No. 16 Memphis to be tested by undefeated Ole Miss
At last, No. 16 Memphis knows freshman center James Wiseman's fate - he will miss the next 10 games as part of a 12-game NCAA suspension announced Wednesday.
Now, it is up to the rest of the young, talented Tigers to regroup and respond.
"It's going to be a big test," Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said as the Tigers prepared to host undefeated Ole Miss on Saturday.
"That energy that James brought offensively and defensively is not going to be there. It allows other guys to be able to step up. It is going to be huge ... to go out there with energy and do it collectively as a group, and just depend on each other the entire game and be confident we can get it done."
The Tigers (4-1) won their second straight game without Wiseman, beating Little Rock 68-58 hours after the suspension was announced, with key contributions from other touted freshmen Precious Achiuwa, a McDonald's All-American last season, and D.J. Jeffries.
Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9 forward, had his first career double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and 6-7 Jeffries had 15 points in 20 minutes before fouling out. Little Rock closed to within four points with four minutes left before an Achiuwa dunk and a layup by freshman Lester Quinones sparked a run that put the Tigers in charge.
"I kinda like when we got down to the last five minutes it was a close game, because I want to know what my team is made of," Hardaway said. "I wanted to see who was ready for the moment. Every game doesn't have to be a blowout. This was a good test for us."
Hardaway said he did not tell the team about Wiseman's suspension before the Little Rock game, and he had muted comments afterward.
"I've said from the beginning I don't think it is fair, but there is nothing I can do about it," Hardaway said. "James should be on the floor."
Quinones, a 6-5 freshman guard, had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 102-56 victory over Alcorn State on Saturday. He and Achiuwa were high school teammates at St. Benedict's (N.J.) Prep before going to separate prep schools a year ago.
Ole Miss (4-0) is attempting to win its first five since the 2013-14 team started 6-0. The Rebels beat Seattle 65-52 Tuesday.
Ole MIss is led by forward K.J. Buffen and guard Breein Tyree, who are averaging 14.3 points apiece. Guard Devontae Shuler is at 13.5. The Rebels have shot 47.9 percent from the field while limiting opponents to 31.9 percent and outrebounding them by 6.8 a game.
"We are still a work in progress," coach Kermit Davis said. "We are fixing to get hit in the mouth by some athletes who are as good or better than us for sure in the next couple of weeks."
Ole Miss 6-foot-7 sophomore Blake Hinson is expected to make his first appearance of the season. Hinson, who averaged 8.3 points and started 31 games a year ago, missed the first four games with what Davis described as a "blood abnormality," first diagnosed in late August.
Hinson made at least three 3-pointers in five games last season, and he had 11 points and a season-high six rebounds in the Rebels' 95-72 NCAA tournament loss to Oklahoma.
"We're going to play him spot minutes, but it sure will be good to have him out there," Davis said.
--Field Level Media
Updated November 22, 2019