Memphis, TN – Hawaii was anything but paradise for the 2 on the year. Coach Josh Pastner's team is happy to be home though, and will try to take out their frustrations tonight when they entertain the Jackson State Tigers at FedExForum.
No one can accuse Jackson State of taking the easy road when its comes to its non-conference schedule, as this game marks the fourth the Tigers will have played already against a team considered to be worthy of a national ranking. JSU, which calls the Southwestern Athletic Conference home, has already faced Florida, Baylor and Ohio State -- all lopsided losses -- and following this tilt with Memphis, will take on California and Saint Mary's-CA on the road in mid-December.
Memphis topped Belmont in its season opener, 97-81, and then hopped a flight to Hawaii to battle the likes of Michigan, Tennessee and Georgetown to wrap up the Maui Invitational. A 73-61 loss to the Wolverines on day one was followed by a 99-97 double-overtime win over the Volunteers. Then came a 91-88 overtime loss to the Hoyas. Memphis will play both Georgetown and Tennessee again, and has additional non-league bouts with Miami-Florida and Louisville lined up. The Tigers begin their Conference USA slate on January 7, 2012 at UAB.
Memphis owns a 13-1 lead in the all-time series with Jackson State, with the latter's only win coming in December of 1993.
Including tonight's bout, Jackson State will have played eight games in a span of 17 days, and only two of those took place at home. Add to that the level of competition they've faced in many of those and it's understandable that this is a weary bunch right now. The Tigers have had all kinds of trouble at the offensive end of the court this year, averaging a mere 54.6 ppg in hitting just 36.9 percent of their field goal attempts. The three-point shot is falling 34.1 percent of the time, and there are only two double-digit scorers among the regulars, with Kelsey Howard (14.7 ppg) and Jenirro Bush (13.7 ppg) leading the way. Defensively, JSU is giving up 74.4 ppg, as foes are shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and logging a +7 rebounding advantage.
Will Barton heads a list of four players currently averaging double figures in scoring for Memphis, which is generating 86.2 ppg. Unfortunately, the team's defensive effort has been rather lax, as foes are netting 85.5 ppg while outrebounding the Tigers by 8.8 rpg on average. Memphis itself is hitting 48.4 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 40 percent showing from beyond the arc. Barton averages 19.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, while Joe Jackson (13.3 ppg, 3.3 apg), Wesley Witherspoon (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Adonis Thomas (10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg) lend support when called upon. Memphis is coming off consecutive overtime games for the first time since 1978-79, and the recent to the Hoyas ended the team's four-game win streak in extra-session affairs. Barton led the team in scoring for the third time this season with 22 points in defeat.