When Kareem Brewton Jr. was replaced in the starting lineup by a freshmen, he did not pout and retract. He responded with one of his best games as a Tiger.
Brewton scored a season high 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including going 3 for 3 on three-point baskets in the 67-58 win over the Albany Great Danes on Tuesday night at FedExForum.
A six-foot three-inch combo guard and junior college transfer from Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa, Fla., Brewton led his team to the National Junior College Championship game last season. And while his team lost that game, they got there with Brewton averaging 19.8 points during the season.
Before another small crowd — 4,168 — the Tigers moved to 7-0 at home, defeating an Albany team with a 10-1 record going into the game. It was one of the Tigers’ most complete games as a unit.
Raynere Thornton, another junior college transfer, stepped up his game against the Great Danes. Thornton, who played at Gordon State Community College in Marietta, Ga., also had his best game to date as a Tiger. He finished with 8 points and two blocks, with his presence on defense was felt throughout the game.
The Tigers got out to another very slow start and did not score their first points until after four minutes into the game. Defense kept them in the game in the first half, holding the Great Danes to only 24.2 shooting percentage in the first half. The Tigers had a season high 11 block shots in the game, with y Kyvon Davenport collecting 4.
The Tigers took a 29-22 lead into the halftime break, but it could have easily have been a double-digit lead. The Tigers only connected on 1 of 7 of their three-point attempts and they missed 5 free throws. Brewton scored 11 of his points in the first half.
The Tigers blocked 7 shots and had four steals in the opening half. Many of the steals led to easy layups. The size of the Tigers forced the Great Danes to rely on outside shots. They were led by Joe Cremo, who scored 16 points, and Daviod Nichols, who added 14.
Jeremiah Martin continues to be the Tigers’ workhorse. He finished with 13 points in 37 minutes. Also contributing four assists, Martin controlled the offensive tempo of the game and was the catalyst on defense with 5 steals.
Next up for the Tigers (7-2) will be the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at 11 a.m. (CDT) in Madison Square Garden in New York City. It will be the final game of the Houzz Gotham Classic for the Tigers. The first two were played at FedExForum, with the Tigers defeating Bryant University and the University of Albany. The Tigers will be looking for their first win away from the FedExForum.
Kareem Brewton Jr. on his comfort level when playing — “The coaching staff has been trying to get me to get better on my shot. I felt like I did that tonight and I just went out there and just played and not overthink it.”
Raynere Thornton on facing Louisville — “I think it is going to be our biggest test, so we have to get ready for them.”
Head coach Tubby Smith — “I thought we did some good things. We needed to raise our intensity level, especially on defense, and that was the key to the ballgame.”
Asked what was the key in the first half defensively, Smith said, “I thought we were focused. We had some good practices. We came out ready to play. I challenged them to limit their opportunities. Once we could score, we could get into our press and that was a big help.”
Smith, who was animated throughout the game, said the Tigers might not have been the Great Danes two weeks ago. “We are improving every day. A lot of guys are logging quite a bit of minutes. Jeremiah played 37 minutes. We have got to get him some more rest, but he played great down the stretch.“
On the play of Brewton, Smith said, “I’m really happy with Kareem. He is capable of doing that. Jamal started in his place the other night and he started tonight. He did not hang his head. He came out and worked pretty hard to improve his shot. I am really impressed with him shooting 3 for 3 (on 3-pointers); he had been only shooting 12 percent, maybe less. That will give him and us a lot of confidence. “