Sunday, March 8, 2020

#21 Houston 64, Tigers 57

Posted By on Sun, Mar 8, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Quentin Grimes took over for the Houston Cougars Saturday afternoon, scoring eight straight points midway through the second half to erase a two-point (41-39) Tiger lead. The transfer from Kansas (Grimes played for the Jayhawks last season) scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to put the Cougars (23-8) in position to win the American Athletic Conference's regular-season championship (with a Tulsa loss Sunday). The Tigers dropped to 21-10 (10-8 in the AAC) and will receive a bye in next week's conference tourney only if Connecticut and Wichita State both lose Sunday.

Despite missing 12 of their first 14 shots, the Tigers led at halftime (30-26) and well into the second half before Grimes found his range from long distance. Precious Achiuwa established a new record for Memphis freshmen with his 18th double-double (25 points and 14 rebounds) and moved within 11 points of becoming the 10th Tiger freshman to score 500. But he had little offensive support. Only Lester Quinones scored as many as 10 points among Achiuwa's teammates and Memphis only got nine points from its bench.

The Tigers will likely have to reach the AAC tourney final for any consideration of an NCAA tournament berth. (The league champion receives an automatic bid.) Unless they receive a bye, the Tigers' opening game in Fort Worth will be on Thursday.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Tigers 68, Wichita State 60

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2020 at 11:36 PM

If Precious Achiuwa played his final home game as a Memphis Tiger Thursday night, he delivered a happy parting gift to the FedExForum faithful. The freshman small forward — one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Award — scored 14 points and pulled down 16 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season, matching the freshman total of Tiger great Keith Lee. Along with a season-high 19 points from Tyler Harris, Achiuwa's performance sparked Memphis to a win over Wichita State that keeps NCAA tournament hopes alive and sets up the Tigers for a possible bye into the quarterfinals of next week's American Athletic Conference tourney. The U of M improved to 21-9 on the season (10-7 in the AAC), while the Shockers dropped to 22-8 (10-7).
Precious Achiuwa - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Precious Achiuwa

"I'm very proud of the team tonight," said Memphis coach Penny Hardaway. "They stuck to the game plan for 40 minutes and made it really hard for Wichita State. A total team effort. The bench came in and played phenomenal. We didn't start strong, but the bench calmed things down and we stayed in control for the rest of the game. Only seven turnovers . . . that was major for us."

The Tigers didn't score until Lance Thomas hit a three-pointer four minutes into the game. But a 13-0 run erased a 7-0 Shocker lead and the Tigers built a nine-point cushion before settling for a 29-24 halftime advantage (courtesy of a Harris trey at the buzzer).

Harris hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the second half to give the Tigers a 12-point lead (54-42). By the time Achiuwa threw down dunks on consecutive possessions (the latter at the 5:00 mark), the game was all but decided.

"We talked about taking care of the ball, and getting back on defense," said Achiuwa. "Keeping it simple, playing solid."

"It was a must-win," added Harris. "Everybody was locked in."

On a night Isaiah Maurice was saluted as the team's only departing senior, Achiuwa deflected a question about the possibility of his own departure. "I'm focused on finishing out the season," he said, "and putting my team in a position to achieve our goals."

Goals are easier to achieve when turnovers are limited and your opponent shoots merely 34 percent from the field (and 26 percent from long range). "They did a great job of pressing our guards," said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. "We had chances, but we could never make the play to put pressure on them."

The win avenges a Tiger loss at Wichita State two months ago and sets up a showdown at Houston Sunday. Should Memphis beat the Cougars, the Tigers will secure fourth place in the AAC standings and that precious bye in the opening round of the league tournament at Fort Worth. Houston lost to Connecticut Thursday night and will enter the game with a record of 22-8 (12-5).

With news hovering around the program about an independent infractions investigation (related to James Wiseman's suspension and his playing three games last November), Hardaway welcomed the win as reinforcement of the mission he continues to sell. "We're going to keep going, no matter what," he emphasized. "Nothing's going to stop us from understanding what we're trying to do. This is a family. We've supported each other through everything we've gone through this year. We're not going to stop now."

Sunday's game at Houston is scheduled to tip-off at 11 a.m. and will be televised on CBS.

