After losing to the No. 1 team in the nation, Memphis got back on track with an easy win in its next game. Still, coach John Calipari sees plenty of room for improvement.
The ninth-ranked Tigers, back in the Top 10 for the first time since 1996, will try to please their coach when they face Jackson State at FedExForum.
Calipari said poor ball handling was a problem in his team’s 70-67 loss to top-ranked Duke on Friday in the Preseason NIT title game.
The Tigers (4-1) rebounded with a 108-83 victory over Lamar on Monday despite missing sophomore point guard Darius Washington.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 23 points and Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney each added 21 for Memphis, which shot 48.8 percent from the floor, recorded a season best-tying 12 steals and had 11 blocks.
Despite several positives, Calipari lamented his team’s poor ball handling.
“Twenty-one turnovers and we got beat to every ball again,” he said. “I’m just worried it’s not hitting home. We went after balls with one hand … Those guys may not be able to play against Jackson State. It’s got to stop. We did it against Duke, against Lamar and we’ll do it against Jackson State.”
Washington, the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, has a deep thigh bruise suffered during Preseason NIT play.
The impact of Washington’s absence was perhaps felt immediately as Memphis committed eight turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes and fell behind by as much as 10 points.
“Now everybody understands the importance of Darius Washington with this team,” Calipari said. “His energy as much as anything else, his ability to get us up and down the court and score baskets when we need some baskets to be scored (were missed).”
Washington and backup freshman center Kareem Cooper, who served a one-game suspension Monday for an undisclosed violation of team rules, are both expected to play Wednesday. Cooper has averaged 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in four games this season.
Jackson State (1-3) is coming off a 75-66 victory over Shawnee State on Saturday in the seventh-place game of the Las Vegas Holiday Invitational.
Junior guard Clinton Johnson scored a career-high 26 points for the Tigers, who play their second home game Saturday against Stephen F. Austin before playing five of six games on the road.
Johnson leads Jackson State in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game.