Michigan meets Memphis in Maui
Maui, HI – On first-day action of the 2011 Maui Invitational, the Memphis Tigers will duke it out with the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan is competing in this tournament for the fifth time in program history and the first since 1998. UM won the inaugural Maui Invitational back in 1985 and captured the title again in 1988. John Beilein is in his fifth season as head coach of the Wolverines and he has led his squad to a 3-0 record thus far. The most recent outing for the Big Ten power was Thursday's 59-55 decision over Western Illinois in a game that was certainly much closer than expected.
As for Memphis, it is 7-6 all-time in this tournament with a pair of third- place finishes. The Tigers welcomed back all five starters from last season's squad that won 25 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Josh Pastner's group has played only one game so far this season, which resulted in a 97-81 victory over Belmont last Tuesday.
Memphis owns a 2-1 series edge over Michigan, and the two schools last met in 1996.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. was expected to be the top offensive performer for Michigan this season, and he has responded by averaging 14.3 ppg through the first three contests. Hardaway gets help from Trey Burke and Evan Smotrycz, both of whom are posting 10.0 ppg. The Wolverines are far from explosive offensively, as they are netting a modest 60.7 ppg on 43.4 percent field goal efficiency. Fortunately, they are limiting opponents to 45.0 ppg on 39.1 percent shooting while forcing nearly 20 turnovers per contest. In the four-point win over Western Illinois, Hardaway tallied 16 points, while Burke posted 14 points and five assists. The Wolverines were outrebounded by a 27-22 margin, but they earned an advantage in points from the foul line (14-8) and forced 20 turnovers.
Memphis had no trouble generating offense in its season opener against Belmont, as the Tigers connected on 58.6 percent of their field goal attempts, including a 50 percent effort from three-point range. They finished with 20 assists and only nine turnovers, overshadowing a 42-29 rebounding disadvantage. Will Barton netted 23 points, while Wesley Witherspoon hit all eight of his shots from the field en route to 22 points. As for Joe Jackson, he scored 20 points to go along with seven assists. Last season, Barton netted 12.3 ppg and is the anchor of the backcourt. Witherspoon and Jackson were big- time contributors as well, and the Tigers figure to run away with Conference USA considering the return of those three standouts.