The Memphis Tigers' 69-51 victory over the visiting UT Volunteers is just what the doctor ordered for a team battling their own indifferent play and a series of off-the-court distractions. If there is any one particular lesson to be gathered from the display, it would be that this still-young Tiger team is finally learning how to channel their aggressions and play tough basketball, especially on defense.
Freshman forward Adonis Thomas is encouraged by his team's efforts leading up to their conference opener Saturday on the road at Alabama-Birmingham.
"I know conference play is gonna be tough, (teams are) gonna scout you very well. They know the teams from last year well with everybody coming back. UAB is gonna be a tough opponent, so we've gotta play tough. We've got to bring the toughness that we had tonight.
"We're gelling each day. In practice we're preparing hard, we're defending hard. We're giving our all in practice and it's gonna carry over into games."
Click the audio hyperlink here: UT Adonis
Sophomore guard Antonio Barton bristles at the notion that his team is soft.
"Guys on our team hate being called soft. I don't know if teams (are) saying it or Coach (Pastner) is saying it but Coach (Pastner) was telling us that guys across the country think we're soft. We don't take that too far, we've got to come out and show them what's up."
Barton broke out of season-long shooting slumber in a big way, nailing 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point arc. He looks to be ready to torment his C-USA foes in conference action.
"The beginning of the year, I started off a little rough because when I would miss a shot I would stop shooting," he admitted. "My brother had to have a talk with me. He told me, 'Shooters never stop shooting.'
"I'm a shooter and that's what I've gotta (do), come out and keep shooting. If I miss my first shot, I've got to continue shooting. And that's what he always taught me and preaches to me before every game. Once that confidence gets back up it just feels comfortable every time it leaves my hand."
Click the audio hyperlink here: UT Antonio
Senior Charles Carmouche is very proud of how his team played against Tennessee.
"Guys went out there and did a great job," he began. "It's a big rivalry game. They understood what was at stake going in. We just came out ready to play from the start, and that's what we need to do: put together a 40-minute game instead of 20 minutes some games. . . I'm real proud of this group and this (is) showing that we're heading in a new direction and trying to get better as a team."
Click the audio hyperlink here: UT Charles
Junior big man Ferrakohn Hall, sporting sore, bandaged ribs after the physical contest, was very pleased to come out victorious.
"It was definitely a good win. It felt good to go out there and play hard, play together and come out with a real good victory. I know the fans love it."
He shrugged off the distractions of the past weeks.
"We had a lot of things going on but you know, as you see, we're a team that's all one. We all came out there together and played together for that win."
Click the audio hyperlink here: UT Ferrakohn
And sophomore star guard Joe Jackson, who has been at the heart of the latest controversy swirling around the program, came out of the game just happy to win. He knows he has a long way to go personally but the first steps certainly appear to be in the right direction.
"I really like that we won the game," he said calmly. "Actually, I love it, because we need this win. It feels so good to beat Tennessee, especially beat 'em big, by double-figures. But my individual performance? I really don't think it was great, and it wasn't good. It was just solid. I feel like an average player out there today. I (have) a lot of room for improvement. I can play way better than that."
He continually deflected talk away from his own game and instead focused on his team. He commented that when he was smiling on court, it was simply because his team was winning.
"I was actually just smiling because we were winning and I love to win. . . I'm not a selfish person, I love to win. I smiled because I was happy. . .
"Yeah (it feels good) but I'm not in a situation where I can be too happy. I'm not going to say that. . . But I was happy because it was at the end of the game and we were winning. I don't even remember what I did in the game, I was just trying to play defense hard and rebound."
As for the impending league game this weekend? This is what Jackson had to say:
"UAB, from what I know, they're a solid team. We can beat 'em, we've just gotta prepare ourselves the right way and when the game starts, we've just gotta go out and prove what we're trying to do. Are we trying to be an average team or are we trying to win championships?"
Click the audio hyperlink here: UT Joe
Bonus audio files, click the hyperlinks to listen to the audio files:
Josh Pastner complete post game press conference:
Chris Crawford postgame comments in Tiger locker room:
Trey Draper postgame comments in Tiger locker room: