Delivering a virtuoso performance the likes of which Colorado State has not seen all year, the Memphis Tigers ran, rebounded, and shot their way to a resounding victory to earn a berth in the NIT finals.
A team known for their defense (1st in the national in Defensive Efficiency), the Tigers delivered a season-high 1.3 points per possession on the offensive end as they scored at the rim, in the paint, and made a season high 14 attempts from beyond the arc on only 27 attempts. It was a devastating display of firepower fueled at times by their work on the defensive end that resulted in easy run outs. But mostly driven by clinical precision and ball movement resulting in open looks that they buried.
The Rams had overcome a typical slow start with an 11-0 run to take an early 11-5 lead that they expanded to 21-15 midway through the first period.
And then it happened.
A devastating 20-2 run by Memphis over the span of 6 minutes that launched them into the lead for good. The Rams fought hard to keep in contact and the half ended with the Tigers leading 44-38.
Time for the Rams to regroup. They had costly turnovers leading to run outs by the Tigers but the bigger issue was on the glass as Memphis was converting offensive rebounds into second chance points. Made shots allowed the Tigers to set up their full court pressure.
The second half started well as David Roddy made a three-ball and the Rams’ defense was keeping the Tigers at bay.
But the game quickly got away from them on an 11-0 Tiger run that was triggered by careless Ram turnovers and that was that.
The Rams tried small ball, they tried their 1-3-1 zone, they tried a 3-guard lineup but by now Memphis was feeling it and virtually every trip down the floor resulted in a made basketball. The lead grew and grew and finally the buzzer mercifully sounded
David Roddy led the Rams with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Isaiah Stevens added 17 points and 4 assists. But the support from the rest of the team was lacking on both ends of the floor.
On this night Memphis wasn’t just the most talented team. They were the most determined team as well. They fought for loose balls, they scratched and clawed for rebounds. They weren’t afraid to get their noses dirty.
And thats how championships are won.
Fragile on the Glass
The Rams were out rebounded 37-24. Memphis had 10 offensive rebounds to the Rams 17 defensive rebounds. That was a lot of the story early.
Bigs James Moors, Dischon Thomas, and Adam Thistlewood combined for 2 rebounds in their 51 minutes on the floor. All 5’10” of Kendle Moore had 7 rebounds in his 32 minutes.
The Development of Isaiah Stevens
As mentioned earlier, Memphis is the #1 team in the nation in Defensive Efficiency. They do it with long and fast athletes trapping the ball everywhere on the court. The challenges are immense. Especially when its obvious that their game plan singles a certain player out.
Which was the case today for Isaiah Stevens. He was hounded all over the court by multiple defenders when he had the ball. And when he passed the ball, Memphis threw the kitchen sink at him to deny him getting the ball back.
Stevens had to work hard over every foot of the floor in his 39 minutes and his work was exemplary. 7-12 shooting from the field. 4 assists against only 3 turnovers. I’m not sure he’s ever played a better game in a Ram uniform.
He got better today.