After an unexpected delay, Memphis is looking forward to playing its second game with its new-look offense, this time against American Athletic Conference rival UCF in Orlando.
The Tigers (6-4, 2-1 AAC) last played on Dec. 29, a 58-57 home win over South Florida. It was the first game under coach Penny Hardaway’s “lion set” offense, and Memphis’ game at Temple on Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Owls program.
The goal of the Tigers’ new offense is to get everyone involved and “moving at all times, and nobody’s being stagnant,” Hardaway said.
The constant motion and emphasis on crashing the boards didn’t show up as a success in numbers, with the Tigers finishing at about their average in points, and 12 fewer rebounds than usual, but guard Alex Lomax was singing its praises.
“I felt like we got a lot of easy points that we don’t usually get. Those are the type of points that we need. It was a lot of different options open today that we didn’t see. So, I felt like, once we figure those out, and everybody starts to pay attention to the offense and the plays and the reads, we’ll get even more easy points,” Lomax said.
Hardaway said the lion set, which he’s installed on other teams he’s coached for the past 12 years, is going to get an extended run.
“What we have now, we’re going to stick with. We’re just going to make wrinkles. Teams are going to make adjustments on everything that we run and we just have to keep hanging our hat on the defensive end, push past,” Hardaway said.
Landers Nolley II is leading Memphis at 13.3 points per game, with D.J. Jeffries and DeAndre Williams at 11.7 each. Lester Quinones, who led the Tigers with 13 points in the win over South Florida, is at 10.4 per game.
Expectations were high entering this season, with Memphis picked to finish second only to Houston in the AAC preseason poll. Freshman 6-foot-10 center Moussa Cisse was the preseason choice for rookie of the year. In 19 minutes per game, he is averaging seven points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds.
UCF (3-3, 1-2), the preseason choice to finish eighth in the 11-team AAC, is also coming off a matchup with South Florida, but the Knights lost 68-61 to the host Bulls in Tampa on Saturday.
The Knights led 35-34 at intermission but were outscored 34-26 in the second half.
“They were a more physical team,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said of the Bulls. “That shows by points in the paint (34-24) and second-chance points (21-8), and we led those stats at halftime.”
Brandon Mahan, who entered the game averaging 20.5 points, was held to two, on only three field-goal attempts. His 17.5-point average was third in the AAC as of the weekend.
“The biggest adjustment for a guy that’s becoming the type of scorer that he’s been over the last four or five games is staying aggressive, understanding you can’t get lost in the game,” Dawkins said.
Darin Green Jr. is averaging 12.8 points per game, followed by Isaiah Adams and Darius Perry at 11.8 apiece. Perry led the Knights with 23 against South Florida.
Adams, a freshman forward, missed the game and his status for Tuesday night is unclear.
–Field Level Media