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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tigers 74, Tulane 67 (OT)

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2020 at 2:41 PM

The Tigers connected on 12 of 14 free throws in overtime to escape with a win Saturday night at Tulane. Memphis improved to 20-9 on the season and 9-7 in the American Athletic Conference, keeping hopes alive for a bye in the upcoming AAC tournament in Fort Worth.

The Tigers held what appeared to be a comfortable lead (57-49) with five minutes remaining in regulation, but scored only three more points — courtesy of a Tyler Harris trey — before the final buzzer. A goaltending call against Tiger forward Precious Achiuwa allowed the Green Wave to tie the game at 60 and force the extra session. Achiuwa had what could be considered his finest game of the season: 22 points and 22 rebounds for his 16th double-double. But the star freshman missed four free throws inside the game's final two minutes, any one of which would have secured a Tiger victory without five extra minutes of play. He hit three of four free throws in overtime.

Boogie Ellis added 11 points for Memphis and Harris scored 12 off the bench. Christion Thompson scored 30 points for the Green Wave as Tulane dropped to 12-17 (4-13).

The Tigers could earn a top-four seed in the AAC tournament by winning their final two regular-season games. They will host Wichita State Thursday night (8 p.m.) with hopes of avenging a 76-67 loss in Kansas on January 9th. The Tigers will then finish the regular season at Houston on March 8th. Memphis evened its record away from FedExForum at 6-6 with Saturday night's win.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

SMU 58, Tigers 53

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2020 at 11:37 PM

The Tigers' modest two-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night at SMU. Despite shooting merely 34 percent from the field — typical of Memphis opponents this season — the Mustangs improved to 19-8 for the season and moved ahead of the Tigers by one game in the American Athletic Conference with a league record of 9-6. At 8-7, Memphis is now sixth in the 12-team league and 19-9 overall.

The Tigers fell behind by 12 (32-20) at halftime, but scored the first 10 points of the second half. Sloppy possessions, though, proved the Tigers' undoing. They committed 21 turnovers, their highest total in six games. Both teams shot miserably from long distance, Memphis going five for 21 and SMU two for 21, but the Mustangs connected on 18 of 22 free throws while the Tigers made 12 of 14 from the charity stripe.

Tyson Jolly led SMU with 13 points, while Precious Achiuwa (17) and Lester Quinones (16) were the only Tigers to reach double figures in the scoring column. Memphis received a total of nine points from its bench.

The Tigers travel to New Orleans to face Tulane Saturday night. Memphis beat the Green Wave at FedExForum, 84-73, on December 30th.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Tigers 60, #22 Houston 59

Posted By on Sat, Feb 22, 2020 at 5:17 PM

Defense and free throws.

From youth leagues to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, coaches emphasize two of basketball's decidedly unsexy elements when trying to squeeze a win out of an overmatched (on paper) team. Saturday afternoon at FedExForum, Penny Hardaway's Tigers excelled at both to upset the 22nd-ranked Houston Cougars, leaders of the American Athletic Conference.
Lester Quinones - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lester Quinones

Precious Achiuwa
hit one of two free throws with 28.6 seconds remaining to give Memphis a 60-59 lead. Then with five seconds left, Cougar guard Caleb Mills missed a jump shot from 18 feet, Achiuwa's right hand in his face. Tiger guard Alex Lomax stripped the loose rebound from the hands of a Houston player only to have it deflected out of bounds — last touched by a Cougar — with three-tenths of a second on the clock. A long inbounds pass was all that remained to secure the Tigers' biggest win of 2020, a victory that improved the U of M record to 19-8 (8-6 in the AAC).

"I feel like, for 40 minutes, we showed who we were, and who we could be," said Hardaway. "We only scored 60 points, but the shots we got were quality shots. We did all the tough things to win this game. I'm very proud of them."

The Tigers only scored two field goals over the game's final four minutes (both of them dunks by Malcolm Dandridge, who finished with a season-high 12 points). But the Tigers held Houston to a single field goal over the same stretch (a Mills bucket on his way to a game-high 21 points) and hit five of six free throws (Lomax and Lester Quinones making two each). For the game, Memphis converted 21 of 30 shots from the foul line while Houston made 9 of 12. "That's the way it is on the road sometimes," said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars fell to 21-7 (11-4).

