Why Memphis basketball's 3-point defense depends on the health of DeAndre Williams and Alex Lomax

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Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway calls in a play during the first half against the Murray State Racers at FedExForum.
Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway calls in a play during the first half against the Murray State Racers at FedExForum.

Welcome back to the Tigers Basketball newsletter. Today, Tigers beat writer Jason Munz:

Penny Hardaway still isn't sure who will be in uniform for the Memphis basketball team the next time it trots out onto the court.

Which happens to be Thursday (6 p.m.) versus SMU. And Hardaway isn't sure whether he'll know for sure who's in and who's out until the last possible minute. He could be informed the morning of the game. Or, he said, the news could come a short time before tip-off.

But it can't come soon enough – for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is the Tigers' struggle defending the 3-point shot in the absence of key veterans such as DeAndre Williams and Alex Lomax. For the record, Williams has missed the last three games with a back issue and Lomax has been on the bench for the last five games due to an ankle problem. And, for the record, Williams and Lomax are both classified by Hardaway as "questionable" for duty against SMU.

It's clear, though, that Memphis needs Williams and Lomax if for no other reason than their ability to keep the opposition off the 3-point line. Both seniors, their defensive skill, experience and leadership help cover up much of the younger players' defensive inefficiencies that have been exposed with Williams and Lomax off the floor.

In the four games Williams and Lomax have both been out this season, opponents have shot 44% from deep (and 45% overall from the field).

"Well, obviously, we're starting three freshmen," Hardaway said Wednesday. "And then if you add Earl, who only played what, seven games maybe – he's the fourth freshman. How much are they really gonna know? No matter how much film you show them and you tell them exactly what's gonna happen, they're still not closing out properly. They're not having a sense of urgency until it gets too late. So, when you get your veterans back on the floor, they know. Now, maybe you've got one freshman on the floor at a time. Maybe two and now you're starting to communicate a different way. Freshman are all in the paint looking wide-eyed and everything is a shock to them."

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You can reach Commercial Appeal Tiger basketball beat writer Jason Munz via email at jason.munz@commercialappeal.com and follow him on Twitter: @munzly

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Why Memphis basketball's 3-point defense depends on the health of DeAndre Williams and Alex Lomax

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