Arkansas-Little Rock (3-5) at (16) Memphis (6-1)
Friday, December 13, 8 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UALR 2-1, Memphis 3-0. Away Record: UALR 1-4, Memphis 0-1. Neutral Record: UALR 0-0, Memphis 3-0. Conference Record: UALR 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Series Record: Memphis leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: The 16th-ranked Memphis Tigers will try to extend their winning streak to six games, as they settle in for a home clash with the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday night.
UALR is currently two games under .500, having lost five of its first eight, the bulk of which have taken place on the road. The Trojans are 1-4 in true road bouts this season, their lone victory in that stretch coming at Southern University in an 85-82 overtime decision on Nov. 22. Little Rock has won three of its last five, but is fresh off a 74-64 setback at Tulsa on Tuesday in a game that was delayed twice due to inclement weather.
Memphis dropped a 101-80 decision at Oklahoma State in the second game of the season, saddling the team with its only loss to date as it has won five straight since, including a rematch with the Cowboys (76-68) in Orlando, Florida to win the Old Spice Classic on Dec. 1. The Tigers' most recent triumph came in a 96-76 rout of Northwestern State last Saturday, and this game is expected to serve as a tune-up for next Tuesday's showdown with nationally-ranked Florida at the Jimmy V Classic in New York City.
Memphis has won all four prior meetings in the series with UALR, and the teams last met in Little Rock on Dec. 12, 2009 with the Tigers prevailing in an 83-71 final.
UALR has done a decent job of putting points on the scoreboard this season, netting 74.1 ppg, despite shooting just 41.3 percent from the floor, which includes a 33.8 percent showing from 3-point range. The team's defensive effort allows foes to connect on 44.6 percent of their total shots, 35.1 percent of which are treys, in scoring 78.4 ppg. The Trojans are +1.8 in rebounding margin, but are -0.4 in turnover differential. Will Neighbour has certainly made the most of his time on the court this season, averaging a team-high 18.1 ppg on the strength of his .580 field goal percentage, which includes a 10-of-20 effort from downtown, and he grabs 7.6 rpg while logging 11 steals -- both of which lead the club as well. UALR's only other double- digit scorer at the moment is Josh Hagins (11.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg), although both James White and Leroy Isler are close to joining the ranks as they net 8.9 and 8.5 ppg, respectively. White pulls down 6.4 rpg. Neighbour posted a double-double consisting of 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Trojans in their recent loss to Tulsa, the squad making good on only 36.4 percent of its total shots, which included a 4-of-16 effort from beyond the arc, while committing 17 turnovers.
With an average of 86.4 ppg, Memphis is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation (18th this week). The Tigers make good on nearly half of their field goal attempts (.494), with 34.0 percent of their 3-point tries resulting in success. The team has four players averaging at least 11.7 ppg, led by Joe Jackson and his 14.7 ppg. Shaq Goodwin ranks second with 13.1 ppg, and his 6.1 rpg help the team to a +3.9 advantage on the glass. Turnovers have also played a huge role in the club's early success, as foes are guilty of nearly 18 miscues per outing. Goodwin was nearly perfect from the field in the recent win over Northwestern State, draining 8-of-11 shots to finish with a game-high 21 points. Jackson added 15 points and five assists, while Michael Dixon, Jr. was credited with 14 points and four helpers for a Memphis squad that hit 53.6 percent of its total shots, including eight treys. The Tigers committed 17 turnovers in the game, but came away with 47 boards compared to 35 for the Demons.
While the Trojans are sure to put forth maximum effort, they simply lack the talent and depth needed to stay competitive with the better teams on their schedule, of which Memphis clearly is one. Expect the Tigers to pull away after the break and secure yet another comfortable victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 86, Arkansas-Little Rock 60
12/13 10:32:45 ET