Memphis squeezes by Mississippi State, 77-74. The Tigers will take on our Spartans at 9:57 pm, Friday night.
Thanks to the the early blowout in the mandatory Packer/Nantz/UNC game, we got to see most of the Tigers-Bulldogs contest. Joey Dorsey led the way for the Tigers with 13 points on 6-8 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Memphis played to their statistical profile on offense (which we’ll take a closer look at later in the week):
- They maximize the number of shots they get by (1) not turning ball over (5 turnovers in roughly 67 possessions) and (2) rebounding the ball offensively (17 offensive rebounds in 41 opportunities, not counting team rebounds).
- They don’t shoot the ball that well from the perimeter. They hit of 6 of 16 three-point attempts, but reserve Willie Kemp accounted for 4 of those makes (and 5 of the attempts.) Their starters were a combined 1-9 from beyond the arc.
- They struggle at the free throw line: 15-32 (46.9%).
Mississippi State kept the Tigers offense in check for the most of the game with a 2-3 zone defense. It took the Tigers a while to figure out how to attack it. When they needed to in the closing minutes, though, they were able to break it down off the dribble and convert some tough shots.
The Bulldogs played with moxie on the offensive end. They hit enough 3-pointers (8-19) to keep it close and didn’t back down in attacking the hoop despite Memphis’ shot-blocking prowess (11 for team; 6 for Dorsey). In the end, Mississippi State just couldn’t keep up with Memphis’ firepower.
Looking ahead to Friday’s game, I think the positive for MSU is that Mississippi State showed the way to keep Memphis’ offense under control: force them to play from the perimeter. Izzo won’t be busting out the zone, but I suspect we’ll see the Spartan man-to-man defense sag a bit more to cut off driving lanes and try to force the Tigers to shoot from the outside.
The negative? Memphis is scarily athletic. Dorsey, at 6’9″ and 260 pounds, is a physical specimen. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts are two very talented guards who can create their own shots. And the rest of the Memphis roster looked pretty darn tough.
Michigan State is used to being the bigger, more athletic team when they take the court. They’ll need to step up the mental intensity on both ends of the court to keep pace with the Tigers. Izzo has five days to get them ready to do that.