Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tigers 102, Tulane 76

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 9:48 PM

The Jeremiah Martin farewell tour rolls on. Eighteen days after scoring 41 points in a single half at USF, the Tigers' senior guard became the first player in Memphis history to top 40 points twice in a season . . . or career. Martin's 43 points — and the 400th assist of his career — led the way Wednesday night in a lopsided win over Tulane at FedExForum.
Jeremiah Martin - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jeremiah Martin

"Shout-out to God for putting me in this position," said Martin after surpassing Mike Butler for 15th on the Tiger career scoring chart (1,412 points). "My teammates wanted me to get it more than I did. They kept looking for me. Coach left me in and said, 'Get 40.' I tried to go with the flow of the game. At this stage of my career, I just want to get the win, get to the [NCAA] tournament."

The pride of Mitchell High School connected on 15 of 24 shots from the field, including five of nine three-point attempts. He hit eight of 11 free throws in topping 30 points for the sixth time in his career, twice the total of any other Tiger this century. (Chris Douglas-Roberts had three 30-point games in his three-year career.) With eight assists, Martin became the fifth Tiger to land in the program's top-20 for points and top-10 for assists (along with Alvin Wright, Andre Turner, Elliot Perry, and Joe Jackson).

"When he got to about 28 points with about 15 minutes left, I told him to get to 40," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway. "It wasn't anything to do with Tulane. It was about rewarding Jeremiah for what he's done here for four years."

The Tigers dominated the Green Wave start to finish, their only collective slip a 9-0 Tulane run to close the first half, but that merely reduced the Memphis lead to nine points (47-38). Memphis pulled down 56 rebounds, 21 more than Tulane. The Green Wave shot 38 percent from the field while the Tigers connected on 48 percent of their attempts.

Memphis improves to 16-11 for the season and 8-6 in the American Athletic Conference while Tulane drops to 4-21 (0-13).

Senior forward Kyvon Davenport posted his ninth double-double of the season (10 points and 15 rebounds), and three other Tigers reached double figures in the scoring column in support of Martin: Tyler Harris (16 points), Raynere Thornton (14), and Kareem Brewton (13). But this was an early version of Senior Night for a player who averaged 2.7 points as a freshman three long years (and two coaches) ago.
Penny Hardaway - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

"I don't try and take a lot of credit," said Hardaway, "but it's our system that's allowed [Martin] to do this, putting him in winning situations. He's doing the work, and he's putting the ball in the basket at a high volume. With us being NBA guys, that's what we do, we've always got big numbers. You try to make his job easy, get him easy looks."

Tiger assistant coach Tony Madlock pointed out to the team that if it wins the rest of its home games this season, an NCAA tournament berth awaits. The catch, of course, is that an automatic tournament bid goes to the winner of the AAC tournament, which will be played at FedExForum. Basic match, but a healthy motivator as February leans toward March.

"My whole goal with this team is to build," added Hardaway, "to be sharp for the AAC tournament [March 14-17]. We want to be in the top four, and have a bye on the first day. We have the opportunity to do something special here, but we have to get the rotation down and be on our stuff."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Tigers 78, UConn 71

Posted By on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 at 4:56 PM

The time will come, surely, when Memphis-UConn on a Sunday in mid-February is one of college basketball's spotlight games. Here in 2019, though, the clash at FedExForum was merely a pair of proud programs taking strides toward re-establishing national credentials under first-year coaches. Penny Hardaway's Tigers led from start to finish, with senior Kyvon Davenport scoring 26 points to thrill a crowd of 17,162. Husky coach Dan Hurley — among the most animated sideline maestros in the sport — was left to envision a future encounter.
Kyvon Davenport - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Kyvon Davenport

"I told Penny in the handshake line that I don't expect to come into this matchup [both] 13-10 very frequently in the future," said Hurley after the game. "It stings, it hurts, it's not something we're used to at Connecticut. "

The Tigers led from start to finish, by as many as 16 points and by no fewer than four points in the second half to end a three-game losing streak, the first such skid for Hardaway as a college coach. Memphis started five seniors for the second straight game, and Hurley recognized an edge.

"The number of seniors they play made the difference," said Hurley. "Davenport was the key to the game. To see our future out there, playing against some men, is a good thing."

Senior guard Jeremiah Martin scored 12 points, handed out six assists and hit a pair of clutch free throws in the game's final minute that gave the Tigers a six-point advantage (76-70), enough to clinch the victory. Raynere Thornton added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Penny Hardaway - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

Freshman Tyler Harris came off the bench and scored 12 points for Memphis. He found Davenport on a pair of no-look feeds in the second half that sparked the Tiger attack. "I love to get him good passes," said the former Cordova High School star. "He dunks and gets the crowd fired up."

The win improves Memphis to 14-10 and 6-5 in the American Athletic Conference while UConn drops to 13-11 (5-6).

Four Huskies scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Tyler Polley with 20 points.

"We have to be desperate," said Hardaway. "We'll have some lulls, but for the most part, we have to play as hard as we can. We knew we had to get this win; it was a must-win."

