Jan. 30, 2015
Memphis Tigers claw Bearcats 63-50
Memphis, TN – It was the Kedren Johnson show that was on display Thursday night in Memphis as the University of Memphis Tigers (10-6, 3-2 in American Athletic Conference) manhandled the Cincinnati Bearcats (11-5, 2-2 in AAC) 63-50 in a physical AAC battle.
Johnson, a junior transfer from Vanderbilt University, had a career night scoring 13 points and dishing out five assists. But it was his steady play at the point guard position that kept him on the court – literally. Though not seeing much action through the first 15 games of the season, Johnson played 34 consecutive minutes after not starting the game. Head coach Josh Pastner elected not to take him out because of his stellar play in the backcourt.
“I’m excited just about moving forward and continuing to build on our team chemistry,” said Johnson. “I just feel like I’m getting my rhythm back, my timing, learning the offense better, knowing where guys are going to be and learning what to look for. I’ve gotten a lot of great support from my teammates and we’re just going to keep building and keep moving forward.”
Johnson did receive much help from the rest of those aforementioned teammates. Sophomore forward Austin Nichols, last year’s AAC Rookie of the Year, continued to improve his résumé for Player of the Year honors this year scored 17 points, grabbed eight boards and blocked three Bearcats’ shots. And Charles Godfrey, a 6-8 senior power forward transfer from Southern University, started his second consecutive game and provided a toughness mindset for the Tigers against a stout Cincinnati frontline. He and Nichols stymied the Bearcats all evening including limiting their leading scorer Octavius Ellis to just three points and two rebounds in 21 frustrating minutes.
“I heard about last year, Godfrey said. I wasn’t here, but that was last year. “Coach has put it in my head to not let our team go into it with that (soft) mentality. So I just spread it onto the team and hope they pick it up as the game went on, and they did. We knew we had to be the tougher team tonight.”
Though the Bearcats won the battle on the boards 31-28, it was Memphis that was the aggressor in this contest. Tigers’ sophomore Avery Woodson chipped in with 14 points, most of his damage coming from 4-of-7 from three-point range. The Tigers shot 46.9 percent from the field and their tough, gritty defense caused 20 Cinci turnovers.
Memphis is now back in the AAC race at 3-2 and with their first victory of the season over a top-50 RPI team, now is the time to be gelling. The road gets tougher as the Tigers will head out of town for a pair of AAC showdowns. But first up is this Saturday afternoon against the Knights of UCF at FedExForum. Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm (CT).