Memphis Tigers vs. Montana State (7 pm, FEF)



• The Tigers and Bobcats have met only once before, on December 17, 1960, when Memphis won, 77-50, in Bozeman. Led by Wayne Yates (17.5 ppg), that Tiger team went 20-2 before losing in the first round of the NIT. This will be only the third time Memphis has faced a team from the Big Sky Conference (They beat Eastern Washington in 1951.)


• The Bobcats enter the game on a two-game winning streak, with a record of 4-3. Their wins have come over Colorado Christian, San Francisco, Northern Colorado, and Northern Arizona. (MSU lost to Southern Miss on November 21st, 66-62.) They have three players averaging double figures in scoring: forward Bobby Howard (15.6), guard Erik Rush (13.4) and guard Marquis Navarre (11.5). Howard is the team’s top rebounder (6.7).

• Sophomore guard Elliot Williams has led Memphis in scoring in each of its six games. He has five consecutive 20-point outings, the longest such streak since Sean Banks had six straight near the end of the 2003-04 season.

• Almost a month into the season, the Tigers are still looking for a breakout game from sophomore swingman Wesley Witherspoon. His top scoring game came in the opener, when he had 13 points against Jackson State (but shot only three of nine from the field). Learning — defining, maybe — Witherspoon’s role will be critical for coach Josh Pastner before conference play begins in January. (Said teammate Roburt Sallie after the win over Central Arkansas last month: “We’ve got to get Wesley going a little more. He’s a tremendous scorer.”)

• Tonight will end the longest stretch of home games — five — the Tigers will enjoy all season. They’ll travel to play Arkansas-Little Rock and Massachusetts the next two Saturdays before finishing 2009 with three home games in ten days.

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