It was sleeting outside FedExForum Monday night, and, for the University of Memphis, it wasn’t much warmer inside.
The high-octane No. 21/22 Tigers scored just 26 points by halftime before going on to beat Jackson State, 70-45, in front of a crowd of 15,971.
It was a generally dreary atmosphere, as the Tigers (3-2) again struggled with rebounding the ball against much smaller Jackson State. They were out-rebounded for the fourth time in five games, 36-29. As a result, JSU cashed in for 12 second-chance points.
“The issue wasn’t the defense,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “It was the second chance points. … I just told the guys in the locker room, Ferrakohn Hall is eligible December 17. If no one is going to rebound, he’s going to come in and take minutes from somebody because we have to get someone on the glass.”
Memphis, which shot 53.1 percent for the game, opened the second half on a 15-0 run which allowed it to remain in control for the duration of the game.
Jenirro Bush led Jackson State with 11 points.
For the U of M, Monday’s game was little more than a simple opportunity to recharge its batteries against a lesser opponent after a grueling stretch in the Maui. Jackson State, however, proved to be a much stiffer challenge because of Memphis’ inability to block out defensively.
Junior forward Stan Simpson got the first start of his career in place of Tarik Black and stepped in nicely, finishing with seven points, ten rebounds, and five blocks. Still, it’s highly unlikely Memphis will be able to navigate through the season and C-USA play successfully with Black not consistently securing rebounds.
“We just have to rebound the ball and have carry over from practice,” Pastner said. “We do all these drills and we emphasize it. We were subbing left and right for anyone that wasn’t rebounding. We just have to come up on the glass.”
While Pastner is searching for answers on the glass, he might have stumbled upon a new wrinkle in his high-scoring offense: sophomore guard Chris Crawford manning the point.
For the majority of the second half, Pastner elected to play sophomore guard Joe Jackson off the ball. The offense subsequently thrived as Memphis shot a sizzling 60 percent in the second half to go along with 13 assists on 26 made baskets.
Both Crawford and Jackson finished in the top two of scoring Monday night; Jackson with 15, Crawford with 14.
“We’re basically interchangeable,” Jackson said. “It may be some games where I have to bring it down a quick defender. It’s like having two point guards on the floor. … No team in the NCAA has (as many) guards who can play like us.”