphis allowed zero fastbreak points, while scoring 29 of their own in the victory. The Tigers also defended the three-point shot well, as the Golden Eagles shot 9-31 (29 percent) from long range. Plus Southern Miss shot just 27 percent for the entire game. Yes, they are one of the worst Division I teams in college basketball, but Memphis still has to do its job and they showed improvement on the defensive end Saturday night.
--However, like the game against LeMoyne-Owen, the Tigers had their problems. The team shot 3-18 from the three-point line, and three-point marksman Avery Woodson went 2-2 from long range. Meaning the rest of the team shot 1-16 from downtown. Pastner said he believes the team is a better three-point shooting team than it showed tonight, and also admitted “they better be.” Once again, with Oklahoma coming to town, for the Tigers to remain competitive in that game, you feel they will need to make threes early and often.
-- Finally, a quick note on tonight’s attendance, which was 11,876. While no one will be thrilled with such a low number, Memphis has a chance to make an early season statement with the Oklahoma game Tuesday. If the Tigers have a strong showing, the fan support in this town turnaround. Memphis has started the season as well as it can – given the circumstances – but their first real challenge is less than 72 hours away. We’ll learn a lot about how good this Tigers’ team is come Tuesday.
-- Memphis is now 65-24 all-time against Southern Miss, and this was the first out-of-conference matchup between the two teams since 1995.
-- The Tigers never trailed in the win, and Memphis’ largest lead was 23 points when it led 47-24 in the second half.
--After scoring 15 points tonight, Shaq Goodwin is now 31 points away from 1,000 for his career with the Blue and Gray.
Memphis got strong performances from Shaq Goodwin, Dedric Lawson and Trahson Burrell in its 67-49 win against Southern Miss Saturday night.