UConn Looks to Right the Ship Against the Tigers
The 23rd-ranked Huskies look to get back on track as they resume American Conference play this Saturday against Memphis. Following a shocking home loss to the Temple Owls on Tuesday, the Huskies are desperate to build some positive momentum. Thankfully, this important matchup will be contested inside Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies were done in against Temple by poor shooting from their most important players, namely Daniel Hamilton. The talented wing shot just 2-13 from the field, including several critical misses during a hotly contested second half. Starting guards Rodney Purivs and Sterling Gibbs also shot a combined 5-19. With UConn’s defense already at a serious disadvantage due to Amida Brimah’s injury, the offense needs to be able to pick up the slack. This simply did not happen against the Owls. The Huskies only hit four shots from behind the arc, the second lowest total of the season. Against a team with a strong frontcourt such as the Memphis Tigers, perimeter shooting needs to be spot on for the Huskies to win. The loss of Brimah really changed the outlook of this game, and UConn’s team defense must be up to the challenge of containing Memphis’s front line.
Two of Memphis’s top three scorers are their starting forwards, talented freshman Dedric Lawson and hardened veteran Shaq Goodwin. Goodwin, who hit a late game-winning shot in Gampel last time these two teams played, is averaging a career high 12.5 points per game. Long known for his adept ability as a rebounder and defender, Goodwin has been much more efficient at the offensive end this year, hitting nearly 50 percent of his shots. His skill and savvy make him the biggest threat to UConn’s weak interior. Lawson and his brother, K.J., the sons of a Memphis assistant coach, provide matchup issues with their athleticism. Dedric, a top 30 recruit, has lived up to the promises those rankings bring. The Memphis backcourt has also been solid this year. Alabama grad-transfer Ricky Tarrant has been a godsend for the Tigers, averaging 14 points a game and providing stability as the lead guard for Coach Pastner’s team. Veterans Markel Crawford and Trashon Burrell have also provided good minutes at the wing positions for the Tigers.
Point Guard Matchup
Both Tarrant and UConn’s Sterling Gibbs are more scorer than distributor; both average roughly three assists a game. Given that they also both have other weapons on their teams, whomever does a better job of getting others involved could help bring his team the victory. However, the peskier defender of the two is Tarrant, meaning that he could hold the advantage in this key matchup.
Shaq Goodwin is an animal. He stands six feet nine inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, all of which is muscle. Against UConn last year, Goodwin only scored eight points to go along with eight rebounds, but it was his constant tenacity on the front lines that made him so crucial to the victory. This year, Dedric Lawson makes Goodwin’s job even easier. As another dangerous big man, Lawson will force UConn to pick its poison. Shonn Miller is an above average defender, but can only guard one player at a time. It will likely be Lawson, the Tigers’ leading scorer. This will leave Goodwin a favorable matchup probably against Kentan Facey. If the Huskies can get a good performance from their post players and contain Goodwin, then their chances of winning will increase exponentially.
Last year’s lost stung Huskynation greatly. It was an ugly game, won because of hot shooting from Trashon Burrell (he had 22 points, including four made triples). Coming off a major let down against Temple, this is a game UConn needs to win in the worst way. And, I think they will get it. UConn simply has the superior talent, and should be welcomed back to Storrs by a raucous on-campus crowd desperate for a much-needed win. The Huskies will have to contain the shooting of Burrell and Tarrant, and hope that Goodwin and the Lawson brothers are a bit off with their shots. Without Brimah, this will be a tough game for UConn. However, it is one they are still expected to win. UConn 71, Memphis 62.
Stats Courtesy of:
University of Connecticut
University of Memphis
Avery Woodson, Daniel Hamilton, Markel Crawford: http://www.theuconnblog.com/2015/2/20/8077633/postgame-talk-moral-victories-visible-in-uconns-loss-to-memphis
Sterling Gibbs: http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2015/12/thad_matta_wouldve_liked_to_ha.html