Though it wasn't pretty throughout, the No. 16/17 University of Memphis Tigers basketball team (1-0) defeated a scrappy University of North Florida team (1-1) 81-66 in their season opener in front of a crowd of 15,668 at FedExForum.
"Overall I loved our effort for the first 30 or so minutes," said Josh Pastner, head coach for the Tigers. "First part of the of the game we gave up some threes, but that's going to happen - we played hard with great energy. There's some good things we did, some things we've got to work on, but the important thing is we got the W."
The Tigers did get tested from UNF the first 10 minutes of action due to the Tigers' inability to close out shooters from behind the arc. But once McDonald's-All America freshman forward Shaq Goodwin entered the contest, the whole complexity and energy of the Tigers' game changed.
The visiting Ospreys actually led 20-17 when Goodwin got into the game. He and his Tiger teammates responded emphatically, taking the lead for good at 22-20 on an Antonio Barton trey within a breathtaking 19-0 run to open the game up and leave no doubt about the ultimate result.
Memphis led 47-25 at the half.
"I thought Shaq energized Tarik Black," Pastner said. "I thought he energized our whole team. Guys were all over the floor. I had no issue with their effort whatsoever. I am really proud of the guys for the effort that they gave."
Memphis dove for loose balls, grabbed offensive rebounds and got out into transition for easy buckets, while junior guard Barton keyed the offense with his sharpshooting. Memphis dominated the glass in the first half, grabbing 31 rebounds to UNF's 15. The Tigers' defense also held the Ospreys to 26.9 percent shooting during that dominating stretch.
"Coach said for me to be physical out there," Goodwin said. "Being scrappy, diving for balls and grinding is what I'm supposed to do. The only thing that I didn't know about tonight was the speed of the game. I was prepared for everything else."
Goodwin and the hot shooting Barton weren't the only Tigers to have an impact on the game. Junior forward Tarik Black and junior guard Joe Jackson also gave the Tigers a lift. Black led Memphis with 18 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 60 percent from the field. Jackson chipped in with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals.
"I'm just trying to limit turnovers and slow down," Jackson said. "I know once I do that, and then help out the big men in rebounding, that's what we need this year. And Shaq was beasting out there. Once they started trapping inside, it left wide-open shots for everybody else."
Up next for the nationally-ranked Tigers will be the Samford Bulldogs this Saturday night at FedExForum. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Then Memphis will head to the much anticipated Battle 4 Atlantis, November 22-24, in the Bahamas.