The University of Memphis Tigers (5-2) finally appeared to be the team everyone expected. Memphis controlled the tempo, created turnovers and got easy baskets in transition, en route to an 84-58 victory over an experienced Ohio Bobcats (6-2) team Wednesday night at FedExForum in front of an announced crowd of 15,669.
Though starting slow and falling behind early in the first half, Memphis got a spark from junior guard Geron Johnson off the bench with his tenacious defense and dept shooting skills. Johnson gave the Tigers a much-needed boost against a team that featured mostly juniors and seniors that reached the Sweet Sixteen last season.
"Geron, for the last couple of games, has changed the tempo of the game," said Josh Pastner, head coach of the Tigers. "He's tough, he has a high motor and (is) a great energy guy. He loves to play defense."
On the defensive end, Johnson and the Tigers did well. He totaled three steals and three rebounds - to go along with a team high 21 points. The other Tigers weren't too shabby in the steal category either. Junior guard Joe Jackson tallied five steals to go along with 10 points and five assists.
"We had non-stop pressure, just wanted to make them feel uncomfortable, Jackson said. "We just wanted to come out and give a real good effort, effort against a team that went deep into the tournament last year. We're a comfortable team and a win like this helps us play together."
The Tigers led by a small margin of eight, 36-28, at the half. But Pastner inserted Johnson into the second half starting lineup and the Tigers responded with a 12-6 run, then another mini run to open the lead up to 19 at 63-44. This time around, it was the freshman big man Shaq Goodwin doing work to help increase the Tigers' lead.
"If you look at it, every time I turned around the ball was coming at me," Goodwin said. "We just ran our systems, ran our plays and I was just at the right place at the right time. I got gassed during that run at the start of the second half, but when I looked at coach he told me to dig in, and so I did."
Goodwin finished the game with 20 points, two assists and nine rebounds, one shy of a second career double-double. Four Tigers totaled in double figures, they also outrebounded the Bobcats 38-27 and held Ohio to 37.5 percent field goal shooting, just 24.0 percent from behind the arc.
Tigers will have a couple of days to practice before getting ready to take on Austin Peay on Saturday. Game is slated for a noon tipoff. And a week from Saturday is the return of the Louisville Cardinals to Memphis for a nationally televised contest at FedExForum.