Former Memphis Tiger Austin Nichols is progressing in the transition from the college game to the professional one as a member of the Memphis Hustle in the NBA G League. Saturday, Nichols’ presence was a key component in the Hustle’s latest victory on the basketball floor.
Nichols’ 18 points, second to another former Memphis Tiger in Trahson Burrell’s 20 points, were key in the Hustle’s 101-98 victory over the Delaware 87ers Saturday at the Landers Center in Southaven.
“I’m continuing to learn more things and continue to transition from the college level,” said Nichols after the game. “Just learning how my teammates play is a huge part of it. If they know how I play, they can get me the ball, and I can get them the ball. It’s been a pretty smooth transition, but we’ve just got to focus on the next game.”
With the move of Ivan Rabb and Kobi Simmons up to the parent Memphis Grizzlies’ roster ahead of Saturday’s tipoff, coach Glynn Cyprien was expecting much of his forward, a player he recruited to the University of Memphis when Cyprien was an assistant to head coach Josh Pastner.
“I’m really proud of everybody who stepped in and played, especially Austin (Nichols),” Cyprien said. “I hadn’t played him this many minutes before, but I told him he was going to play a bunch of minutes and we’re going to come to him. I’m glad he really answered the call.”
Nichols’ 18 points came in 30 minutes of play on Saturday and he responded with 8-15 shooting, including one from three-point range. He was third to Omari Johnson and Burrell in rebounding with seven boards, six on the defensive glass.
“I think we put an emphasis on coming out on top and hitting them first,” Nichols said of a quick start that gave Memphis 59-45 halftime lead. “If they hit us first, that’s just going to be the pace and tempo of the game. We want to set the tempo.”
Coming off a two-game road trip to Agua Caliente, Calif. last week, Cyprien was also happy about the fast start, aware the trip's fatigue may become a factor later on in Saturday’s contest.
“I thought in the second half fatigue did set in, so it was important for us to get up early and get a lead early and I thought we did that,” Cyprien said. “I thought defensively we were pretty good. We got a little sluggish and casual in the second half but we made plays down the stretch when we needed to.”
Johnson finished with 17 points, Marquis Teague scored 15 and Dusty Hannahs came off the bench to net 11 points as the Hustle improved to 5-6 for the season.
Delaware was led by Christian Wood’s 27 points.
The Hustle are in Oklahoma City for a division game tonight against the Blue, but are back home at the Landers Center Saturday against Greenville (S.C) at 3 p.m. and a rematch with Oklahoma City on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.