The University of Memphis men’s basketball team will take on No. 8 Oklahoma at 4 p.m. on Tuesday as a part of ESPN’s eighth annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.
Oklahoma is the highest ranked team to come to FedExForum since the Tigers defeated No. 7 Louisville in March 2014.
“We know we’re going to have to play great,” said coach Josh Pastner. “We need to play the way Tiger Nation wants us to play, and that is to leave it all out on the floor.”
Memphis leads the all-time series 6-0, and the last time the two teams met, the then third-ranked Tigers came away with a 63-53 victory in Madison Square Garden in November 2007.
The Tigers are coming off a 67-49 win over Southern Miss Saturday. Senior forward Shaq Goodwin led the way with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Eight of the 10 new Tigers made their team debuts on Saturday including the highly touted true freshman duo of Dedric and K.J. Lawson. The two brothers combined for 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocks in the victory.
Alabama transfer Ricky Tarrant, another newcomer with high expectations, struggled to shoot, going just 1 of 6 from the field, but had the second most assists, four, and tied for the team lead with three steals.
The Tigers forced Southern Miss into 19 turnovers, displaying their commitment to defense, and showing off their ability to put multiple long, athletic defenders on the floor at once.
Memphis knows it will be faced with a tougher opponent in Oklahoma, but Pastner says his team is ready for the challenge.
“We know we feel we’re prepared,” he said. “We feel like we have a good game-plan. But in the end, it comes down to some little things here and there.”
As for Oklahoma, the program is garnering more hype and attention than it has in years.
The Sooners return four starters from last season’s Sweet Sixteen team including reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, who averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a season ago.
Hield decided to forgo the 2015 NBA Draft and return to school for his senior season despite some pegging him as a possible first-round pick.
“I think Buddy Hield is a pro,” Pastner said. “You can watch tape on guys and say, ‘that guy’s a really good college player or that guy’s going to play in the NBA,’ and the thing you can see with Buddy is that guy is a fantastic talent. He’s explosive, and he can make really tough shots.”
The other three returning starters – Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins – along with Hield, started all 35 games last season for the Sooners. Cousins, a 6-foot-4 guard, was the team’s second leading scorer at 11.7 points per game. Spangler averaged 9.7 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds while Woodard 9.3 points and a team team-high 3.8 assists.
“They talk a lot about (Hield), but they’ve got some other really good players,” Pastner said. “It’s going to be a high-level game.”
In the past, Memphis fans have showed up in droves to support the Tigers, and their home court has been an advantage. And even though just 11,786 attended the season-opener against Southern Miss, Pastner is confident fans will show up for Tuesday’s 4 p.m. tipoff.
“We’re going to have a good crowd (against Oklahoma),” he said. “And they’re going to be loud. The better we can have a home-court advantage just by being loud, it’s an important part. And then for our part, we need to do our job on the floor.”
Highly touted freshman forward Dedric Lawson and Tiger coach Josh Pastner will welcome No. 8 Oklahoma to FedExForum Tuesday afternoon.