The Memphis Tigers will play host to the Georgetown Hoyas on Thursday night, in a non-conference game that holds a great deal of importance to the hometown team. The Tigers, who are currently No. 17 in the nation, are looking for a key win on their resume before heading into conference play. Georgetown, the No. 9 team in the country, is the only foreseeable ranked opponent for at least the next month that the Tigers will face.
Previewing the Hoyas
Georgetown has one of the deepest teams the Tigers will face this year. Led by senior guard Austin Freeman (18.5 PPG), the Hoyas are capable of attacking from a variety of ways on offense. Georgetown, operating under a Princeton offense, is a well disciplined team that moves the ball well and makes the most out of nearly every possession.
Georgetown’s experience is also a key factor in Thursday’s matchup. Senior point guard Chris Wright, along with Freeman, logged significant minutes against Memphis’ runner-up team in 2007-2008, an 85-71 loss for the Hoyas. Despite that loss, Wright and Freeman gained immeasurable experience and playing time as freshman against superior talent. Georgetown has flipped the script on the Tigers from the 07-08 year and will now play a very inexperienced and young Memphis team.
Jason Clark rounds off Georgetown’s trio of guards. Averaging 14.2 points a game, Clark can be dangerous from downtown. He also rebounds well at his position, grabbing 4.2 rebounds a game.
Down low the Hoyas will rely on Julian Vaughn, a 6’9″ senior. Vaughn leads his team in rebounding, averaging 6.7 boards a game. He is very active on the offensive glass and will cause problems for the Tigers with his ability to block and alter shots. Georgetown also has a good defender in Hollis Thompson down low. Thompson is not shy to take the outside shot, making him versatile at the four spot.
Testing the Tigers
The Tigers are young. Everyone who has watched a Memphis game this year can easily see this. What has not been seen thus far is a step forward for the team. While freshman guard Chris Crawford has played above most people’s anticipations, many other players have not yet lived up to the hype. Georgetown poses one of the most difficult tests this inexperienced squad will face all year. A win on Thursday would be a significant confidence boost as the Tigers wind down in conference play.
Coming off a career-high 23 point game against Texas A&M-CC, freshman point guard Joe Jackson will look to pick up where he left off. Jackson’s play is critical for the Tigers, as he has the ability to drive and draw teammates’ opponents. Limiting turnovers will be a difference maker, not only for Jackson, but also for the Tigers as a team.
Will Coleman, Memphis’ lone senior, also had a much-improved game against the Islanders. Coleman added 15 points and collected 9 rebounds, both way above his season average this year. Coleman, along with freshman Tarik Black, will have his hands full against Vaughn. Rebounding, especially on defense, will be a difference maker for the Tigers if they want to keep Georgetown’s bigs in check.
While relying on three pointers is not a good idea for any team, the Tigers will need to make the most of their opportunities, especially hitting from outside. With a well-disciplined Hoya team, there will be little room for error for Memphis. The Tigers will need to grow-up, man-up, and step-up in the areas in which they have struggled this year: rebounding and turnovers.
A Christmas Miracle?
Some may say it will take divine intervention for the Tigers to knock off No. 9 Georgetown on Thursday night. Memphis’ leading scorer Wesley Witherspoon, who has been out after having arthroscopic knee surgery because of cartilage tear in his right knee, has been making significant progress in his recovery. Witherspoon practiced with the team yesterday, and may play in Thursday’s game; it will depend on how he feels and how comfortable the staff is. In addition, sophomore D.J. Stephens, who has missed the past two games with a groin injury, also practiced yesterday and could potentially see some minutes against the Hoyas.
Sights and Sounds
For those who will not be in attendance Thursday night, the game will be broadcasted on ESPN2 at 8:30 PM EST. This will be the Tigers first game on ESPN2 this year, and their third time on the ESPN network.
For those who will not be able to watch at all, you can listen to the play of “‘Little Joe’ and Co.” on WREC 600 in Memphis. Or online at: http://www.600wrec.com/mediaplayer/