The Memphis Hustle return to the court after having 9 days off since their matchup against the Mexico City Capitanes. Before the game, Jason March told me that they didn’t get too crazy in practice with the time off but instead focused on cleaning a few things up and their execution while mostly just wanting to get reps and build chemistry. The Hustle were benefited by a couple of simulated games with the Grizzlies assignment guys, who are all available for tonight’s contest against the Texas Legends.
Sam Merrill, Jarrett Culver, Santi Aldama, Killian Tillie and Yves Pons spent a couple of early afternoons over the last 9 days participating in simulated games with the Hustle squad and Jason March hopes those reps together helps build chemistry and has them ready for tonight.
Meanwhile the Texas Legends come into Southaven after a 4-0 start to the season with wins over the Lakeland Magic and the Birmingham Squadron. The Hustle will have their hands full with the Legends leading scorers in Carlik Jones and Justin Jackson, with two-way players JaQuori McLuaghlin and Eugene Omoruyi playing key offensive roles as well. Fortunately for the Hustle, assignment players Josh Green and Moses Brown were recalled by the Mavericks prior to tonight’s game. The Hustle luck continued with Justin Jackson being a late scratch from the game as the Legends lose their second-leading scorer.
It was an action packed opening quarter as the teams stayed within a possession of one another throughout a majority of the first quarter. The Hustle relied on the 3-point shot early while the Legends attacked the basket to get going offensively. Neither team could pull away, or really get a stop defensively as the Legends ultimately finished the first with a 27-25 lead over the Hustle.
The Hustle relied on the 3-point shot to start the second quarter but from an unlikely player. Yves Pons hit two triples early in the quarter to help tie things up in the opening minutes. The defensive intensity picked up in the second as both teams struggled to really get anything going on the offensive end. The Hustle were able to re-take a slim lead thanks in large part to Santi Aldama and Sam Merrill hitting some big buckets. Things got heated in the final minutes of the first half as Euguene Omoruyi and Shaq Buchanan started jawing at each other. After a rather ordinary shot falling out of bounds, Omoruyi had something to say to Shaq prompting a tech, Shaq didn’t take too kindly to whatever Omoruyi said responded while Omoruyi started to square Shaq up. The sequence ultimately led to Shaq picking up a tech and Omoruyi being disqualified from the remainder of the game. The altercation overshadowed the remainder of the first half, where the Hustle ultimately walked away with a 48-46 lead.
Sam Merrill (12 points) and Yves Pons (10 points) paced the Hustle offense to the lead, while the well-balanced scoring effort from the Legends (7 players in the scoring column) kept them in things. It wasn’t the best shooting effort from either team as they both shot 34% from the field in the first half but the Hustle taking, and making, more triples helped propel them to the halftime lead.
The Hustle came out of the halftime break locked in and jumped out to an 11-2 run to grab the first double-digit lead of the game in the opening minutes of the second half. Culver helped spark the run with two triples. The Hustle were able to maintain their double digit lead throughout most of the 3rd, but couldn’t extend it past 15. The Hustle started getting careless with the ball in the final minutes of the 3rd and it allowed the Legends to come back and cut the Hustle lead down to 5 in the final minute of the quarter. The Hustle saw their 15 point lead cut to 82-77 at the end of the 3rd with the Legends carrying momentum into the final quarter.
The Hustle were able to respond and opened the 4th quarter on a 6-2 run to establish a 9 point lead. The Hustle couldn’t put the Legends away though as they were able to cut back into the Hustle lead. It was a sloppy 4th quarter for the Hustle as the Legends were able to take a late lead in the final 4 minutes of the game. The Hustle were able to retake a lead in the final two minutes behind back-to-back triples by Sam Merrill to give them a 5 point lead with a minute and a half left.
Sam Merrill and Jarrett Culver dominated the final two minutes of the game to give the Hustle the 106-100 win over the Texas Legends. It was a big game from the Grizzlies assignment players who combined to score 86 of the Hustle 106 points.
The Hustle will return to action Thursday night where they’ll host the Texas Legends for the second game of their mini-series for the Showcase Cup.