By Bill Sorrell
Unselfish play helped the Memphis Hustle shoot a sizzling 61.9 percent in the third quarter as they took their largest lead of the season into the fourth quarter and defeated the Greensboro Swarm 112-94 on Dec. 9 at the Landers Center in Southaven.
“I was really proud of our guys the way we got started tonight. We came out with really good energy. The first five guys played unselfish which we talked about going into the game,” said Memphis Head Coach Glynn Cyprien.
“I thought it (high shooting percentage) was because it was unselfish. We shared the ball and found open guys. That is is the way you have got to do it. Our point guards (Kobi Simmons and Marquis Teague) did a really good job leading the team and making sure we ran the right sets and we were able to get open shots because of it.
“The big thing for me, I look at the assists. We got 22 assists tonight. I thought that says a lot about the way the guys played. Overall it was a really good team win.”
Austin Nichols, who played at the University of Memphis and Briarcrest Christian School, did not play because of an ankle injury.
On Dec. 2, Nichols scored a career-high 18 points and on Nov. 21 against Rio Grade Valley, he had his first G-League career double-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high three steals.
“Playing for the Hustle and being in the Grizzlies organization with the coaches and resources, have given my game a positive outlook. I have extended my range, listened to coaches and been doing what I need to do,” said Nichols (6-9, 232).
“I can use my length really well on the offensive and defensive end. I like to run the floor, try to hit the long ball and I love blocking shots. I think they are all positives in my game.”
Against Greensboro, center Ivan Rabb scored 11 points and Simmons 13 and four other players scored in double figures as the Hustle, the Memphis’ Grizzlies’ G-League team, improved to 6-7. Omari Johnson scored a team-high 18 points.
Trahson Burrell and Simmons each finished with four assists and Teague, Durand Scott and Jordon Crawford three each.
Memphis began the game hitting 13 of 20 first quarter shots (65 percent) and took a 32-18 lead. The Hustle shot 66.7 percent n the third quarter (4 of 6) of three pointers and 75 percent of free throws in the second (6 of 8) and third (3 of 4) quarters.
Memphis led 96-71 going into the fourth quarter. Three times Memphis had its largest lead, 27 points.
Scott hit a basket with 13.3 left in the third quarter to make it 96-79 and his three-pointer with 8:10 left put the Hustle ahead 102-75.
Chance Comanche kept it at 27 with his basket, 104-77.
Memphis started on a torrid pace. Vincent Hunter gave Memphis a 20-4 lead with 5:40 left in the first quarter. Greensboro, the G-League team of the Charlotte Hornets scored its first goal of the game on a basket by Jalen Jones with 9:04 left.
“Coming out strong and maintaining it the rest of the game helped us get the win. I thought we got good looks. Playing unselfish, we got some great looks that got us the high field goal percentage,” said guard Dusty Hannahs, who began his collegiate career at Texas Tech and finished at Arkansas.
Memphis finished the game shooting 43 of 84 field goals (51.2 percent), 11 of 21 treys (52.4 percent), 15 of 26 free throws.
Memphis outrebounded Greensboro 54-41 with Scott grabbing 10 and Johnson 8.
Trahson Burrell finished with 13 points, Scott 16, Jordon Crawford 12, Hunter 9, Teague 6, Comanche 5, Shaquille Thomas 4, Hannahs 5.
“Working hard, being able to come off the bench and being able to shoot the ball and pass and help the team in whatever way I can,” said Hannahs of his efforts.
“It’s another level to get better. I’m glad we got the win.”
Cyprien, who played at Southern University in New Orleans and took over the Iowa Energy when it started the season with a 2-19 record before going 10-19 in their last 29 games, praised the play of Scott and Crawford who came off the bench.
“Once we started substituting they gave us some really good minutes,” he said.
The Grizzlies director of pro personnel, Cyprien is returning to Memphis.
He was an assistant coach under former University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner from 2009-11. Memphis won 49 during that time including a 25-10 record in 2010-11 and a Conference USA tournament championship and getting to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Greensboro (5-10) was led by Jones who scored a game-high 21 with a team-high 10 rebounds. while John Dawson scored 12, Sam Thompson 11, Luke Petrasek 10.
L.G. Gill and Cole Huff each had 6 rebounds for the Swarm.
The Swarm sank 34 of 85 field goals (40.2 percent), 7 of 34 treys (20.6 percent), 19 of 24 free throws (79.2 percent).
For Memphis, Rabb and Teague had 7 rebounds each.
For Cyprien, it is about player development.
“To see some of these guys develop and play a lot of minutes puts them in situations where they can get better on the floor. That is the big thing for me, making sure guys are getting better every game. That has been the biggest thing I have enjoyed so far,” said Cyprien.
“From a coach’s standpoint, it’s continuing to lead these guys and be a good mentor. We talk basketball because that is what it is about but we also talk about other things besides basketball in terms of being leaders and the way they treat people off the floor and the way they carry themselves. That is a big thing for me.”
By Bill Sorrell