It wasn't pretty basketball. The Tigers didn't score over the game's first six minutes, but by stifling Houston shooters, they kept the score low and tied things up at 10 midway through the first half. Memphis led at halftime, 27-23, despite no player having scored as many as three field goals.

Cougar point guard Marcus Sasser scored seven points during a late Houston run that put Memphis behind, 54-51, with 3:30 left to play. And that's when the Tiger defense rose, forcing three misses (two by Mills) in the game's closing minutes.

"Our mindset was defense today," emphasized Lomax. "We've been working so hard. I'm so glad we came together as a team, a brotherhood, for the coaches and the city. We owed them this [win]."

"It's a confidence-booster for sure," added Tiger guard Tyler Harris, who scored ten points and hit a pair of treys. "Going into these last few games, we'll have a different swagger."
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway
How important were the Tiger free throws? Achiuwa and Quinones each missed eight of the nine shots they took from the field. But Achiuwa converted eight of his 12 free throws (to finish with 10 points) and Quinones all eight of his (to finish with 10 himself).

The Tigers committed only eight turnovers, their lowest total of the season, and held Houston to 35-percent shooting. There was, quite literally, no margin for error.

"We switched some things up [at halftime] to get into the pain more," said Hardaway. "Credit to the guys for getting in there and making things happen. Every free throw was needed. I'm relieved. I'm glad the guys can see the other side of it. We've been losing some heartbreakers at the end. A lot of it self-inflicting wounds. We steadied the ship and got a win."

As for defense becoming his team's calling card, Hardaway considers it a welcome surprise. "It's ironic — or weird, to be more exact — for a freshman-laden team to be one of the best defensive teams in the country," he said. "For that to be us, right now, it feels good. Of course we'd want more points. But you're gonna win championships and win games with defense. We've gotten stops in other games, but just couldn't bring it home. To finish the game with three stops is great."

Three of the Tigers' last four regular-season games will be played on the road, starting Tuesday night at SMU. The Mustangs came back late to beat Memphis, 74-70, on January 25th at FedExForum.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tigers 77, East Carolina 73

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 9:43 PM

A win is never ugly when it ends a three-game losing streak.

The Tigers witnessed the evaporation of a 16-point lead over a ten-minute stretch of the second half Wednesday night at FedExForum, but managed to prevail courtesy of two late shots by Boogie Ellis and Precious Achiuwa's 15th double-double of his freshman season. Memphis improved to 18-8 on the season and 7-6 in the American Athletic Conference while East Carolina dropped to 10-17 (4-10).
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Boogie Ellis

"It seems like once we get a lead, guys start trying things," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway, who notched the 40th win of his two-year career (matching Tubby's Smith's two seasons in Memphis). "I hope we're learning [from games like this], and can finish stronger. But I'm very happy to get a win. It doesn't matter if it's by one or by thirty. Just getting a win is statement enough. It's tough to win in this league."

The Tigers had an unusually strong start, taking a 20-8 lead midway through the first half. Even with Pirate star Jayden Gardner held to four points, ECU managed to close the deficit to six (33-27) by the break. Back-to-back three-pointers by Ellis and Lance Thomas gave the Tigers that 16-point cushion (49-33) with just over 16 minutes left in the game, but the Pirates enjoyed a 27-11 run to tie the game at 60 with 6:20 remaining on the clock.

Gardner tied the game at 69 with a jumper at the 2:15 mark, but Ellis banked in a leaner on the Tigers' ensuing possession. An Achiuwa layup and a pair of Thomas free throws provided enough for Memphis to earn its first win in two weeks.

"Around five minutes [to play], I reminded the guys that it's winning time," said Achiuwa who finished with 24 points (on 9-of-13 shooting) and 12 rebounds. "We have to figure out a way to win these games. We can't use the same excuses this late in the season. It's a time for freshmen to become sophomores. Everybody was desperate down the stretch."

"I just went with the flow of the game," said Ellis when asked about his decisive late-game field goals. Coach [Hardaway] trusts me, with the hard work I've been putting in at the gym." Ellis hit four of seven three-point attempts and scored 17 points.

