The Memphis Tigers are absolutely loaded at the guard spot, but if this team is going to be successful, they must get production from their post players, and that is exactly why they won on Thanksgiving against Siena.
In Memphis’ lone loss this season, they were outworked on the perimeter by Marcus Smart. While most teams will fall victim to Smart, they were never even in the game because Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols didn’t show up. Against Siena, both of them showed up and led the Tigers to a 87-60 victory.
Goodwin posted his first double-double since last November. He was one day short of a year from his last double-double. He played with aggression, and used his size and athleticism advantage to bully the Saints in the post. Shaq is a behemoth compared to the bigs of Siena, as he has a 20-pound advantage over the largest Siena player, Imoh Silas.
He owned the paint on Thursday, scoring 17 points on only 10 shot attempts. He did all of his work in the paint, but mostly on the rim as he had three dunks.
The play from Goodwin is something that we have seen in bits and pieces this season. He played well at the start of the Oklahoma State loss, but then became invisible. In Goodwin’s one-plus year at Memphis, that has become what was expected. He rarely plays with intensity throughout an entire game.
Every Tigers fan that watched this game had to be asking, “where has this been all along?” Here’s hoping that Shaq has figured out what was holding him back, and he can continue to bully the opposition with his big frame and athleticism.
As great as Goodwin was for the Tigers, he had some help from fellow big man Nichols, who was one rebound shy from posting his first collegiate double-double. He was hitting shots from the outside, getting to the free throw line and contesting shots in the lane. As a matter of fact, Nichols and Goodwin both protected the rim well for Memphis.
So far this season, they have been out of position and late on rotations more than head coach Josh Pastner would like to see, but they contested almost every shot in the lane on Thursday. The two bigs combined for five blocks and numerous other misses by forcing Siena player’s to throw the ball over them.
The only problem with the way that they played was that whenever they contested a shot, they got beat on the boards. Siena had 29 offensive rebounds, so you know what Pastner will be talking about in practice this week. The Tigers’ inability to protect their defensive glass was the one flaw from this game.
Goodwin and Nichols played spectacularly on Thursday, which is good news for the Tigers, but what’s even better is that senior forward David Pellom made his season debut. With Pellom making his way back into the rotation, Memphis will now have a third big man to go along with the abundance of depth they have at the guard spot.
A little more than a week ago, the Tigers were left for dead after getting crushed by Oklahoma State; but if they continue to get this type of play from Goodwin and Nichols, the Tigers are right back in the mix for the American Athletic Conference title.
Follow Robbie on Twitter @rmarbury