The Memphis Tigers started out the season ranked 12th in the NCAA. They were eventually able to climb all the way to ninth before a 19-point loss to Iowa State. Memphis then compounded their slide by losing on the road to a 2-5 Georgia team. Coming into a road matchup against Ole Miss, Memphis basketball needed a bounce-back win. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot too many times en route to a 67-63 loss in Oxford, Mississippi.
So many things went wrong for Memphis in their third straight loss. Not only did they shoot poorly, but they made some incredibly poor decisions that saw the Ole Miss lead balloon to 11 with just over two minutes left. While some late stops and sloppy play by Ole Miss helped get them back into the game, their furious comeback attempt ended just short, dropping Memphis to a 5-3 record.
Memphis Basketball Falls to Unranked Ole Miss
Emoni Bates' Immaturity
In fairness to Emoni Bates, he is only 17 and, if he didn't reclassify, he would be a junior in high school right now. With that in mind, you'd still expect better awareness and decision-making from a five-star recruit. The problem with Bates wasn't his poor shooting, it was the shots he was taking that's problematic. Bates made just one of 10 shots and it's easy to see why with the shots he was taking.
No possession better emphasizes his immaturity than his late-game decision-making. Down four with 21 seconds left, Bates grabbed an offensive rebound, sprinted to the three-point line and took a contested fadeaway three. With so much time left and the game still so close, that is the last thing you want or need in that scenario. He then compounded that issue by stepping out of bounds while receiving a pass with three seconds left. Looking at his late-game "hero ball" efforts and combining them with a love for taking tough runners, floaters and contested jumpers all game, and it's clear that Emoni Bates needs plenty of maturing if Memphis wants to go anywhere.
Free Throw Woes Continue
In a game where the referees had no problem blowing their whistles, Memphis went to the line 37 total times compared to Ole Miss' 29. Unfortunately for the Tigers, both teams made 23 free throws. For Memphis, that put them at just a hair over 62% from the line. In a game decided by four points, that is simply unacceptable. There is still plenty of season left, but troubles at the free throw line usually don't magically disappear come conference play.
The biggest contributors to the free throw problems were DeAndre Williams, Malcolm Dandridge and Landers Nolley II. All three players are upperclassmen and combined to shoot a measly 8-17 from the charity stripe. For those keeping track at home, that is barely over 47%. The rest of the Tigers went 15-20, good enough for 75% from the line.
While not every player can be a good free throw shooter, much of it is simply putting in the work. With major problems coming from the upperclassmen, if it hasn't been worked on at this point, it will be interesting to see if it's ever addressed. Tigers fans will hope it is as poor free throw shooting can make the difference in games they need as the season progresses.