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December 12, 2013

Memphis Faces Warm-up Game Against Arkansas-Little Rock

Tiger Nation might be looking ahead to the Jimmy V Classic next week when the No. 15/16 Memphis Tigers (7-1) take on another ranked opponent. They will meet No. 19 (both polls) Florida Gators of the Southeastern Conference (7-2) in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

However, Memphis has one more hurdle to jump before that happens. On Friday, December 13, at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN, the Tigers will take on the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (3-5).

Memphis has been on a tear lately, winning five consecutive games including a big win over then No. 5/8 Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-1) in the Old Spice Classic Championship game. In the Tigers' last home game, they defeated Northwestern State (3-5) by the final score of 96-76, shooting an impressive 53.6 percent (37-of-69) from the field. They could still use some improvement from the free throw line, shooting 63.6 percent (14-of-22).

The best part of the night had to be the performance of the big men: sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin and freshman forward Austin Nichols. Goodwin had a career night in front of the Memphis crowd scoring 21 points while shooting 72.7 percent (8-of-11) from the field. He also had six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Nichols added nine points while shooting 57.1 percent (4-of-7) from the field and grabbing six rebounds.

So far this season, Goodwin is averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Nichols is not too far behind Goodwin, contributing 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest.

Two of the Memphis senior guards pitched in on the offensive end versus NWS, as well. Joe Jackson finished with 18 points and Michael Dixon added 14.

Memphis is winning games and they are doing it coach Pastner's way, which starts on the defensive end. Memphis is holding their opponents to 71.7 points a game. With the scoring power that Memphis currently has on the roster, they are averaging 86.4 points a game.

The Tigers look to play at an even higher level in Friday night's game against Little Rock with the clash versus Florida on the horizon.

Arkansas-Little Rock is coming off a loss Tuesday night to Tulsa by the final score of 78-64. During a majority part of the game, both teams were going back and forth. Unfortunately for Little Rock, the game got out of control when Tulsa went on a 16-0 run led by junior Marquel Curtis. Curtis started the decisive scoring spree when he hit a layup and a free throw that helped Tulsa take the lead at 57-41. From there, the game was basically out of reach.

Senior forward Will Neighbour was the leading scorer for Little Rock on the night, finishing the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Neighbour has scored in double figures in all eight games this year for UALR. For the season, Neighbour is averaging 18.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.

Senior wingman Leroy Isler was second on the team in scoring versus Tulsa, finishing with 14 points while shooting 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from the field.

Memphis shouldn't have much of a problem against the Trojans if they continue to share the basketball. In their win over the Demons of Northwestern State, they notched a season-high 27 assists.

In order for Little Rock to defeat Memphis, everyone on the floor has to contribute. Neighbour and Isler can't continue to be the only players on the floor that find ways to score the basketball; two players simply are not enough to beat Memphis.

For Memphis to continue their winning ways, they have to use their strength on the inside with Goodwin and Nichols. Memphis should continue to play inside-out and stretch UALR's defense. The two young, athletic big men seem to have gained confidence and both of them will look to have another solid game.

Secondly, Memphis has to continue to shoot a good percentage from the field and get everyone involved on the offensive end. When everyone gets involved for Memphis, the offense flows better. The prime example of this fact is the 27 assists against the Demons, a stat that can virtually speak for itself.

Should Memphis handle business, they will sport an 8-1 record with a tough, tough test versus Florida looming.

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