How Memphis utilized its size and athleticism to secure dominating victory over WSU


Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower

Memphis Head Coach Penny Hardaway tries to get the attention of a referee after the posession of the ball was given back to the Shockers.

Wichita State struggled to respond to the size and strength of Memphis on Saturday, with the Tigers dominating the New Year’s Day clash. Memphis was prepared and controlled the paint throughout en route to a 82-64 victory.

The Tigers made it their goal to not allow anything easy for WSU’s offense in the paint, which forced the Shockers into tough, contested jump shots. The plan worked out to perfection.

The Shocker offense settled for 33 three-pointers in the game and only converted seven of those shot attempts. Memphis dominated the points in the paint 48-22, while also outrebounding the Shockers by six.

“Our defense wasn’t there,” WSU junior Dexter Dennis said. “They pretty much got what they wanted at any given time.”

The Tigers recently returned to play after a brief COVID-19 pause which ended ahead of Wednesday’s loss to Tulane. In that game, Memphis was without its top three scorers – Jalen Duren, DeAndre Williams, and Emoni Bates – but Duren and Williams returned to the starting lineup on Saturday.

The pair showed no signs of rust with the duo combining for 28 points and 13 rebounds. Both players were also efficient offensively, going 12-18 from the field. Williams also knocked down a pair of threes, to provide some outside shooting.

Memphis’s redshirt junior Landers Nolley II goes up for a shot while sophomore Wichita State’s Clarence Jackson and junior Morrise Udeze attempt to block the shot. Memphis won, 82-64, in their first conference game of the season. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

Memphis also featured a bigger starting lineup with the smallest player standing at 6’6. With WSU’s success on the defensive glass and limited size, the Tigers countered by  playing two centers – Malcolm Dandridge and Duren – along with two taller and physical guards – Earl Timberlake and Lester Quinones.

“They didn’t feel us,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “Any time you allow a team to get comfortable in your building and they start making shots, they get confidence.”

The Memphis bigs limited the effectiveness of the Shocker offense in the lane, especially junior center Morris Udeze. The Houston, Texas native entered the game with seven straight double-digit scoring games but finished with four points on an offensive rating of 74. 

With the lack of an inside presence, the Shockers had to rely on three-pointers, which couldn’t fall on Saturday. In the second half, 20 of WSU’s 35 shot attempts came from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Memphis only took 19 triples for the entire game. 

Memphis’s junior Lester Quinones goes up for a shot and is blocked by Wichita State’s junior Morris Udeze. Memphis won, 82-64, in their first conference game of the season. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

The Tigers did a great job on sophomore Tyson Etienne, limiting him to 4-11 from the field and 2-8 from downtown. Seven of Etienne’s team-high 17 points came from the free-throw line.

“(Etienne) is such a great player,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said. “He takes tough shots and makes tough shots so we wanted to make sure he was taking tough shots. If he was making them then we were going to live with it. We kind of got back to understanding the most dangerous and he’s the most dangerous.”

WSU will get an opportunity against another elite defense next Saturday as they take on Houston. The Cougars are current No. 5 in the country in defense efficiency, with teams especially struggling from downtown. In Houston’s 13 games, opponents are shooting 28.6% on three-pointers, which is No. 34 in the NCAA. 

“We’re 0-1. I’m pretty sure everybody in this conference is going to have one loss,” Etienne said. “It is what it is. We’ve got to go play every other team in this conference and beat them. I don’t care what the outside world thinks, I just care about what my teammates think and what my coaching staff thinks.”

The Shockers will be looking for their first win inside the Fertita Center since joining the American in 2017. WSU will also be looking to avoid its first 0-2 start in AAC play since the 2018-19 season.