Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tigers 76, Tennessee Tech 61

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 10:46 PM

On an election night when Tennessee remained red, FedExForum turned decidedly blue in support of a rookie college basketball coach. An announced crowd of 15,231 — the largest for a Memphis Tiger game since February 2016 — witnessed the program's first victory under the watch of Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. Senior forward Kyvon Davenport scored a career high 30 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the way while senior guard Jeremiah Martin contributed 18 points. Ten Tigers played at least 11 minutes to help Hardaway earn his first college win.
click to enlarge Kyvon Davenport - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Kyvon Davenport

"We're grateful and honored to be part of this era that we know will last a long time," said Martin after the game. "There's room for improvement. We have a lot of freshmen. But everything counts now. We seniors need to be there for [the freshmen]. We were locked in the first 15 minutes. If we can hold that for another 25 minutes, we'll be good."

Martin scored 10 of his points in the game's first five minutes, fueled by — and fueling — the raucous crowd. The Tigers led 22-10 not quite midway through the first half and weren't threatened the rest of the way, despite the Golden Eagles commanding the glass with 42 rebounds to the Tigers' 35. Memphis played at a frenetic pace, though, taking 74 shots (22 more than Tennessee Tech) and forcing 26 turnovers.

"Really crazy game, but we'll take the win," said Hardaway. "The first half was good, then everything went downhill. Our seniors stabilized us. Freshmen were being freshmen tonight. We'll continue to lean on Kyvon and Jeremiah, our senior leadership. We've been really hard on Kyvon in practice because he's pretty laid back. We know he's going to take care of business on the floor, but we need him more vocal. [He may not always get] 30 and 10, but he's a double-double machine."

The win is tantalizing, somewhat ironically, for all that was missing from the Tigers' attack. Still nursing a back ailment, Mike Parks didn't play, further tilting the frontcourt advantage to the Golden Eagles. Junior transfer Isaiah Maurice didn't make the impact he did in the Tigers' two exhibition wins (one field goal and three rebounds in 11 minutes). Freshmen sharpshooters Tyler Harris and David Wingett combined to miss all 10 of their three-point attempts. And foul trouble limited freshman swingman Antwann Jones to 12 minutes (three points, three rebounds). Improved play from any of these five will make the Tigers significantly more dangerous.
click to enlarge Penny Hardaway and Kareem Brewton - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway and Kareem Brewton

Senior guard Kareem Brewton came off the bench and finished a team-high +19 in 16 minutes with seven points and five steals. Freshman Alex Lomax scored eight points and led Memphis with four assists.

"We were six for 24 from three," noted Hardaway, "and they were open looks. They just didn't make them tonight. We're gonna make them. We need to go over our principles offensively and what we want defensively. We have a tough game [at LSU] on the road next week, and we need to prepare."

Hardaway said he still hasn't been hit with the pregame anxiety he anticipated with the arrival of his first season as a college coach. He attended the postgame press conference with a game ball signed by every player, a memento he intends to keep in his office at the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center. As for his sideline demeanor, the 47-year-old rookie looked like a seasoned veteran. "I stayed calm," he said. "We play a lot of freshmen, and you want them to stay calm. Not get over-excited. I'm gonna try and stay even-keeled, and not get too animated."

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