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VOL. 128 | NO. 224 | Friday, November 15, 2013

Guards, Balance Key Tigers’ Tuneup

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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An Austin Nichols dunk off a turnover and a Shaq Goodwin assist; a Joe Jackson driving layup; a Geron Johnson “wow” backwards dunk on a fastbreak off a Jackson steal and assist; and a Michael Dixon jumper off another Jackson steal and assist.

That’s how the first two minutes of the Tigers’ 2013-2014 basketball season started – eight unanswered points en route to a 95-69 blowout win over Austin Peay Thursday, Nov. 14, at FedExForum.

“We came unraveled pretty early,” Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said.

Not only were the No. 13 Tigers the faster and more athletic team, but because coach Josh Pastner had just such an itchy trigger finger, pulling players out and subbing often, everyone stayed fresh. The pace was a step beyond fast with the Tigers scoring 31 fastbreak points and getting 27 points off turnovers.

Even Nichols, the freshman from Briarcrest who started at forward, found the pace to be a bit of a blur.

“You look at Joe and you blink, and he’s shooting a layup,” Nichols said.

Jackson led the Tigers with 16 points and seven assists in a team-high 29 minutes. Dixon, the senior guard who transferred from Missouri, had 15 points and tied senior guard Chris Crawford for the lead in steals with four (Memphis had 15 overall). Crawford, who played off the bench, had 11 points and hit 3-of-5 from 3-point range and added four assists.

Johnson, also a senior guard, had his first career double-double with 11 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Forward Ed Dyson led Austin Peay with 11 points.

“We’re evenly balanced,” Johnson said of the four senior guards. “Everybody brings something to the table.”

Memphis led 51-29 at halftime and Pastner gave the first 20 minutes a thumbs-up.

“In the second half, we got loosey-goosey, unsound, trying to make the fancy play,” the coach said.

Nichols and freshman swingman Nick King (East High School) both were shown seats on the bench in the first half when Pastner didn’t think they were being aggressive enough going after rebounds. But both responded, too. King finished with 13 points and five boards in 15 minutes. Nichols scored six points and also had five rebounds while playing 24 minutes.

Goodwin, a sophomore forward, had 10 points with two rebounds and five turnovers in 21 minutes.

“It’s important,” Goodwin said of the front-line rebounding, “but I wouldn’t say it’s a concern. The guards had a great day rebounding and we were boxing out the bigs.”

Overall, the Tigers had a 50-27 advantage on the boards.

“Annihilated us,” Loos said.

Senior forward David Pellom, a George Washington transfer, will be out the next month recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. So that will put some rebounding focus on the front line.

As promised, Pastner pressed and the Tigers forced turnovers and got easy baskets. They also made turnovers and gave up easy baskets.

“When we press like we do, we are going to have some turnovers,” Pastner said. “But we can’t have as many as we had (21).”

The Tigers travel to Stillwater, Okla., to play No. 8 Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in a 7 p.m. ESPN game.

NOTES: Freshman Kuran Iverson sat out, serving a one-game NCAA suspension after playing in an unauthorized summer-league game in Hartford, Conn. … The nine new players on the Tigers’ roster are the most since the 1972-1973 season; that team had 10 newcomers and the 1972-1973 season was the first for freshmen eligibility. That Tigers team advanced to the NCAA title game. … Freshman guard Markel Crawford (Melrose) did not play against Austin Peay and Pastner said Crawford is still a redshirt possibility.

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