Samford-Memphis Preview


Antonio Barton appears ready to contribute for Memphis following some preseason friction with coach Josh Pastner.

After helping his team pull away in its season opener, Barton will try to provide another solid performance for the 17th-ranked Tigers in Saturday night's game against visiting Samford, which will serve as a tune-up for a trip to the Bahamas.

Barton didn't get the season off to the best start with a sideline disagreement with Pastner during an exhibition game Nov. 7. A starter for 19 of his team's 34 contests last season, the junior guard was left out of the starting lineup for Monday's season opener against North Florida.

Barton might have gotten back in Pastner's good graces after scoring 10 of his 11 points during a 19-0 run that helped erase an early deficit for the Tigers. Tarik Black had a team-best 18 points and Joe Jackson added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

"I'm just trying to play toward the system and fit back in," said Barton, who averaged 6.6 points last season. "Last week, I let my teammates down. I'm just happy they accepted me back and found me on a couple of passes, a couple of shots. I was just coming in trying to be that energy as I always have."

Memphis will likely need Barton's help during next week's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which includes No. 2 Louisville, No. 9 Duke and No. 14 Missouri. The Tigers, who have dropped 11 straight matchups with Top 25 teams, will face a team that's just outside the rankings, Virginia Commonwealth, during its opening game in the Bahamas on Thursday.

They'll try to prepare for that tournament against the Bulldogs (1-2), who were blown out 80-54 by Louisville on Thursday.

Samford trailed 42-13 at halftime of its 11th consecutive loss to a ranked opponent dating back to a 68-60 win over then-No. 15 St. John's on Nov. 19, 1999.

Freshman forward Tim Williams, scoring a team-best 17.0 points per game, had 15 against the Cardinals and the only other Bulldogs player averaging in double figures, sophomore guard Raijon Kelly, had 11.

"I'm proud of our guys and the effort that they gave in the second half, but we must become a tougher team," coach Bennie Seltzer said.

Memphis holds a 3-1 lead in the series, winning all three home games, but needed a late basket to edge the Bulldogs 63-62 on Dec. 22, 2003.

The Tigers won't have junior college transfer Geron Johnson available for this matchup. He'll serve the second of a three-game suspension for receiving extra benefits prior to his enrollment at the school.