The Memphis Tigers are going into one of their biggest games of the season when they travel to play the Wichita State Shockers (13-1), a rival in the American Athletic Conference.
Greg Marshall, the well-respected coach for the Shockers, lost both games to Penny Hardaway last year. You could even make it 0-3 if you include Alex Lomax, who de-committed from Wichita State when his high school coach Penny Hardaway took over for Memphis.
The Tigers are feeling disrespected after their loss to Georgia sent them tumbling out of the AP Top 10. The Tigers dropped 12 spots to No. 21, while Wichita State comes into the game ranked No. 23. A win would likely mean better seeding in the NCAA Tournament for either team.
The Shockers have one of the best fanbases in the AAC, and they’ll hope to win some national respect with a win over Memphis, is a three-point favorite to win, according to www.oddshark.com.
The game is so big, the Shockers are planning a “Black Out” for the game, with fans and players dressed head to toe in black. So the Tigers should expect a similar environment to what they saw in Knoxville against the Vols earlier this season. They’ll need to control the tempo and play their game if they want to keep the crowd from going crazy.
Here are some keys to victory for the Tigers:
Make what you take
The Tigers missed 12 free throws in the loss to Georgia. They can’t continue to shoot free throws like that – not if they want to win. The Tigers must also improve their shooting percentage in general. Tyler Harris, who went O-fer against Georgia, can’t have another zero-point game. The team must shoot better all around.
It is that time of year when the dreaded flu bug is going around. D.J. Jeffries was a last-minute scratch from the Georgia game last week. His roommate, Damian Baugh, did not practice on Monday or Tuesday and is suffering from flu-like symptoms. Even Hardaway had the flu during the Christmas break.
The Tigers are down to only 11 available players and every body counts – otherwise, some players could have to play extended minutes which could lead to tired legs late in the game.
Don’t force the action
The basketball Tigers need to take a play from the football Tigers – specifically, a lesson out of the Brady White playbook: Take what the defense gives you. At times this season Memphis has forced the action. This has led to more turnovers than coach Hardaway would like to have.
With the hostile crowd, the team should allow themselves to be put into bad situations. They have to take the crowd out of the game and control the tempo and play their game.
Memphis Tigers vs. Wichita State Shockers tips off at 6 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPN2.