The Tigers missed 13 of 31 free throws, but clamped down on the defensive end, holding ECU to 20 percent (4 for 20) from long range. Tristen Newton led the Pirates with  23 points and Gardner finished with 16.

The Tigers kept turnovers to a minimum (13) and handed out 15 assists.

"We've had opportunities to win games, with big leads that we've relinquished at home," acknowledged Hardaway. "It's frustrating. We know when we get a lead how we got it. The coaches are saying to take the high-percentage shot, make the right pass. Guys start looking for more." He pointed out that Achiuwa is one who emphasizes simplicity, getting a stop when needed. Despite two first-half fouls, Achiuwa played 33 minutes and was, indeed, on the floor for "winning time."

Memphis returns to action Saturday afternoon when Houston — leader of the AAC — comes to town. The Cougars are 21-6 and 11-3 in league play.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2020 Memphis Tigers Football Schedule

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 1:12 PM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Sept. 12 — at Purdue
Sept. 19 — HOUSTON *
Sept. 26 — at UTSA
Oct. 1 — at SMU *
Oct. 16 — UCF *
Oct. 24 — TEMPLE *
Oct. 31 — at Cincinnati *
Nov. 7 — USF *
Nov. 14 — at Navy *
Nov. 21 — UT MARTIN
Nov. 28 — at Tulane *
Dec. 5 — AAC Championship Game

* AAC game

Monday, February 17, 2020

Tigers' Top 10 Individual Seasons

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 9:07 AM

With the University of Memphis marking a centennial of basketball, the time is right for a look at the 10 greatest individual seasons in program history. Here they are.

10) Dajuan Wagner (2001-02) — Wagner's abbreviated NBA career has left him somewhat of a footnote in the sport's history, but his one college season was memorable for two reasons. His 762 points are the most ever scored by a Memphis player in one campaign and he finished the season raising a "national championship" trophy, having led the Tigers to victory in the NIT at Madison Square Garden.

9) Jeremiah Martin (2018-19) — Until Martin's senior season, seven Memphis players had scored 40 points in a game, but no one had done so twice. Martin scored 40 points twice in the month of February (the first time in a single half). A player who averaged 2.7 points as a freshman became just the fifth Tiger to score 700 points in a season.
Larry Kenon - U OF M ATHLETICS
  • U of M Athletics
  • Larry Kenon

8) Andre Turner (1985-86)
— The Little General averaged 7.7 assists per game in the first season After Keith Lee. In the 34 years since, no Tiger has averaged as many as 7.0 and only two have hit the 6.0 mark (Penny Hardaway and Chris Garner). Turner also averaged 13.9 points, joined the 1,000-point club, and helped the Tigers to a fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

7) Forest Arnold (1955-56) — Arnold is one of only two Tigers to rank among the program's top 10 in both scoring average (21.2, seventh) and rebounding average (13.5, fourth) from the same season. His 46 points against Hardin-Simmons on December 7, 1955, are the second-most for a single game in Memphis history. (Larry Finch scored 48 in a 1973 game.)

6) Chris Douglas-Roberts (2007-08) — CDR became only the third Memphis player to earn first-team All-America honors from the AP and did so sharing the floor with a man (Derrick Rose) who would be the top pick in the 2008 NBA draft. His 724 points rank third in Tiger history and he might be even higher on this last had he not missed a pair of late free throws in the national championship against Kansas.

5) Win Wilfong (1956-57) — Wilfong averaged 21.0 points and 12.4 rebounds (63 years later, both figures rank among the Tigers' top 10). He led Memphis State to the NIT final and earned MVP honors with 31 points despite the Tigers' loss to Bradley. Converse named him first-team All-America.

4) Keith Lee (1984-85) — You could really take your pick from Lee's four Tiger seasons, but we'll go with his senior campaign, one that earned the West Memphis native first-team All-America recognition from the AP. Lee averaged 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in leading the Tigers to the first 30-win season in program history and their second Final Four appearance.

3) Larry Finch (1972-73) — To this day, no Tiger has averaged more than Finch's 24.0 points per game over the course of a season. (Finch's 23.9 average from the 1971-72 campaign ranks second.) I've heard it said by several that he would have averaged 30 points with a three-point line. He was the first Tiger to top 700 points for a season, capped off by 29 against UCLA in the national championship.

