NCAA BK

Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 6:30 PM ET
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Memphis-Siena Preview

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Memphis coach Josh Pastner has seen enough happen across the country in the opening month of the college basketball season to immediately dismiss the idea of an easy game.

He'd like for his 21st-ranked Tigers to avoid becoming the next team to prove him right when they open play in the Old Spice Classic on Thursday night in Orlando against Siena.

"I just keep telling everyone, everyone's good," Pastner said. "There are no gimmes. There are no easy teams. Talent is spread out. Everybody's good in this day and age. Everybody. There are no gimmes in the game of basketball."

Pastner thinks his team is on board with that mentality after a 21-point loss at Oklahoma State on Nov. 19.

"I think this year with us getting our butts handed to us a week ago, guys understand the humbleness," Pastner said.

Memphis (2-1) got its last tune-up in before heading south with Saturday's 98-59 home win over Nicholls State.

Entering the season, returning guards Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson figured to join with Missouri transfer Michael Dixon Jr. in handling much of the scoring load, but a pair of freshmen have led the way over the last two games.

Austin Nichols scored a game-high 20 against Nicholls State, while Nick King led the Tigers with 23 against Oklahoma State.

King is averaging 16.0 points to lead the Tigers in 16.3 minutes per game coming off the bench. He's the only Tigers player to score in double figures in all three games.

Memphis is averaging 91.0 points and holding opponents to 43.6 percent shooting. Nicholls State shot just 35.9 percent, but the 101-80 loss to Oklahoma State is still fresh. It's a defensive night the Tigers would like to forget by improving against Siena and whoever follows on the tournament schedule's quick turnaround.

"I think normal defensive principles pretty much apply to every team," Dixon said. "Some teams run different styles, but I think the way we play defense and the way we guard is going to be key. I think just staying solid and containing on defense rather than over-helping or over-pressuring the ball is going to be key in what we try to do."

Siena (2-4) is shooting 40.9 percent overall and 27.5 percent from 3-point range, though it managed to hang around long enough in Sunday's 81-73 loss at Purdue to give the Boilermakers a scare after trailing by three at half.

Reserve guard Evan Hymes scored a game-high 18 points. Rob Poole, averaging a team-high 15.5, added 12.

"I think the team believes we can beat Memphis," Poole told the school's official website. "They got athletes, they got NBA guys, but we just have to match their intensity. If we do that, we can stay in the game."

The Saints last beat a Top 25 team on March 21, 2008, with an 83-62 win over Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament.

Memphis and Siena last met that same season. The No. 2 Tigers won 102-58 on Jan. 3, 2008, accounting for the largest margin of defeat for Siena since 1989. The Saints went 2-1 against ranked opponents that year but are 0-5 since.

Siena won the only other meeting in 1953.

The winner will face the LSU-St. Joseph's winner Friday night in the semifinals.

Tagged: Memphis, Siena, Nicholls State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Michael Dixon Jr.

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