Emoni Bates will aim to keep No. 11 Memphis rolling through its early-season slate as the Tigers host nonconference rival Saint Louis on Tuesday night.
The highly touted Bates was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week after leading the Tigers (2-0) in scoring in each of their first two games.
The forward had 17 points in a season-opening 89-65 win over Tennessee Tech last Tuesday before scoring 15 in a 90-51 thumping of North Carolina Central on Saturday.
Bates is shooting 56.3 percent (9 of 16) from the field while averaging four rebounds a game.
Josh Minott had nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks against N.C. Central to highlight Memphis’ bench, which outscored the Eagles’ bench 51-30. The Tigers never trailed and led 38-23 at the break before outscoring the visitors 52-28 after halftime.
“I think that we came out serious from the beginning,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “We didn’t take them lightly because we felt like they were a really good opponent, and if you came out (relaxed), they would have an opportunity to upset you.”
Memphis’ unbeaten two-game start allowed the team to move up one spot in this week’s AP Top 25 poll. The Tigers were the highest-ranked AAC team at No. 12 — three spots ahead of conference foe Houston — in the AP’s preseason poll.
“I think it’s in black and white where we are and what we want out of the season,” Hardaway said.
Tigers forward John Camden missed Saturday’s game with a foot injury, but Hardaway was hopeful he would be available by Tuesday. Camden was spotted wearing a walking boot on his right foot.
Saint Louis has won its first three games and is coming off an 86-44 rout of Eastern Illinois at home last Friday. Gibson Jimerson paced the Billikens with 18 points and is averaging a team-leading 18.7 this season.
The Billikens average 103 points per game to rank third in scoring offense nationally — thanks largely to their 127-54 blowout of Harris-Stowe of the NAIA last Wednesday.
“I told the team we probably played better than I thought we would the first week,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know what that means, but … I didn’t think we’d go out and beat teams like this.”
Former Tigers guard Jordan Nesbitt is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 points, to go along with 6.7 rebounds per game. Nesbitt joined Memphis at the semester break a season ago and played three games before transferring.
Saint Louis has won five of the past eight games against former conference rival Memphis dating to the 1999-2000 season. The Tigers lead the all-time series 32-26 despite dropping the most recent meeting, 61-54, in the 2011-12 season.
Both Memphis and Saint Louis appeared in last season’s National Invitation Tournament. The Billikens were eliminated in the first round by Mississippi State, which eventually fell to the Tigers in the NIT championship.
–Field Level Media