By: Anthony Sain ( @ SainAsylum )
After a hard fought effort against #8 Oklahoma, the Memphis Tigers (2-1) came out early without the same level of intensity that pushed the Sooners to the brink in their next contest Thursday night against Grambling (1-2). The Tigers lacked overall energy allowing the Tigers from Grambling to lead for the majority of the first half. The Tigers would lead at the half over highly outmatched Grambling 40-36, after trailing by as many as six.
The Tigers would pull away in the second half turning defense into offense and scoring in transition. The Tigers would go into a three-quarter-court press that proved to be too much for Grambling causing them to turnover the ball. Freshman KJ Lawson lead the second half charge scoring all 13 of his points in the second half after a slow start. Dedric Lawson would lead all scorers with 16 points and six rebounds.
Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner, who also picked up his 150th win on the night, spoke on the team’s slow start.
“We started a little slow, a little sluggish, but we found a way to get the win,” said Pastner. “We pressed later in the first half, and changed the pace a little bit. I thought we were a little paralyzed against the zone so our pace was a little bit slower.
Pastner on the turnaround in the second half
“In the second half, we made the adjustment of really attacking to the high post and the first few possessions there – the first five, six minutes – we just attacked everything in that high-post area there and that loosened things up.
Freshman Forward KJ Lawson on the slow start and his personal resurgence in the second half
“It was a back to back game,” said Lawson. “We’re just recovering. It’s hard to get ready for certain teams, but we still have to come out and compete and have the same energy with one person in the crowd or with twenty thousand. When we slapped the press on, it was to speed them up and get them out of their comfort zone and get them playing our speed.”
On the source of his confidence, even after a bad game
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” said Lawson. “ Even coming off of a bad game, I just feel like once I get myself together and get to the rim and help our team better on defense when you give the other team foul trouble. I’ve never been scared to drive the ball on any level. That’s the main key.”
Freshmen Jeremiah Martin continued to play major minutes at backup point guard instead of senior Kedren Johnson who is nursing a shoulder injury and he finished with six points on two made three-pointers. He was a terror on defense, especially when Memphis was pressing and pushed the tempo looking for easy scoring opportunities.
Pastner on Martin’s performance
“Jeremiah hit a couple of those threes that loosened some things up for us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s going to be one of the fan favorites. He will be what D.J. Stephens was for his four years here, that type of talent as in terms of the fan favorite one, and he can help you win a lot of games, just like D.J. did. Maybe not the athleticism, but how hard he plays.
“He plays so hard and he leaves it all on the floor and he does it through defense. He’s a winner, and I think for Tiger Nation, they get to see this young man for four years. There’s a lot to look forward to with this young man.”
Martin on his own performance and what he needs to work on
“I have to get more comfortable with the pace,” said Martin. “I’m playing with a lot of good players - they’re like my wings. They’re with me until the end. It’s learning and it’s fun too at the same time because I’m doing something that I’m not used to doing. It’s kind of getting to me. It’s about a lot of confidence.”
Pastner on positives and negatives from the game
There were some positives with our free throw shooting and again only having 12 turnovers with the pace that we play at, that’s not a bad stat. But we’re going to have to make some threes. I mean that’s just the facts of it. We’re going to have to stick them. And if not, though, we’ve got to really attack that high post, but we’re going to have make some threes. We’re getting some good looks; we just have to put the ball in the basket. But, in the end, we got the win.”
The Tigers will now prepare to take on the Mavericks of Texas Arlington on Monday November 23rd at 7:30 at home in the FedEx Forum.