For the Memphis Hustle, Saturday’s first “Hustle and Hounds Night” was one to certainly howl about.
The Hustle streaked out again to an early lead and after the Oklahoma City Blue put together a challenge in the early part of the fourth quarter, Memphis responded with what became a 133-113 victory at the Landers Center in Southaven.
The Hustle and Hounds promotion was the first of three home games this season where the NBA G League team welcomed man’s best friend for free with a paying customer and there were several furry friends on display during the course of the evening.
On the court, the sharpshooting of Memphis’ Dusty Hannahs and Josh Jackson were on display. Hannahs erupted for 32 points and Jackson, the Grizzlies’ assignment player to the Hustle, added 26 more.
The Hustle own the G League’s best record at 8-0 as they embark on a four-game road trip, beginning Tuesday in Prescott Valley, Arizona against the Northern Arizona Suns.
The eight straight wins to start the season put Memphis tied for the second-most number of victories to begin the year in league history. Santa Cruz last year, and Idaho in 2013-14, both ran off eight straight.
Oklahoma City dropped to 3-4 with the loss.
Hustle coach Jason March said he was pleased with the way his team came out in its first contest after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I always feel like if you’re the home team after a holiday or a break or whatever, it’s always harder,” March said. “You have family, we took a day off, and you never know how the guys are going to respond. But, we have a group of competitors in there and when it’s time to play, these guys bring it.”
Jackson brought it early for the Hustle, scoring 12 of Memphis’ 41 points in taking a 41-28 lead after 12 minutes. March was as impressed with Jackson’s defense as he was the offense, however.
“I thought Josh had a big game for us defensively,” the Hustle coach said. “I love how active he is, both on the ball and off the ball. When we play defense as a team and we get some stops, we’re tough to guard and that’s him and the rest of the group.”
Jackson also gave the team’s defensive performance high praise for the win.
“We did a good job of coming out with energy out of the gate,” Jackson said. “It makes it really easy to continue that type of play throughout the game when we start out like that. We are at our best when we are in transition and try to force as many turnovers as we can.”
Memphis took an 11-0 lead to start the game and held the 13-point advantage at halftime.
The lead became 102-83 after three quarters, but the Blue rebounded to get within 109-99 with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter. That would be the closest Oklahoma City could get the remainder of the game.
In addition to Hannahs’ 32 points and Jackson’s 26, Jarrod Uthoff tallied 24 points for the Hustle, which played without forward Yuta Watanabe, who was called up by the parent Grizzlies before Saturday’s game.
Ahmad Caver came off the bench to contribute 13 points and starter Matt Mooney added 11.
Uthoff and Jackson had double-doubles for the night, with 14 and 11 rebounds to go with their double-digits in points.
Memphis’ trip out west will begin with a Tuesday-Thursday back-to-back at Northern Arizona, followed by a meeting with the South Bay Lakers on Saturday, Dec. 7 and a Monday, Dec. 9 battle with the Agua Caliente Clippers, before coming home Dec. 11 to meet the Sioux Falls Skyforce (Heat) at the Landers Center.
Two-way player Luguentz Dort led the Blue with 26 points to go with seven boards.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.