Kedren Johnson Emerges, Zebras Give Memphis A Break

Memphis got one of its best wins of the season Thursday night, 75-72 over UConn. Positive Paul remains dead, but our other friends watched the game and have some thoughts:

Realistic Ralph:

  • This was a feel good win for Memphis fans, especially after losing to UConn 3 times in 2013-14 – but keep in mind these Huskies are really struggling. After all, this is a UConn team that lost to Houston – who is 1-12 in the AAC.
  • Kedren Johnson has emerged as Memphis’ best option at PG. His 2 biggest games of the year have been the Tigers biggest wins – over Cincinnati and UConn. In those 2 games, Johnson has averaged 17 pts, 5.5 assts, and just 2 turnovers.
  • Those 2 games (Cincinnati and UConn) also happen to be 2 of the 3 highest minute totals Johnson has played this year. Translation: Josh Pastner needs to consistently give the most PG minutes to Johnson and bring either Pookie Powell or Demarnier Cunningham off the bench to spell him. Also, the more Markel Crawford and Avery Woodson are on the floor, the better. At the end of this post, we have Markel Crawford’s dunk reel from tonight, which was impressive.
If I saw this guy hanging out with the mafia - I wouldn't be surprised.
If I saw this guy hanging out with the mafia – I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • Memphis fans are quick to jump on the refs if they’re bad. For example, when Louisville visited FedExForum in 2012, I’m quite certain Referee Mike Stuart was working on behalf of organized, illegal gambling interests. Memphis was whistled for 13 more fouls than Louisville – many of them phantom calls.
  • So that being said – Memphis got some favorable calls tonight. Very late in the game Kedren Johnson clearly traveled on an inbound pass, but the refs called a defensive foul on UConn instead. And the foul Johnson drew earlier in the half on Boatright was a terrible call – as was the subsequent Boatright technical.

Philosophic Phil:

  • Weird statistic of the night, courtesy ESPN: Against defending NCAA champs, the Tigers are 8-3, including 5-0 at home. That’s pretty good.
  • Amazing / weird thing about this season. Despite the fact that Memphis is having a “down” year – they’ve somehow caught up to UConn and Cincinnati, both of whom were clearly better than Memphis a year ago. That speaks to how far back those 2 programs have fallen (significantly), but it should also remind Memphis fans that the sky isn’t necessarily falling in terms of Memphis’ ability to compete in the AAC.
  • Memphis has 5 games left and sits at 16-10 (8-5). Though the Tigers chances of an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament are gone – they have plenty to play for. Namely: the program’s 15th consecutive 20 win season, a bye in the AAC tournament, overall seeding in the AAC tournament (they’re only 1.5 games behind 3rd place Temple), and of course the good ol’ spirit of competition.
  • The schedule is tough, however. This Sunday, the Tigers play in Orlando at 2pm vs. an improving UCF squad. UCF has won 3 in a row. Then Memphis returns home to face SMU and Tulsa next Thursday / Saturday. Those are the top 2 teams in the league. The Tigers then close the season with a 2 game swing @ UConn, @ Cincinnati. That’s a tough slate. 3-2 is realistic.
  • I’d like to blatantly point out that I’ve been bitching about Pastner trimming the rotation all year. OK, here goes: I’ve been bitching about Pastner trimming the rotation all year. Guess what – he trimmed the rotation. Only 8 guys played more than 5 minutes. Only 6 played more than 10. The Tigers won maybe their biggest game of the year. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Negative Nellie:

  • The Tigers bench struggled some tonight. Nick King and Demarnier Cunningham played a combined 9 minutes and logged entirely zeros in the box – except Cunningham’s 2 turnovers.
  • Godfrey and Burrell didn’t exactly light it up either – they combined for 5 points and 5 rebounds (all of which belonged to Burrell).
  • Memphis will need a few of those 4 to step up if they expect to be clicking as March rolls around.
  • Pastner called a strange timeout with Memphis rolling in the 2nd half. I’m sure he saw something – but it halted Memphis’ momentum and afterwards, UConn climbed back into the game.
  • It was a scary ending for Memphis fans – who had to be thinking of Mario Chalmers – watching UConn advance the ball at the end of the game down 3. Nobody on Memphis’ side wanted to see OT, but Pastner’s decision not to foul paid off.

Oh – and let’s not forget those Markel dunks:

And this one: