Michigan-Memphis Preview

BY foxsports • November 21, 2011

After leading Memphis to an impressive win its season opener, Will Barton said he was out to make an even bigger statement.

He'll get that chance Monday, when the eighth-ranked Tigers face No. 15 Michigan in the opening game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational championship round.

Returning all five starters from a team that won 25 games, Memphis (1-0) got off to an excellent start, beating Belmont 97-81 on Tuesday.

The Bruins, who fell 77-76 at Duke just four days earlier, couldn't contain the potent Tigers' offense. Memphis shot 58.6 percent from the floor and hit 7 for 14 from 3-point range.

Barton was one of three Tigers to score at least 20 points, recording a career-high 23 on 7 of 12 shooting. Despite the high-scoring display, Barton knows it will take further similar efforts to squash any qualms about the legitimacy of his team's high ranking.

"We feel disrespected. We really do," Barton said. "People are saying we're the most overrated top 10 team in the country. We don't like that. We're just focused.

"We're not cocky or nothing like that. We just want to prove we're one of the best teams in the country, too."

Memphis would surely garner some more respect with a victory over Michigan (3-0), which is trying to open 4-0 for the first time in five years.

Its lost its fourth game in each of the last three seasons after opening 3-0.

While the Wolverines have held opponents to an average of 45.0 points, their offensive play leaves much to be desired. They're shooting 43.4 percent from the floor, 30.1 percent from 3-point range and 58.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Michigan found itself in a battle with Western Illinois on Thursday but held on to defeat the Leathernecks 59-55 largely thanks to 20 forced turnovers.

"We needed a game like that, to kind of wake us up a little bit," said forward Jordan Morgan, who scored 11 points. "Not just wake us up - get used to playing in those situations where we've got to knock down free throws late, and we've got to get key stops and key baskets. We needed to feel that pressure."

Guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke were the only other players to reach double figures, putting up 16 and 14 points, respectively. The rest of the team made just 5 of 20 shots.

With the Wolverines failing to generate much offense, coach John Beilein knows his team will be in for a challenge against the Tigers - and whomever else it faces in the tournament.

"We're going to learn a lot about them, because we're going to be playing incredible quickness, incredible length," Beilein said. "These games, we're going to have to shoot the ball and not have careless turnovers."

In addition to slowing down Barton, Michigan could have difficulty containing forward Wesley Witherspoon, who didn't seem to be hindered by the knee injuries that plagued him last season. Witherspoon scored 22 points Tuesday, going 8 for 8 from the floor.

"I've been playing in practice. It's been a long time since I've been this healthy, and just be able to go out there and perform like I know I can perform," he said.

Memphis has taken two of three matchups in this series. The teams haven't met since the Tigers defeated then-No. 4 Michigan 73-72 on Dec. 28, 1996.

The Wolverines have dropped 16 of their last 17 games versus ranked teams. Memphis, meanwhile, has been outscored by an average of 9.6 points during an eight-game skid against Top 25 opponents.

The winner will face either Duke or Tennessee on Tuesday.

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