Extended time off didn’t help Memphis its last time out, and only led to more confusion for coach John Calipari about the identity of his team.
The 22nd-ranked Tigers try to bounce back from their second loss in three games when they host Arkansas-Little Rock on Wednesday night to open a seven-game homestand.
Memphis (5-2) had a 10-day layoff following a 100-61 win over Marist on Dec. 2. The Tigers returned on Saturday, losing 79-70 in overtime to then-No. 19 Georgetown for their second loss in three games after having fallen 63-58 to Xavier on Nov. 23.
Despite the extra rest, the Tigers faded late, shooting 1-of-9 from the field in overtime against the Hoyas. As a team, Memphis shot just 34.6 percent from the field, and only Tyreke Evans scored in double digits among the starters, going 8-of-24 from the floor for 20 points.
Shawn Taggart led Memphis with 23 points and added 10 rebounds.
Memphis has four players averaging in double figures in scoring this season, but Calipari feels his team is too inconsistent.
“I don’t have my team figured out yet,” he said. “I’m trying everything and looking at it and watching it and sometimes I’m really happy and sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Some guys will come and play for a half and the next half they’re not good and I’ve got to try somebody else.”
Calipari shuffled his lineup against Marist and used the same five against the Hoyas as Pierre Henderson-Niles and Wesley Witherspoon each made their second starts of the season. Henderson-Niles, a junior, had only four points in nine minutes, but Witherspoon—a freshman—had seven points, six rebounds and three steals in 29 minutes.
Evans is also a freshman. He leads the Tigers in scoring (16.7), but Calipari said he’s more frustrated with the upperclassmen.
“The veterans have to play better,” he said. “We can’t count on freshman, you can’t do it.”
Arkansas-Little Rock (7-2) is coming off a 97-85 win over Northern Illinois on Sunday. The Trojans, who tied Louisiana-Lafayette to win the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference last season, had lost two of their previous three, but shot 61.8 percent from the field en route to a season high in points.
Six players scored in double figures. Steven Moore tallied a season-high 22 points and Brandon Patterson recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
Moore leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points despite having started just one game this season. He’s averaged 19.7 points in the last three games.
Coach Steve Shields knows his team will need to perform even better to beat the Tigers.
“We know it is going to be a difficult game,” said Shields. “Our guys will be excited about going there, but we have to make sure that we value the basketball. Like I told them in the locker room, we can’t give up 18 offensive rebounds to Memphis like we did tonight.”
Memphis has won both games against the Trojans, including a 74-49 victory in 2002.