Playing in front of the largest home crowd of the season, totaling 4,822 youthful screaming fans during the Financial Literacy day game, excited the Memphis Hustle NBA G League basketball team, but it failed to excite an offense that has been among the best in the league during Wednesday morning’s 110-91 defeat at the hands of the Santa Cruz Warriors.
The loss dropped the Hustle to 17-15 for the season, which puts Memphis in sixth place in the conference standings, a half-game ahead of Agua Caliente and two-and-a-half games in back of fifth-place Stockton.
A team leading the G League in three-point shooting percentage (38.2 percent) and is third in offensive rating (110.6) was stymied by a Warriors’ team among the best on the defensive side of the court.
“They’re the number one team defensively in the league by a good spread,” said Hustle coach Brad Jones. “We try to prepare our guys for how they are going to play defensively. They really took us out, especially in the first half and in the second quarter when we scored 13 points.”
The anemic second-quarter total equalled a franchise season low established Jan. 7 against Canton and the Warriors took advantage. Santa Cruz turned a six-point first quarter edge into a 54-36 bulge at halftime.
While the Hustle kept pace in the second half, Memphis never led in the game as Santa Cruz carried the play from start to finish and pinned the Hustle with its third straight loss, including two losses to finish the team’s most recent road swing through Westchester (White Plains, N.Y.) and the Maine Red Claws in Portland, Maine last weekend.
A lack of offense has been overwhelming theme for the Hustle over those last three games, Jones said.
“We’ve tried to pick it apart and dissect it through film and through practice,” Jones said. “Our efficiency has been really low so it’s something we have to clean up and figure out because we’ve got to go back on the road and play a game this Saturday at Iowa.”
Memphis’ 91 points also marked a season-low for the team and it is the third straight game the team has been held below 100 points after being held below the century mark just once prior. Santa Cruz entered the game leading the league in defensive rating (98.0).
Grizzlies two-way player Yuta Watanabe led the Hustle with 18 points to go with four boards, three assists and three steals. Watanabe also knocked down 3-of-5 three-point attempts. Kyle Casey (14 points, nine rebounds) fell one rebound shy of a double-double.
After Iowa, the team returns to Landers Center on Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. to take on the Agua Caliente Clippers.
PREP HOOP HIGHLIGHTS: Among Tuesday’s high school basketball contests, Center Hill rebounded from its Friday district loss to Olive Branch with a 106-48 victory over Lake Cormorant. Calvin Temple led the 23-2 Mustangs with 29 points and Ken Lewis added 21 more. Northpoint Christian beat St. George’s of Collierville, Tenn. 57-28 behind 23 points from Jorden Flowers and 10 more from Dee Young. It was Olive Branch over Lewisburg 91-54, and Harding Academy edged Southaven 85-84.
Hernando outscored DeSoto Central 85-53 in a game rescheduled from Friday when postponed due to a scoreboard malfunction.
In the girls’ game that preceded the boys’ contest at Hernando, the Lady Tigers took a 49-38 decision from DeSoto Central, improving the Hernando record to 20-5. It is the first time Hernando girls have posted back-to-back 20-win seasons since 1999.
Amara McKay’s 24 points led Northpoint Christian to a 70-39 win over St. George’s of Collierville, Tenn. Lindley Gaines added 19 for the Lady Trojans.
Endya Buford, who has surpassed 1,000 career points, scored 22 for Olive Branch in a 89-12 victory over Lewisburg. Center Hill defeated Lake Cormorant 48-27 and it was Harding Academy over Southaven 39-37.
SOCCER KICKS: Second round play in the high school soccer playoffs will take place on Saturday for the Lewisburg and Center Hill boys’ and girls’ squads still playing.
The Lewisburg boys, however, are still waiting to determine who they will play Saturday in the second round of the 5A postseason, as their opponent will be either Grenada or Ridgeland.
That game has been rescheduled to be played Thursday with the winner to face Lewisburg in the second round two days later.
Center Hill, however, knows it will face Germantown in the 5A second round and will travel there for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday. Braden Taylor scored three goals and Ivan Gonzalez added two more in the 9-0 first round win over Cleveland Central Monday.
On the girls’ side, Lewisburg and Center Hill both advanced in the 5A first round on Monday. Lewisburg blasted Cleveland Central 12-0 while Center Hill shut out Choctaw Central 4-0 in a game played on Tuesday.
Mallory Gaines scored three goals and added an assist for the Lady Mustangs in their victory, which puts them into a second round meeting with Lafayette Saturday at Center Hill, starting at 3 p.m.
Claire Waldon and Katie Taylor each had three goals for Lewisburg in their win on Monday.
The Lady Patriots will travel to Saltillo for a second round match Saturday at 2 p.m.
MHSAA 6A teams from DeSoto County all failed to move on in first round play Monday and all four were shut out in their respective contests.
Hernando was blanked by Madison Central 4-0 while DeSoto Central lost to Northwest Rankin 8-0 on the boys’ side, while the Hernando girls were shut out by Northwest Rankin 10-0 and Southaven was stilled by Madison 3-0 Monday in their first-round matches.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.