Memphis may be on the cusp of its best start in three seasons, but coach Josh Pastner wants to see improvement from his young team.
The 14th-ranked Tigers look to continue their dominance of Tennessee-Martin when they meet for the first time in three years Tuesday night at FedEx Forum.
Memphis (4-0) needs one more victory to get off to its best start since winning the first 26 games of the 2007-08 season, when it reached the national title game before having the season vacated due to NCAA rules violations.
The Tigers came away with a 70-61 win over LSU on Sunday, but Pastner wasn’t happy with their 16 turnovers - 11 in the first half - after they committed a season-high 19 in a 94-79 victory over Northwestern State on Wednesday.
“We have a long way to go,” Pastner said. “We have a young, immature team. That’s what we are.
“I felt at times one of our Achilles’ heels has been our turnovers. Last year, we averaged almost under 12 turnovers a game, but maybe that’s because we had a more veteran group. The biggest thing is our 16 turnovers. That’s 16 given-away possessions.”
With Memphis’ roster consisting of seven freshmen and four sophomores, junior Wesley Witherspoon is emerging as the leader, and he’s embracing the role.
“Later on in the game, sometimes the younger guys just look to somebody to tell them that it’s going to be all right out there,” he said. “Somebody to tell them what they need to do. And I think I’m that guy.”
Witherspoon, Memphis’ leader with 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, has averaged 22.0 points and 9.5 boards over the past two contests.
The Tigers have won all four meetings with the Skyhawks by an average of 28.3 points. They took the most recent matchup 102-71 on Nov. 5, 2007.
Tennessee-Martin has dropped consecutive games after winning its first two, halfway to its total from last season. Pulling to within one of that mark may not seem likely after the Skyhawks fell 103-94 at Northwestern State on Saturday.
“Anytime you score 94 points, you should probably win the game,” coach Jason James told the team’s official website.
An attempt to re-establish their strong defensive play should help the Skyhawks, who gave up a season-high 48.5 percent shooting Saturday after holding opponents to 37.9 from the field over the previous three games.
Troy King will be looking to build on his breakout performance. The freshman forward scored 22 points after totaling eight in the first three games.
Tennessee-Martin has lost six of seven meetings with teams from Conference USA and has been outscored by an average of 26.6 points while dropping all nine against ranked opponents since 1996.