Texas A&M-Corpus Christi-Memphis Preview
With their leading scorer sidelined and two other players out, Memphis knows it won't always be able to overcome the lackluster efforts that have been all too common this season.
After surviving a big scare, the No. 16 Tigers hope to put forth a better performance when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Monday night.
A victory over the Islanders would give Memphis (8-1) its best 10-game start since winning the first 10 games of 2007-08. However, the Tigers have been plagued by sloppy play and defensive lapses.
Playing for the first time since an 81-68 loss to then-No. 4 Kansas on Nov. 7, Memphis went into overtime for the second time this season, pulling out a 70-68 win over Austin Peay after overcoming a 15-point second-half deficit.
"I don't have a whole lot of words because I don't know what to say," coach Josh Pastner said. "All I know is we are 8-1 and that beats 7-2 ... We grinded it out and found a way to win."
The game was the first without leading scorer Wesley Witherspoon, who will be sidelined five weeks after undergoing right knee surgery. D.J. Stephens also missed the game with a groin injury that will keep him out Monday, while Angel Garcia quit the team earlier last week to play professionally in Spain.
Charles Carmouche and Chris Crawford helped make up for the multiple absences. Each set season highs with 16 and 18 points, respectively.
The rest of the team, however, struggled. The Tigers shot 41.1 percent, went 15 of 30 at the free-throw line and had a season-high 24 turnovers. Starters Will Barton and Joe Jackson finished with 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Memphis, which gave up 22 offensive boards and was outrebounded 51-41, average the second-most turnovers in Conference USA with 16.6 per game.
This wasn't the first time the team was threatened by a lesser opponent. It also had a scare against Arkansas State on Dec. 1, escaping with a 78-71 overtime win.
"We can't come out having bad games," Carmouche said. "We can't get behind like this anymore. Luckily we beat Arkansas State and luckily we beat Austin Peay. Two times is good, but there's probably not going to be a third time."
Memphis, which hosts No. 15 Georgetown on Thursday, will try to avoid falling behind against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (4-6), also coming off an overtime win. The Islanders defeated Houston, another Conference USA team, 81-78 on Saturday for their third win in five games following a four-game skid.
Desmond Watt leads the team with 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He had 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots Saturday, hitting the go-ahead free throw in overtime.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which is 0-4 on the road, is facing its second ranked opponent this season after an 82-41 loss at Kansas on Nov. 23. The Islanders are 0-8 against Top 25 teams.
This is the first meeting between the schools.