The character of a person is shown when adversity hits. Memphis is in the middle of one of its most adverse times this season.
The Tigers are currently on a two-game losing streak (Georgia and Wichita State) and are on the road to play the University of South Florida Bulls in Tampa on Sunday.
There will be little time for adjustments. Penny Hardaway has hinted at making some changes that may affect the starting lineup or even his rotation of players. The Bulls don’t pose the same high level of threat that the Shockers gave the team.
South Florida will be looking for a win over a Top 25-ranked team. Bulls fans have always had a love-hate relationship with the Memphis basketball team. The students always are geared up for the arrival of the Tigers.
The schedule may be the enemy for the Tigers. Not for making the tournament, but if they are invited, getting a favorable seed. The schedule only has three more opportunities for quality wins in the regular season (Wichita State and Houston, twice). Previous wins against Tennessee and North Carolina State don’t look so great now. If those two teams improve, so will the value of those wins.
Keys to the game versus South Florida:
The Tigers have missed double-digit free throws on multiple occasions this season. It is very inconsistent in who is missing from the charity stripe. In the 76-67 loss to Wichita State, the Tigers missed 10 free throws. Precious Achiuwa missed four, Lester Quiñones Jr. missed four and Alex Lomax missed two.
Some of the misses were the front ends of a one-and-one. The misses also prevented the Tigers from pulling even close to the Shockers and they did not get a chance to lead the game in the second half.
Change may be on the horizon
Hardaway had expressed that he did not want to tinker with the starting lineup when the team was on a 10-game winning streak. The notorious slow starts in the last two games have been the difference in the final outcome. The team appears to gather their rhythm when Lomax enters the lineup. Boogie Ellis has struggled and many have suggested that he should be moved to the bench.
Against Wichita State, the Tigers got outrebounded on the offensive glass, 18-15. The Shockers got multiple attempts to score at important times of the game. Memphis only lost the rebounding battle 35-33. Those second and third chance opportunities led to some unnecessary fouls. Some of the Tigers were in deep foul trouble early. Lomax fouled out. DJ Jeffries and Ellis each had 4 fouls. There were 68 free throws shot in the game.
Another possible change may come at the center position. Isiah Maurice has been very effective to start games. Jeffries may have still been suffering from the effects of the flu only made 1 of 2 shots from the floor. Malcolm Dandridge had four rebounds off the bench and six points.
After consecutive losses to lower-ranked teams, the Tigers more than likely will not be in the Top 25 next week. But a win in Tampa could be the start for them returning.
Memphis vs. South Florida tips off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12. The game can be seen on ESPN2.