TUPELO – Mike McConathy had a ringside seat for games against both of the men’s basketball teams playing today at BancorpSouth Arena, No. 19 Memphis and LSU.
“You’ve got two contrasting styles,” said McConathy, whose Northwestern State team lost to both versions of the Tigers this fall. “Memphis will want to push the ball, while LSU will want to grind it out.”
Memphis (3-0) is averaging 90.0 points per game while LSU (2-1) averages 73.0.
Tipoff for today’s neutral-site game is set for 4 p.m. Only a few general-admission tickets ($12) remained as of Saturday afternoon.
Where available, the game will be seen on the CBS College Sports Network.
McConathy and the Demons opened the season with an 87-78 loss at LSU on Nov. 12, then fell 94-79 at Memphis on Wednesday.
In both games, Northwestern State briefly held second-half leads, but LSU and Memphis both made clutch 3-pointers to get out of trouble before pulling away.
“It was a phenomenal experience to play both those teams,” McConathy said. “They were both well-prepared and both seemed very focused.”
Memphis and LSU, with rosters that have undergone extreme makeovers since last season, are each expected to start at least two freshmen this afternoon.
Josh Pastner, the second-year head coach at Memphis, is trying to find the right roles for eight newcomers – seven freshmen and a transfer. That’s the biggest roster upheaval in Memphis since the 1972-73 season.
“I keep telling the fans that they are going to have to be patient,” Pastner said. “We have a long way to go.”
While Memphis went 24-10 last season, LSU crashed to an 11-20 finish.
The biggest impact player could be Memphis forward Wesley Witherspoon, a 6-foot-9 junior forward who leads the team in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (6.3).
“Witherspoon is special,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said this week. “There is so much that he does with the ball, he causes a lot of problems.”
McConathy said he expects LSU to bang inside with a roster that includes nine players 6-7 or taller. “They’ve got some big-bodied kids and I imagine they’ll want to play a very physical game against Memphis.”
The Memphis rotation includes just two players taller than 6-8. In their first three games, the team is just plus-2 in rebounding.
LSU is expected to start freshman Andre Stringer at point guard for a second straight game. Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball while at Forest Hill, he has led the team in scoring in each of its first three games, coming off the bench in the first two.
Stringer is averaging 16.7 points per game.
Both teams lost in their last visits to Mississippi. Memphis saw last season end with a 90-81 loss to Ole Miss in the second round of the NIT on March 19, while LSU lost 70-59 in Oxford on March 4.
Contact John L. Pitts at 678-1522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 19 Memphis vs. LSU
– Site: BancorpSouth Arena, Tupelo.
– Tipoff: 4 p.m.
– TV: CBS College Sports (where available)
– Series: Tied 2-2.
– Last meeting: Memphis 70-66, Dec. 23, 1992.
– Coaches – Memphis: Josh Pastner, 27-10 in second season. LSU: Trent Johnson, 40-29 in third season, 199-150 overall in 12th season overall.
– Notes: While Memphis has had a higher national profile in recent years, LSU is the program that can claim a previous national championship – a “mythical title” won in 1935, before the advent of the NCAA tournament. … LSU lost 62-53 to Nicholls on Tuesday, ending an 82-game home win streak against in-state schools. … There are no seniors on LSU’s 14-man roster, while Memphis has one. … LSU’s Storm Warren is the only returning fulltime starter from a year ago. For Memphis, Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman started the season finale, a 90-81 loss at Ole Miss in the second round of the NIT. … A win today would be the 1,400th in LSU program history and the 200th of Trent Johnson’s career.
By John L. Pitts
No. 19 Memphis (3-0)
Likely starters Pts Reb Also
G Charles Carmouche Jr. 6-3 11.0 1.7 3.3s
G Joe Jackson Fr. 6-0 10.7 1.7 3.7a
G Chris Crawford Fr. 6-4 9.7 3.0
F Wesley Witherspoon Jr. 6-0 14.3 6.3 2.7a
F Will Coleman Sr. 6-9 3.0 3.7 1.0b
G Antonio Barton Fr. 6-2 11.0 2.7 2.3a
G Will Barton Fr. 6-6 9.0 3.3 1.7s
F Tarik Black Fr. 6-8 7.3 4.0
Likely starters Pts Reb Also
G Andre Stringer Fr. 5-9 16.7 2.3 3.0a
G Ralston Turner Fr. 6-6 12.3 2.7 1.3a
G Aaron Dotson So. 6-4 11.7 3.7 1.0a
F Storm Warren Jr. 6-7 8.0 9.7 1.0b
F Malcolm White Jr. 6-9 8.7 7.0 2.3b
F Matt Derenbecker Fr. 6-7 5.3 2.7
F Eddie Ludwig So. 6-9 4.3 2.0
G Chris Bass Jr. 6-1 2.7 2.3 2.3a
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JOHN L. PITTS/NEMS Daily Journal