2) Penny Hardaway (1992-93) — Hardaway broke his coach's single-season scoring record with 729 points while also becoming just the second Tiger to dish out 200 assists in a season. Over three days in early January, Hardaway became the first (and still only) Tiger to post two triple-doubles. He was named first-team All-America by the AP, only the second Tiger to be so honored.

1) Larry Kenon (1972-73) — Kenon is the only Tiger player to have his jersey number retired for only one season of actually wearing it. And that season was good enough to top this list. Kenon is the only Tiger to pull down as many as 400 rebounds in a season, and he had 501. (Ronnie Robinson's junior and sophomore seasons are second and fourth on the chart, respectively, but his senior year, Kenon pulled down anything round or orange.) Kenon had 25 double-doubles in 30 games, averaging 20.1 points and 16.7 rebounds. As great as Finch and Robinson were, those Tigers don't reach the Final Four without Larry Kenon.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Connecticut 64, Tigers 61

Posted By on Sun, Feb 16, 2020 at 4:40 PM

The Tigers scored nine points in the final minute of their game at UConn's XL Center Sunday afternoon. And it wasn't enough. It's been that kind of season.

UConn guard James Bouknight hit a jump shot and converted a three-point play on consecutive possessions to give the Huskies a 55-50 lead with just over three minutes to play. He later scored on an offensive rebound to make the score 58-52 before the Tigers' comeback effort.

Precious Achiuwa
scored six points and Tyler Harris it a three-pointer to pull the Tigers within a point (62-61) but with only 1.9 seconds left on the clock. Christian Vital hit a pair of free throws to clinch the win and extend the Tigers' losing streak to three games. Memphis is now 17-8 on the season and an even 6-6 in American Athletic Conference competition. The Huskies improved to 14-11 (5-7) despite losing center Akok Akok to a left Achilles heel injury in the game's first minute.

Achiuwa finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. Harris hit four three-pointers and scored 16 points off the bench for Memphis. Vital led UConn with 23 points while Bouknight added 17.

Memphis led early and took a 47-45 lead on a Harris trey with 7:40 left to play, but the Huskies answered, earning the win despite shooting 32 percent from the field. (They pulled down 16 offensive rebounds.)

The Tigers return home Wednesday when they'll host East Carolina at FedExForum. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Cincinnati 92, Tigers 86 (OT)

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 8:53 PM

The Tigers' diminishing chances for an NCAA tournament berth took a cruel hit Thursday night in Cincinnati. The Bearcats scored eight of the first nine points in overtime to pull away and complete a comeback victory. Memphis falls to 17-7 with the loss and is now 6-5 in the American Athletic Conference, while Cincinnati improves to 16-8 (9-3). The win avenges a loss the Bearcats suffered at FedExForum on January 16th.

The Tigers had a nine-point lead (63-54) with just over six minutes to play and led by five (68-63) with three minutes remaining. But Alex Lomax and Precious Achiuwa each missed a critical free throw and the Tigers surrendered multiple offensive rebounds, allowing Cincinnati to tie the game on a pair of Tre Scott free throws with 10 seconds left. Lomax drove for a game-winning layup as time expired but had the shot blocked from behind.

Precious Achiuwa scored 22 points (all but two in the second half) and, with 15 rebounds, posted his 13th double-double of the season. He fouled out, though, early in overtime. Boogie Ellis added 16 points and Lester Quinones 15 for Memphis.

Scott led Cincinnati with 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Now 5-4 away from FedExForum, the Tigers travel to Connecticut to face the Huskies on Sunday afternoon. They'll return to FedExForum next Wednesday to host East Carolina.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

USF 75, Tigers 73

Posted By on Sat, Feb 8, 2020 at 7:06 PM

The Tigers' climb toward an NCAA tournament berth grew considerably steeper Saturday afternoon with a loss to the USF Bulls at FedExForum. Down a pair of forwards for most of the game (one for the entire game), Memphis surrendered 41 rebounds (15 at the offensive end) while pulling down only 29, a factor significant enough for USF to earn its third straight win and improve to 11-12 for the season (4-6 in the American Athletic Conference). The loss ends a three-game winning streak for the Tigers and drops them to 17-6 (6-4).
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Boogie Ellis

"You gotta tip your hat to South Florida," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway. "They came into our building and got a tough win. I had an eerie feeling before the game. They were just hungry to do whatever it takes. We got into foul trouble in the first half, and that started our downfall. We never got into a rhythm. Guys not being able to play aggressively. A total embarrassment today."

