On a night when junior post forward Tarik Black sat out dealing with personal issues, the Memphis Tigers bolted out to a 47-30 halftime lead and cruised to a 93-65 victory over the visiting UT-Martin Skyhawks in front of 15,398 at the FedEx Forum.
Shaq Goodwin got the start and led Memphis with a career-high 17 points and 12 rebounds (the first double-double of his young career) on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and 7-of-9 from the free throw line.
The Tigers had a balanced attack with five players in double-figures, with Goodwin followed by Adonis Thomas (15), Chris Crawford (14), and both Joe Jackson & Geron Johnson at 13 apiece. It was the first time since last year's C-USA Tournament perofrmance against Marshall that 5 Tigers managed double figures in points.
"I'm proud of the guys," Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said after the game. "It was a good win. I thought we had really good energy. The guys played hard and got after it. Everyone came in and was alert and energized."
The Tigers' defense was improved after an uneven run of games in the Bahamas, holding the 'Hawks to just 35.8% shooting (24-68) from the floor and 38.9% (7-18) from 3-point range. UT-Martin actually shot 4-7 from the three-point arc in the first half before cooling off.
The Tigers forced 19 turnovers (including 12 steals) and blocked a season-high 8 shots while disrupting the UTM offense all night. Coach Pastner was pleased with his team's performance.
"Defensively, we had 77 deflections, which is terrific. Seven times, we had three stops in a row. We did a lot of different drills in practice to try and get three consecutive stops."
Perhaps even more impressive was how the Tigers distributed the basketball on offense. Jackson led the team in assists for the 4th time this year with a season-high 8, and Memphis managed an impressive 26 assists (team season-high) on 36 made baskets (36-69, 52%), which pleased Pastner immensely.
"That was a big thing," he said, referring to the Tigers' willingness to share the basketball. "That was something we didn't do real well in The Bahamas. I pride ourselves on offensive efficiency in having over 50 percent of our made field goals assisted. I thought we played extremely unselfish and made the extra pass. That has been a staple of our teams here. I think through some of the things we did in practice helped that."
With the game tied at 8-8 in the opening minutes, the Tigers went on a 13-3 run over the next 2:18 to carve out some breathing room. A one-handed dunk by Thomas on a pass from Joe Jackson highlighted the Memphis run followed by a fast break layup from Goodwin gave the Tigers a 21-11 lead with 13:38 remaining in the half.
A Crawford 3-pointer at the first half buzzer pushed the Tigers' lead out to 17 points at the break. Their largest lead of the night was 41 points (83-42) with 8:51 to go in the game.
Memphis advanced to 4-2 on the season while UTM fell to 2-5. The Tigers, who are in the midst of a 7-game homestand, return to action next Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. versus Ohio.