Memphis basketball vs. East Carolina: Scouting report and score prediction
Following Wednesday's loss at UCF, coach Penny Hardaway predicted Memphis' nightmarish, weeks-long stretch of injury issues would continue.
The Tigers (9-6, 3-2 AAC) have been without multiple statistical leaders, starters and contributors for much of the past two weeks. And Hardaway, whose squad finished the game versus the Knights with just seven available players, doesn't see it ending anytime soon. Certainly not in time for their next game at East Carolina (10-5, 1-2) on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPN+).
"We might have seven (players available) again at ECU," Hardaway said.
Here are some things to keep an eye on.
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How do the Tigers' mounting injuries affect things? Let us count the ways.
First and foremost, senior DeAndre Williams - the Tigers' top scorer and second-leading rebounder - is perhaps the team’s most valuable player and he has missed three of the last five games. Most recently, his back has kept him out of action. Williams’ veteran leadership and contagious passion have been sorely missed.
Guard Earl Timberlake (concussion protocol) brings size and versatility to the backcourt when he’s healthy. Senior guard Alex Lomax is among the better defenders in the AAC, but he’s been out the past four games. Forward Chandler Lawson, who has been sidelined since Nov. 24 with a sprained ankle, gives the Tigers length and experience, which makes him a big part of the team’s depth.
But, most tangibly, the mounting injuries have caused Hardaway to shuffle his priorities. Memphis is usually able to employ an intense defensive approach throughout much of the game without fear of wearing players down. But, being shorthanded means Hardaway must be more judicious.
“I had to wait ‘til the second half to press,” Hardaway said. “We really wanted to get after those guys. If you can remember, the games we played them last year, we turned them over 20-plus times. You have to do that on the road. You’ve got to do that to those type of teams. You’ve got to pressure them to get them out of their offense.”
Landers Nolley: Consistent, dependable
In times like these, coaches, players and fans tend to frequently fall back on the “next man up” mantra.
Several Tigers have come through since the injury situation began getting more and more dicey. Senior guard Tyler Harris, the team’s high scorer the past two games, comes to mind. Freshman Josh Minott’s emergence does, too.
But there might not be a more consistent contributor over the last six games than guard Landers Nolley II. Last season’s leading scorer and the team’s lone all-conference player has been at his best this season when the Tigers have needed him most.
The former Virginia Tech transfer, who surpassed 1,000 career points, is averaging 11.2 points (35% from the field, 92% from the free throw line), 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in Memphis’ last six games.
Nolley, however, believes there’s still room for him to do more.
“(I’m) disappointed in myself,” he said after Wednesday’s game. “Not doing enough. I’ve got to help us do better. Help us lock in. I’ve just got to communicate more and do more. Help (my teammates) realize who the hot guys are, who the shooters are. As a veteran, that’s on me. Bad communication and a couple bad switches.”
ECU scouting report
ECU has not made life difficult for opposing offenses.
The Pirates rank 202nd in Division I in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 104.8 points per 100 possessions. Their opponents are sporting an effective field goal percentage of 49.5% , only a tick better than the average.
The Pirates make up for it, though, in several key areas – one of which should trouble the Tigers. ECU is shooting 37.3% from 3-point range, led by Vance Jackson at 44.1%. That does not bode well for Memphis, which has struggled mightily defending the 3-point shot lately. Opponents are averaging 8.5 made 3-pointers per game. In their last seven games, though, teams facing Memphis are making 11 3-pointers a game and shooting 38%.
While Jackson handles the perimeter attack for ECU, leading scorer Tristan Newton makes the most of his opportunities inside the arc, shooting 56.6% from two and 88% from the free-throw line. Newton is also a sound distributor, ranking 32nd in the country with an assist rate of 34.1%.
Memphis 77, East Carolina 68: The Tigers need to get right. The Pirates give them a golden opportunity to do just that.
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at email@example.com or on Twitter @munzly.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis basketball vs. East Carolina scouting report, score prediction