Memphis’ first game without its best player, 7-foot-1 freshman center James Wiseman, was no test. The Tigers did whatever they wanted to Alcorn State — which hasn’t beaten a Division I team in a nonconference game in six seasons — and cruised to a 102-56 win Saturday night.
No. 16 Memphis continues to live life without Wiseman on Wednesday night when it hosts Little Rock in another nonconference contest at FedEx Forum.
With Wiseman on the shelf for now while the school tries to resolve his eligibility with the NCAA, the Tigers (3-1) appear ready to rely on two other freshmen — Precious Achiuwa and Lester Quinones — and lean more on pressure defense.
That formula wasn’t going to be rebuffed by a SWAC foe in Alcorn State. Achiuwa collected 20 points and eight boards, while Quinones did him one better with 21 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Memphis also forced 26 turnovers.
“I felt like we really did a good job turning them over 26 times,” Tigers coach Penny Hardaway said. “That’s something that we want to do. We felt like at the Oregon game we needed to pressure more. We didn’t get an opportunity to pressure as much.”
That’s because the ball didn’t go through the bucket enough. When a team makes shots, it’s much easier to set up pressure defense. Because it made 58 percent from the field, Memphis was able to establish its plan of attack a lot quicker.
The Tigers also used their size advantage to swamp Alcorn State 50-36 on the glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds. If there was a negative in the win, it was that Memphis hit only 24 of 45 foul shots. Achiuwa was a dreadful 8 of 20.
While Memphis cruised on Saturday evening, UALR (3-1) also enjoyed an easy win on Sunday. The Trojans clamped down defensively at Central Arkansas, allowing only 13 field goals in a 76-56 win. The Tigers permitted just five two-point baskets for the day.
“I thought today this team really embodied my philosophy of basketball and came up big defensively,” Little Rock coach Darrell Walker told reporters. “We struggled offensively at times, but our defense gave us a larger margin for error. I felt that if we held them under 65 points, we’d have a good chance to win the ball game, and I thought my team responded.”
It was 5-7 guard Markquis Nowell igniting the Trojans’ offense again, firing in a game-high 25 points. Nowell, who has scored at least 20 in three straight games, came close to a triple-double with eight rebounds and seven assists while playing all but two seconds.
Little Rock also got 17 points and 14 rebounds from 6-10 junior Ruot Monyyong, the team’s first double-double of the season. He might need to put together another performance of that ilk for it to have a chance at the upset.
–Field Level Media