January 14, 2007, 04:29 PM
Memphis 75, Southern Miss 62
Just returned from Hattiesburg. Here are a few thoughts:
1. This was my first time in Hattiesburg, and it's not nearly as bad people say. Sure, it's a small college town, but I didn't mind spending the weekend there. I found a couple good hang-outs, and the weather was great, about 70 degrees and sunny.
2. As for Reed Green Coliseum, well, it needs some upgrades. I'll be interested to compare it to some of the upcoming road venues Memphis will visit. My basis of comparison is the Mountain West Conference, which I covered the last couple years before moving to Memphis. In terms of seating, press facilities, locker rooms, fan amenities, parking, concessions and aesthetics, TCU's Daniel-Meyer Coliseum is by far the worst facility in that league with Wyoming's Arena-Auditorium probably the second-worst. Both of those facilities, however, are far better than Reed Green. Apparently, there was some renovation being done -- at least, that's what they told me when I asked where the press room was. We'll see how that comes out next year.
As far as the game, I thought going in that it was a dangerous game for the Tigers, and it proved to be every bit the test I expected.
Of all the things you could talk about in the aftermath -- free-throw shooting, Joey Dorsey's dominance, Andre Allen playing 16 minutes in the second half -- the most striking thing to me had to do with style of play.
Obviously, Memphis wants a free-flowing, up-tempo game. When the Tigers can dictate tempo, teams with less talent will have a very hard time beating them. I think that was obvious at Houston, which of course wants to play at a fast pace as well. But Houston is so suspect defensively, it seemed that Memphis was able to more or less get great shots every possession.
Southern Miss was a very, very different game. As John Calipari admitted, the Tigers tried everything to speed up the tempo and get Southern Miss to play faster. But nothing worked, and most of the credit should go to Southern Miss for sticking to its style and dragging Memphis into a physical battle.
Still, the Tigers won anyway, on the road, playing a style that doesn't necessarily suit them best, against an opponent that had a great gamplan and executed it. And given the contrast from what they encountered 48 hours earlier, I think that's a credit to a young Memphis team that is starting to look very good for the first time all year.
As an aside, Saturday was my first look at Southern Miss, and I thought Larry Eustachy's club looked good. They are very, very disciplined and tough defensively, and they were athletic enough to disrupt Memphis' offense. Their early-season record isn't a fluke, and they could very well finish in the top third of the league.
Posted in by Dan Wolken