The No. 22/24 Memphis Tigers (11-3, 2-1 AAC) are coming off their second marquee win of the season as they defeated the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals on Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky by the final score of 73-67.
This win comes right after the Tigers were embarrassed at home in their conference opener to the Cincinnati Bearcats by the final score of 69-53. Before Memphis plays their next home game, they have one more road contest in front of them versus the Temple Owls (5-8, 0-3 AAC).
Temple is currently riding a three-game losing streak in conference play with losses to Rutgers, Central Florida, and South Florida. The Owls last win was back in December on the road as they defeated Long Island-Brooklyn, 101-65. In that game, senior guard Dalton Pepper scored 26 points to lead his team to victory.
Pepper is currently the leading scorer for the Owls at 16.7 points per game.
Temple has three other players on the roster averaging in double figures for the season: junior guard Will Cummings (16.5 ppg), sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey (15.8) and junior forward Anthony Lee (14.3) points a game.
For those scoring at home, that's 63.6 ppg from just four (4) players.
As a team, the Owls average a healthy 78.2 points a game but allow their opponents 75.7 per outing. Temple has no problem putting points on the scoreboard, but their defense remains a big issue.
If they can't find a way to get stops on the defensive end of the basketball court, then Memphis will become their next opponent to score in the 80s.
As for the Tigers, in their win over the Cardinals, five players on the roster scored in double figures. Sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin and senior guard Joe Jackson each finished the game with 15 points apiece. Senior guard Geron Johnson finished with 13 points and a team-high 11 boards. Senior guard Chris Crawford added 12 and freshman forward Austin Nichols showed signs of breaking out of his recent funk, finishing the game with 10 points while grabbing seven rebounds.
As a team, Memphis shot an impressive 50.9 percent (28-of-55) from the field but just 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the free throw line. They went 4-of-11 (36.4 percent) from long range. The 3-point shooting wasn't pretty, but it was enough for the Tigers to pick up a huge win on the road. The free throw shooting simply must improve if the Tigers want to keep winning in the difficult American Conference.
The Tigers are looking to head back home on a two-game winning streak before they have to play the Connecticut Huskies in front of the Tiger Nation fanatics on Jan. 16. To get the win in hostile territory the Tigers will have to stick to the same game plan that Pastner has preached to them over and over again.
The four senior guards (Jackson, Crawford, Johnson, and Dixon) will have to set the tone early in the game on both ends of the floor. On offense, they need to get their big men touches and shot attempts. On defense, they must be disruptive and make it difficult for Temple to initiate their offense.
The fans in Memphis watching the win over the Cardinals on ESPN2 were witness to how the offense runs much better when the guards feed the post early in the game. Nichols was able to break out of his recent slump and Goodwin was back to his old self by dominating in the paint.
The Tigers have all of the tools to defeat Temple on the road and get their third win of the season in conference play. If Memphis can shoot over 50 percent from the field and knock down free throws, then they should be able to come away with the easy victory.
This game is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. CST at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3.