The Tigers erased a nine-point deficit over a two-minute span late in the game, with a pair of three pointers by Alex Lomax and a four-point play by Boogie Ellis. But Bulls forward David Collins made a layup in traffic then followed with a short bank shot to give USF a four-point advantage (72-68) with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. Xavier Castaneda made three free throws inside the game's final ten seconds to secure the upset. Collins and Laquincy Rideau each scored a game-high 21 points for the Bulls.

"It's Memphis and they're a national brand," said Bulls coach Brian Gregory. "Our kids are competitive. We've lost some of these games, not being able to finish. But I think we've learned from that."

"That's a team that makes tough shots at the right time," said Lomax. "They don't have a good record, but that's a good team."

Tiger forward Precious Achiuwa scored six points in the game's first three minutes only to sit for the final 12 minutes of the first half with two fouls. With freshman center Malcolm Dandridge sidelined by what a team official described as a minor knee injury, Hardaway found himself going "small ball" early. The Tigers scrapped their way to a 34-31 halftime lead courtesy of a Tyler Harris three-pointer just before the break.

Achiuwa struggled to make an impact in the second half (missing all four of his shots from the field), then missed the game's final few minutes after a hard fall under the USF basket. Likewise, Lance Thomas had to leave the game with an injury. (Hardaway was unable to provide updates on either player during his postgame press conference.)

"Our Achilles heel is one-on-one defense," acknowledged Hardaway. "At the end of the game, we weren't able to get any stops. They got two one-on-one buckets. That's where you have to grow."

Harris led Memphis in the scoring column with 17 points (he hit five of seven shots from three-point range). Lomax scored 14 off the bench and Ellis hit five of seven shots for 14 points himself.

"Everything happens for a reason," said Hardaway. "I don't know why these injuries are happening now, or why we're losing games we're not supposed to lose. I'm always going to have faith; I'll never let that waiver. But for Precious and Lance to both get hurt . . . that took our size away."

The Tigers must now play four of their next six games on the road with virtually no margin for error. What kind of message will Hardaway send his young — and yes, injured — team? "Stay positive and stay together," he emphasized. "We're going to keep fighting. That's what our culture is. We're a family. That's all we can do. Right now, it's tough. But it's not impossible."

The Tigers travel to Cincinnati for their next game Thursday night and will face UConn on the road next Sunday. They return to FedExForum to host East Carolina on February 19th.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Tigers 79, Temple 65

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2020 at 10:40 PM

Precious Achiuwa - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Precious Achiuwa

Memphis forward Precious Achiuwa had a succinct answer when asked Wednesday night what factor helped the Tigers reduce their turnovers in a win over Temple. For the 16th time in 22 games this season, Memphis accumulated more turnovers (16) than assists (15), but the miscues were down significantly from the 24 Saturday afternoon against Connecticut. With solid shooting both from long range (42 percent) and from the free-throw line (79 percent), the Tigers enjoyed their largest margin of victory since December 28th to improve to 17-5. Now midway through their American Athletic Conference schedule, the Tigers are 6-3 in league play.

"That's a good win for us, against a veteran team in our league," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway after his team's third straight victory. "It's not always pretty but the boys found ways to get spurts. We finally put a team away. It wasn't as desperate as it's been [recently]."

Hardaway called the game the most balanced his team has played against an AAC foe this season. Achiuwa notched his 12th double-double of the season (13 points, 10 rebounds), but the finalist for the Julius Erving Award played a supplementary role, with Lester Quinones hitting four three-pointers on his way to 21 points, Boogie Ellis making all eight of his free throws on his way to 18 points, and Malcolm Dandridge scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.

"Before the game, [Hardaway] told me to shoot every time I'm open. When they moved to a zone, it kind of helped. He wanted to come out and dominate tonight. He really wanted to put them away."

