Bills prep for Tigers and Bearcats: Oh my!

Memphis means many things to many people. To some, Memphis is the King. For others, it is Beale Street that brings memories of music and beer.

For the Saint Louis University men’s basketball team, it means championship. Today, when the 10-6, 2-1 Billikens face off with the Memphis Tigers (8-8, 2-1), it will be their first trip back since winning the Ohio Casualty Conference USA Tournament.

After the final press conference for the C-USA champs, Memphis had their own announcement, John Calipari was named head coach and took over for assistant-turned- interim coach Johnny Jones.

After limping into the C-USA tournament last year, Memphis has played one of the toughest schedules this season and has performed better than expected. After opening the season with a top Temple team, Memphis has gone on the road against the likes of Miami (Oh), Arkansas, Tennessee and Miami (Fla.).

With such a tough non-conference schedule, the Tigers have been preparing for the top 25 teamless C-USA. Just as conference play has begun to pick up, so have the Tigers. Memphis is on a four-game winning streak as they enter tonight’s contest with the Bills. While the Tigers are 8-8 overall, they are 2-1 in conference. But Billiken coach Lorenzo Romar is not worried about Memphis.

“We can’t be concerned with Memphis or Calipari,” said Romar. “We have to be concerned with how we play. We’ve got to defend, rebound and play well.”

The Billikens will be looking toward senior guard Maurice Jeffers to have another stellar performance. Jeffers dropped 18 points and snatched 13 rebounds against Charlotte last week and has been leading SLU since conference play began.

“Mo Jeffers is playing as well as anyone in Conference USA right now,” Romar said. “He’s making big plays, taking big shots and always defending the other team’s best perimeter player.”

Memphis will look to their scoring and rebounding leader, junior forward Kelly Wise to carry the burden against the Billiken interior defense. Wise has put up MVP numbers by scoring 14.6 points a game while pulling down 11.1 rebounds a game. The 6 foot 10 inch Wise will look to take advantage of the considerably smaller Billiken lineup.

While the Billikens will try to deal with Wise, they will have their hands full next year. This past Tuesday night, Memphis-bound guard Dajuan Wagner scored 100 points as Camden High in Camden, N.J. won 157-67 over Gloucester Township Technical School.

Trying to dominate on the offensive end for the Billikens will be senior forward Justin Tatum.

“Justin is becoming someone we can count on for points and rebounds,” Romar said. Tatum has been averaging 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Also looking to continue playing at a higher level is sophomore point guard Marque Perry. Perry has put up 10.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3 assists a contest.

“Marque has really come into his own,” Romar said.

The Billikens will return home tonight and have only a short time to prepare for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincy has been down this year; unlike the previous year, they aren’t the top-ranked team in the country when they will be taking on the Billikens.

“It’s the most difficult part of our schedule,” Romar said.

The Bearcats lost three starters from last year’s team to the NBA draft. Kenyon Martin, Pete Mickeal and DerMarr Johnson were all taken by NBA teams, leaving Cincy to rebuild.

Cincinnati is led by sophomore guard Kenny Satterfield, with 16.5 points and 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists. The Billikens hope to continue their winning ways against the Bearcats and make it two in a row.