December 1, 2013

Know the Foe: Memphis Round 2

Round 2: Memphis Tigers

It was a popular opinion that Oklahoma State and the Memphis Tigers could meet a 2nd time this season in the Old Spice Classic, and Sunday evening that opinion will become a fact.

In less than two weeks since their first game, the Cowboys and Tigers worked their way through the Old Spice Classic to once again find themselves matched up against each other. The Cowboys (7-0) got their first look of adversity to get to the finals. In their quarter-finals matchup up against Purdue, the Cowboys were by as many as 22 points in the 2nd half and saw the lead shrink to 4 points at the end of the game. Despite a furious comeback by the Boilermakers, the Cowboys were able to hold them off and advance to the semi-finals with a 97-87 win. In the semi-finals the Cowboys had their biggest test yet in the Butler Bulldogs. OSU was held to their lowest scoring output yet this season and struggled to pull away from the Bulldogs in the closing seconds, but the Cowboys would survive a scare from the Bulldogs 69-67 to secure one of the spots in the Old Spice Classic finals.

The Tigers (4-1) didn't face much adversity in their quarter-finals matchup. They took on Siena who came into the tournament with the worst record and got ahead early and fast, defeating the Saints 87-60 to move on to the semi-finals. The semi-finals would prove to be more of the challenge for Memphis when they found themselves matched up against the LSU Tigers. LSU came into the game as the number one rebounding team and that proved to hold true as Memphis would be out rebounded 25-38, but LSU's 24 turnovers would cost them as Memphis would be able to escape with a 76-69 win to meet Oklahoma State in the finals.

Both teams got a chance to face adversity on their way to the championship and both teams were able to conquer it to set up the rematch for Sunday evening. A look into what happened last time and what will be different this time around:

The 1st Matchup:

What many experts considered to be a great match up of two of the nation's best backcourts turned into the Marcus Smart Show. The OSU guard exploded out of the gate early, scoring 26 points in just the first half and leading all scorers with 39 points. The Cowboys nearly shot 50% from the field, including shooting an impressive 45.5% from 3-point range. The Memphis backcourt struggle offensively, only seeing their starters score a combined 15 points for the game. The most productive player for the Tigers offensively came off the bench from freshman Nick King, who finished with a team high 23 points against the Cowboys. OSU would be up as many as 34 points in this game and would finish as the winners by a score of 101-80. OSU would move to 4-0 and give the Tigers their first loss of the season, dropping them to 1-1.

What to Watch for (Part 2):

Austin Nichols: Memphis' top recruit of 2013 has played well in the Old Spice Classic. In the quarter-finals, Nichols scored 12 points and finished with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Against LSU in the semi-finals Nichols would once again finish close to a double-double, scoring a team high 19 points for the game and finishing with 8 rebounds and a block. In their game against Purdue the Cowboys saw their frontcourt get into foul trouble and that would cause them some problems. OSU would get out rebounded for the first time this season and nearly watched their lead slip away from them. The Cowboy frontcourt did a good job of corralling Nichols and Shaq Goodwin in their first matchup, but if they find themselves in foul trouble again, we could see the focus of the Tigers' offense switch from their talented backcourt to their young, but also talented, frontcourt.

Backcourt Changes: Both teams come into this game with...

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