In addition to the push-up penalties, Quinones noted a collective effort at making the smart pass over the fancy pass to reduce turnovers. "We did a good job at staying calm," he said, "and relaxing. If they double-team, find the open man. None of those over-the-top passes."
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

The Tigers led by eight points (33-25) at halftime and stretched the lead to double figures before the midway point of the second half on a Dandridge field goal in traffic. An Achiuwa dunk extended the margin to 15 points (58-43) with just over eight minutes to play and Temple never managed to threaten.

Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis led the Owls with 13 points each. Temple fell to 11-11 (3-7) with the loss.

"They're respecting the conference more now," noted Hardaway. "These kids had no respect for the conference; I could just tell. The league is making them respect. They're buying in more, because they thought it was going to be really easy. It's been much harder than they thought [it would be]. Every game is a tournament game for us now. You gotta protect home court. You can't be giving any more games away. They understand. They know these are resume games coming up."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Tigers 70, Connecticut 63

Posted By on Sat, Feb 1, 2020 at 3:54 PM

A season of adversity for the Tigers took another twist, quite literally, Thursday when starting forward D.J. Jeffries — the team's second-leading scorer — partially tore a ligament in his left knee, sidelining him for at least a month. When Jayden Hardaway started in Jeffries's place Saturday afternoon against UConn, you got the sense coach Penny Hardaway was doing the closest thing he could to taking the floor himself.
Lester Quinones - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lester Quinones

The younger Hardaway only played seven minutes, and didn't take a shot, but the Tigers won a sloppy affair, hitting 10 straight free throws in the game's final two minutes to pull away for a victory despite committing 24 turnovers. The Huskies attempted 20 more shots from the field than did the Tigers (65-45), but committed 20 turnovers of their own. Perhaps the home court — "an incredibly tough place to play" as described by UConn coach Danny Hurley — was enough to make the difference as the Tigers improved to 16-5 for the season and 5-3 in he American Athletic Conference.

"We can still compete," emphasized sophomore guard Alex Lomax, who scored 13 points and hit six of those late free throws. "We're missing some key pieces, but Coach did a great job of putting this team together. If we stay locked in, we can do anything."

"Crazy game," said an exasperated Hardaway after the game. "Glad to get a win. These turnovers are really disappointing. You gotta keep motivating. The boys are rallying together. The mindset right now is every game is a big game. It's getting close to seeding for the NCAA [tournament]. You gotta win out, do everything possible to get a win."

The game featured 14 lead changes, the final one coming on a Lester Quinones three-pointer from the right corner with 2:30 left to play that put Memphis up 59-56. Having missed five games earlier this season with a broken hand, Quinones led Memphis with 36 minutes of action and scored 14 points. He acknowledged the loss of Jeffries as a setback, but didn't consider it a deathblow for his team's season.

"He's a huge part of this puzzle, this team," said Quinones of Jeffries. "When I was out, the team came together. It's another way for us to come together."

Lance Thomas started his second-straight game and scored 14 points while blocking five shots on the defensive end. Precious Achiuwa scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds, but was also responsible for a third of the Tigers' turnovers (8). The sloppy play was offset by the Tigers making 21 of 27 from the foul line and seven of 14 shots from three-point range.

"We've been through everything you can go through," noted Hardaway. "We're fighting. These guys are scrapping. I'm proud of the effort." The coach explained how energy needs to be turned up at times and harnessed at others, that tempo is a must for this team . . . until slower play is necessary to protect possessions. The Tigers' chemistry is volatile at best, with 10 regular-season games left to play.

"If you're at a major Division-I program right now and you don't understand the magnitude of what's going on, then this level's too high," said Hardaway. "They came to a major D-I program to take it over the hump. The pressure's not on them; it's on the coaches. They're young. It's our job to get them prepared, to get them ready."

The Tigers return to FedExForum Wednesday when they host Temple. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Tigers 59, UCF 57

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 8:13 PM

Lance Thomas became a Memphis Tiger Wednesday night in Orlando.

After sitting out the 2018-19 season following his transfer from Louisville, the sophomore forward spent 19 games trying to find traction with a role in coach Penny Hardaway's rotation. Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in over two months, Thomas scored a career-high 20 points and connected on two critical three-pointers in the game's final three minutes to help Memphis beat the Knights and end a two-game losing streak. (Thomas's previous scoring high: 11 points.)

