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UALR-Memphis Preview

AP - Sports

Memphis avoided a letdown following its most impressive victory of the season.

Before the No. 16 Tigers face another ranked opponent, they have one more hurdle to clear Friday night against visiting Arkansas-Little Rock.

Memphis (6-1) avenged its only loss with a 73-68 victory over then-No. 5 Oklahoma State in the final of the Old Spice Classic on Dec. 1, returning the favor after the Cowboys routed the Tigers 101-80 on Nov. 19.

However, coach Josh Pastner knew any momentum earned from that win would mean nothing if the Tigers slipped during a favorable home matchup with Northwestern State on Saturday.

Pastner had little reason to worry as Memphis shot 58.3 percent in the first half to build a 27-point lead at the break en route to a 96-76 victory. The Tigers have averaged 96.3 points and shot 53.3 percent while hardly being tested in home games against the Demons, Austin Peay and Nicholls State.

"We do not take any wins for granted," said Pastner, whose team has won five straight.

Though a matchup at Madison Square Garden with a 19th-ranked Florida team that just beat No. 13 Kansas awaits Tuesday, the Tigers will try to maintain that same mindset against Arkansas-Little Rock (3-5). They'll be looking for a 26th straight home victory over an unranked opponent.

Memphis wants to keep getting the ball to 6-foot-9 sophomore Shaq Goodwin, who scored a career-high 21 points Saturday after he had 17 against the Cowboys.

"Just being in the right place at the right time," said Goodwin, averaging 13.1 points and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds. "Coming on the floor, producing energy and working with Austin (Nichols) and the other bigs. We play well together."

Though Memphis boasts the talented guard foursome of leading scorer Joe Jackson (14.7 points per game), Missouri transfer Michael Dixon Jr., Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, it's made a point of late to work the ball inside to Goodwin and the 6-8 freshman Nichols, who's averaging 11.7 points and 5.9 boards.

The Tigers recorded a season-high 27 assists Saturday, including seven from Johnson.

"Our emphasis has been trusting the process and getting better but I think we did good and got the ball inside where wanted to a lot (Saturday)," Dixon said. "It's a tremendous plus to have multiple guys that you can just throw the ball in there and get out of their way."

Opponents are averaging 15.8 assists against Arkansas-Little Rock, which has dropped all four meetings with Memphis by an average of 15.8 points. In the most recent meeting Dec. 12, 2009, the Tigers went 24 of 48 from the field during an 83-71 road victory.

The Trojans held a two-point halftime lead at Tulsa on Tuesday, but allowed the hosts to shoot 50 percent in the final 20 minutes to lose 78-64.

"We have to continue to get better at handling adverse situations," coach Steve Shields told the school's official website. "You've got to play through it - that's mental toughness and that's maturity - and that's where we've got to continue to grow as a basketball team."

Forward Will Neighbour averages team highs of 18.1 points and 7.6 boards. He scored 21 during an 86-56 loss at then-No. 11 Florida on Nov. 16.

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