Northwestern State (3-3) at (16) Memphis (5-1)
Saturday, December 7, 1 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: NWST 2-1, Memphis 2-0. Away Record: NWST 1-2, Memphis 0-1. Neutral Record: NWST 0-0, Memphis 3-0. Conference Record: NWST 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Series Record: Memphis leads, 5-0.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off their championship run in last weekend's Old Spice Classic, the 16th-ranked Memphis Tigers attempt to keep their success rolling on Saturday night when they take on the Northwestern State Demons at FedExForum.
Northwestern State, the 2013 NCAA Tournament representative from the Southland Conference, is off to a 3-3 start to the season. After capturing an impressive 111-92 win over Auburn on Nov. 13, the Demons slipped into a three-game losing streak before snapping out of it at home last Saturday with a 107-100 triumph versus Niagara.
After conquering Siena (87-60) and LSU (76-69) in the early rounds of the Old Spice Classic, Memphis squared off with Oklahoma State in Sunday's championship bout, and it avenged a loss to the Cowboys earlier in the year (101-80) by claiming a 73-68 decision. The Tigers are now 5-1 on the season, including 2-0 at FedExForum, where they'll play four of their next five games.
Memphis has beaten Northwestern State on all five previous occasions, most recently downing the Demons in November of 2010, 94-79.
In what has become a theme in the early going, the Demons were able to outlast Niagara in their latest outing by making a lofty 59.1 percent of their field goal tries, even though their 3-point attempts (6-of-20) did not fall with much regularity. Jalan West sparked the team coming off the bench with 20 points and 10 assists, while DeQuan Hicks was also outstanding with 22 points. Zikiteran Woodley tallied 17 points and eight boards, Sabri Thompson added 13 points, and Brison White chipped in 11 points to the balanced effort. Northwestern State's up-tempo attack has both its advantages and its drawbacks, as it has both one of the best scoring offenses in the country (89.7 ppg), as well as one of the worst scoring defenses (90.8 ppg). West is the top scoring option with 18.0 points per game, and he also gets his teammates involved with 5.5 assists per outing. Hicks (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg) is a mainstay in the front court, while Woodley (14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and White (12.8 ppg) are also off to fast starts.
Trailing Oklahoma State by two midway through the second half earlier in the week, Memphis responded with a 6-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish. It was able to overcome a lackluster performance at the foul line (12-of-24) by shooting 47.5 percent from the field, as well as winning the turnover battle, 12-9. The catalyst in the title tilt was Shaq Goodwin, who logged 17 points and eight rebounds, to go with two blocks and two steals. Chris Crawford poured in 16 points, Michael Dixon, Jr. added 12 in a reserve role, and Joe Jackson tallied 11 points and eight rebounds. It's no surprise that the Tigers are the nation's 16th-ranked team when analyzing their stats. Not only do they score 13.8 points per game more than they allow, but they also boast an eye-popping +6.0 turnover margin. Joe Jackson (14.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Dixon, Jr. (11.2 ppg) bring senior leadership to the squad, while Austin Nichols (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is off to a great start to his freshman season. Goodwin (11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Crawford (10.2 ppg) are regular contributors as well.
Northwestern State has the offensive firepower to be a force in the Southland Conference this season, but it will be hard-pressed to slow down a Memphis squad with so many offensive weapons. There will be plenty of points to go around, but expect the Tigers to win rather easily.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 108, Northwestern State 86
12/07 10:37:07 ET