With the win, the Tigers improved to 15-5 on the season and 4-3 in the American Athletic Conference. UCF fell to 11-9 (2-6).

Boogie Ellis returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for four games and contributed 13 points for Memphis. Freshman forward Precious Achiuwa missed his first four shots but finished the game with his 11th double-double of the season (18 points and 13 rebounds).

The Tigers were again prone to turnovers, yielding the ball on 17 possessions. But they shot 44 percent from the field and out-rebounded UCF, 38-27. The Tigers only got six points from reserves in the victory. Sophomores Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris saw limited minutes and did not score.

Memphis hosts its next three games over the first eight days in February, starting Saturday when Connecticut (11-9) visits FedExForum. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

SMU 74, #20 Tigers 70

Posted By on Sat, Jan 25, 2020 at 6:53 PM

The Tigers played 40 minutes of basketball in recovery mode Saturday afternoon at FedExForum. Three days after one of the ugliest losses in program history — a 40-point dismantling at Tulsa — the Tigers led SMU for 36:12 of those 40 minutes . . . and lost.

Mustang guard Isiaha Mike connected on two key field goals (one a three-pointer) during a 15-0 scoring run over the game's final six minutes to steal the victory for SMU. The Tigers failed to score a point after a D.J. Jeffries dunk gave them a 70-59 lead with 6:01 to play. Turnovers on three consecutive possessions contributed to the collapse, and a three-point attempt to tie the game by Precious Achiuwa — following a steal with 11 seconds left — didn't reach the rim. The Tigers fell to 14-5 with the loss and are now break-even (3-3) in American Athletic Conference play. SMU improved to 15-4 (5-2).
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Boogie Ellis

"In the last seven minutes," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway, "we went from a team that was not turning the ball over and playing pretty good defense to a team that started turning the ball over and playing poor defense. Simple switches . . . we aren't communicating, and gave up threes. It's a tough game we should have won here at home. You cannot lose conference games at home. Especially when you have a 12-point lead with seven minutes to go."

Memphis played a focused, efficient first half, piling up 12 assists (on 15 field goals) and only committing two turnovers to take a 41-32 lead at the break. But the Mustangs came back — twice — in the second half, pulling within point, falling behind again by 12, then finishing on that 15-point surge.

"They made shots," emphasized Hardaway. "Give them credit. The game's never over until the zeroes go up. We usually handle our business with the lead. These last two games have been gut-wrenching. We're not gonna cave in. We're gonna keep working. Hopefully these are lessons learned, and guys will understand. You never know when your turnover might lose the game."

Boogie Ellis provided a spark off the bench, playing his best game in two months. The freshman from San Diego scored 14 points and hit three of his four attempts from long range, one of them a bank shot from almost 30 feet as the shot-clock expired to give the Tigers a 10-point cushion with just under eight minutes to play. But the Mustangs hit 62 percent of their shots in the second half (15 for 24) after being held to 32 percent (10 for 31) in the first.

"We're a young team," said Ellis. "I feel like we'll be okay, trusting each other and playing for each other. Coach [Hardways] says it all the time, these are self-inflicted wounds. If we focus on the little things, I feel like we'll be okay."

Kendric Davis led SMU with 20 points. Emmanuel Bandoumel added 14 and Mike 13. Jeffries paced the Tigers with 18 points (6 for 11 from the field) and Achiuwa added 15 (7 for 10). The Tigers had the edge in points from the paint (30-24), points off turnovers (20-10), and points from the bench (23-13), but sill dropped their fourth game in the last six played.

When asked about his team's back-to-back struggles, Hardaway said, "I expected it, but it still hurts. I'm such a competitor. These last two games have been the worst." As for solutions, Hardaway emphasized the need to get to the foul line to end a scoring drought, and to communicate, all the time, every game. "Stay in the moment and value every possession."

The Tigers travel to UCF for their next game Wednesday night. They'll then play three straight home games (against UConn, Temple, and USF). A team originally considered among the top 15 in the country must likely win each of its next four just to regain footing in the pecking order for an NCAA tournament bid. "There's a lot of basketball to play," noted Hardaway. Recovery mode continues.

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