Following back-to-back road games to start the season, Penny Hardaway and the Tigers return to FedExForum for their first home game of the year against VCU. Memphis dropped 1-1 Tuesday night when it lost to Saint Louis by six points, and they’ll look to get back into the win column before travelling to Orlando for the ESPN Events Invitational.
VCU enters the Sunday’s contest with a 3-1 record with wins over Manhattan, Morgan State and Pittsburgh. The Rams participated in the Legends Classic earlier this week, and they split games against Arizona State and Pittsburgh during the two-day event.
While the Tigers have only played one game since last weekend, Mike Rhoades’ team has played three games since last Saturday, but there shouldn’t be much fatigue after a three-day break.
Starting point guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. missed the last two games with a broken wrist, and he’ll miss Sunday’s game against the Tigers. Baldwin Jr. averaged 12 points, 1.5 rebounds and seven assists per game, and he shot 42.9 percent from behind the arc.
With the point guard out, junior guard Zeb Jackson moved into the starting lineup, and he averages 8.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. Guard Jayden Nunn brings the ball up the court most of the time with Baldwin Jr. out, and he averages eight points, 2.8 assists and four rebounds per game.
Michigan transfer Brandon Johns Jr. leads the team in scoring, and he averages 14 points and six rebounds per game and shoots 51.5 percent from the field.
The Rams haven’t shot the ball well from behind the arc, but they’ve found a ton of success on the defensive end of the court. VCU has held opponents to 39.7 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from deep, and they force 19.5 turnovers per game.
Both teams will look to win the game with their defense, and Sunday’s contest has a chance to be a low-scoring affair. VCU’s opponents have averaged 60 points per game, and KenPom.com ranks the Rams No. 36 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
How to watch Memphis’ game against the Rams
Radio: 98.9 The Roar of Memphis
Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. CT
Line: Memphis -10.5
How the Tigers can beat VCU
Memphis hasn’t shot the ball well through their first two games, and they’ll face the best defense they’ve seen yet on Sunday. The Rams won’t give up any easy baskets, and the Tigers must match their intensity from the opening tip.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the frontcourt during Sunday’s game. Malcolm Dandridge and Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu combined for 20 minutes against Saint Louis, and Hardaway will look for more out of the big men in the home opener.
Hardaway will also look for Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams to continue to lead the team on the court. Williams led team with 21 points and 12 rebounds against Saint Louis, while Davis added 18 points and four assists.
Five Tigers finished last week’s game with three or more fouls, and they can’t get into foul trouble against the Rams. VCU will attack Memphis – especially in the frontcourt – and Hardaway’s team must defend without fouling.
Finally, Memphis can’t force threes like they did against the Billikens. The Tigers attempted 31 three-pointers, and they can’t waist offensive opportunities when the team is struggling from deep.
Most opponents will give Memphis the three, but they must stick to their game plan and attack the rim.