Created on Thursday, 06 December 2012 Written by CLAY BAILEY,Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis coach Josh Pastner took a chance on signing junior guard Geron Johnson, a player with a troubled past who had been dismissed from two junior colleges.
Memphis' Geron Johnson (55) drives to the basket as Ohio's D.J. Cooper, left, falls to the floor as Memphis' Shaq Goodwin (5) looks on during first-half NCAA college basketball game action in Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Mark Weber)
Against Ohio on Wednesday night, Johnson paid dividends on Pastner's faith that he could help the player.
Johnson scored 21 points, and Shaq Goodwin added 20 points and nine rebounds to lead Memphis to an 84-58 victory over Ohio.
Johnson was 8 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 5 outside the arc, while Goodwin connected on 6 of 8 shots, helping Memphis (5-2) shoot 50.8 percent for the game (32 of 63).
Johnson, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, has had several run-ins with the law and was kicked off two junior college teams, the last in February.
Pastner still brought Johnson in with a warning that he had little margin for error. While there have been minor problems, the Memphis coach expressed optimism in Johnson's future based on the player's performance so far.
"Geron has made some mistakes, and part of the mistakes he made was he was being a follower," Pastner said. "He needs structure and discipline in his life. I'm not saying we're any miracle workers. The atmosphere of college has given him that (structure)."
D.J. Cooper led the Bobcats (6-2) with 19 points and four assists, and Jon Smith finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Ohio lost its second in a row after opening the season 6-0, with all six wins coming at home.
Antonio Barton added 11 points for Memphis, and Joe Jackson had 10 points and five assists.
Ohio shot only 37.5 percent on the night (21 of 56) and committed 17 turnovers compared to nine for Memphis.
"For 12 minutes, the first 12 minutes of the game, we really came out and played the way we came to play," Ohio coach Jim Christian said.
Ohio held a six-point lead early in the first half, but Memphis composed a 13-0 run to overtake the Bobcats for a 29-20 lead.
That led to Memphis holding a 36-28 advantage at the break.
The Tigers missed their first eight shots from the field, but Johnson, who scored 13 in the first half, provided a burst of energy with help from Barton. They combined for 10 points in the rally.
Johnson said when he entered the game, his mindset was to help "my team get this victory. ... That means anything it takes — defense, offense, whatever it takes."
Memphis connected on 13 of 24 shots after its early misfires and caused nine Ohio turnovers in the first half, five of them in a stretch of just over 4 minutes when Memphis made its 13-0 run.
None of the Bobcats were in double figures at the break. Cooper and Ivo Baltic both had six points to lead Ohio.
Goodwin took over immediately after halftime.
He scored 10 straight points to start the second half, and he missed one reverse dunk that came out.
That extended Memphis' lead to 46-34 before Christian called a timeout.
Cooper was trying to keep the Bobcats close, connecting from outside the arc. Memphis continued extending the lead, however, eventually reaching 67-47 after Jackson's layup following a steal — the Bobcats' 13th turnover in the game.
"If you let them build confidence by turning the ball over in the open floor, it leads to layups and dunks," Christian said of his team's shortcomings. ". In the second half, they are going to have a little more confidence because we didn't stop them. Now, they're hitting 3s, and that's what happens in basketball."
The Tigers held their biggest lead of 26 points late in the game.
"We played with really good energy," Pastner said. "We've practiced well. We've had good energy. We're not going to be a methodical, perfect team. We're going to be a little sloppy here and there."
And he also said he realizes that Johnson, despite his past, is helping the team and helping himself.
"There's nothing wrong with using basketball as an avenue to help you get better in life," Pastner said.