The Tigers shot well across the board, hitting 48 percent from the floor, 38 percent (8 for 21) from three-point range, and 89 percent (14 for 16) from the free throw line. Defensively, they held UConn to 40 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.

Hardaway and Hurley first met as teenage players in a camp more than two decades ago. The Memphis coach sees their new career stage as one that can be memorable for both programs. "There are going to be some competitive games between us, moving forward, and today was one of those," said Hardaway.

With seven regular-season games remaining on the Memphis schedule, Hardaway suggested his seniors will make the difference, one way or the other, just as Hurley felt they did Sunday afternoon. "This is a veteran's league," said Hardaway. "The older guys are getting it done. Younger guys chip in where they can, but if we're going to win, we need those five seniors to show up, every time."

The Tigers travel to East Carolina for their next game, where they'll play the Pirates Wednesday night.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

#25 Cincinnati 69, Tigers 64

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 9:47 PM

"They imposed their will on us. They're just tougher." — Penny Hardaway

Tiger coach Penny Hardaway has spoken publicly this winter of the envy he feels rival coaches suffer as he and his staff begin to make an impact on the college basketball landscape. Thursday night at FedExForum, Hardaway shook hands — twice — with the standard he must reach himself if that impact is to be the kind Memphis fans expect. His second handshake with Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was of the congratulatory sort, the Bearcats having come from 11 points down in the second half to earn their eighth straight win and hand the Tigers their fourth consecutive loss.
Penny Hardaway and Mick Cronin
  • Penny Hardaway and Mick Cronin

"[Cronin] has been there 13 years," noted Hardaway after the game. "He's found his system, his rhythm on players. As far as our players, you can't put toughness in someone. You have to go out and battle."

Five days after scoring 41 points in the second half at USF, Tiger guard Jeremiah Martin scored 12 points in the first seven minutes against Cincinnati to energize a FedExForum crowd of 16,363. When Isaiah Maurice converted a jump-hook five minutes before halftime, the Tigers took a lead (27-26) they wouldn't surrender for the next 19 minutes of game time. But Bearcat guard Justin Jenifer drained a three-pointer to seize the lead back for the visitors with 5:50 left in the game, part of a 10-0 run that erased a 52-46 Memphis lead. Martin twice pulled the Tigers within three points in the game's final three minutes, but Jarron Cumberland all but sealed the win with a floater off the glass to give Cincinnati a 65-59 cushion with a minute to play.

"We didn't rebound well in the second half and they got some easy buckets," acknowledged Martin, who finished with 26 points in 38 minutes of action.

"You learn from teams you play," added Mike Parks Jr., who scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds. "We're trying. Ultimately, it's about toughness, and they were the tougher team today."

The Bearcats won the 78th meeting between these two programs despite the Tigers' making more field goals (25-23). Cincinnati hit eight of their first 10 three-point attempts and finished the game with 11 from long distance to the Tigers' 10. But Cincinnati made 12 of 22 free throw attempts, while the Tigers only hit four of eight from the charity stripe.

The loss drops Memphis to 13-10 for the season and 5-5 in the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers have lost four of five games, a slog Hardaway didn't suffer in two years as a player for the program. Cincinnati improves to 20-3 and 9-1 in the AAC.

"It took us some time to adjust to their quickness and speed," said Bearcat coach Mick Cronin, who earned his 288th win in 13 seasons on the Cincinnati bench. "We gave up more points in the paint [28] than we typically do. I thought we might have to win this game 85-80. We're still learning how hard you have to play to win a game like this."

Kyvon Davenport scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. The Tigers only got four points from the freshman trio of Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, and Antwann Jones (all of them scored by Jones).

"[Cincinnati] has a winning tradition," said Hardaway. "They've been going to the NCAA tournament for a while. They've bought into everything their coach is telling them. Every single minute they're on the floor, they're going all-out. That makes it hard for us. We haven't gotten to that level yet. We needed to execute better, to not take bad shots. We needed to get stops. And we just couldn't do it."

It wasn't so much an envious coach highlighting a counterpart's strengths, but a first-year coach acknowledging much work remains to be done for his program to match the standard set by a 13-year veteran. More handshakes between Hardaway and Cronin to come.

The Tigers return to FedExForum Sunday to host Connecticut. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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2019 Memphis Tigers football schedule

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 10:42 AM

Memphis coach Mike Norvell. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Memphis coach Mike Norvell.
• August 31 — OLE MISS
• September 7 — SOUTHERN
• September 14 — at South Alabama
• September 26 (Thursday) — NAVY
• October 5 — at UL-Monroe
• October 12 — at Temple
• October 19 — TULANE
• October 26 — at Tulsa
• November 2 — SMU
• November 16 — at Houston
• November 23 — at USF
• November 29 (Friday) — CINCINNATI

Monday, February 4, 2019

41 in 20

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 10:32 AM

I spent the better part of last weekend trying to process what I saw early Saturday when Memphis point guard Jeremiah Martin scored 41 points in one half of a basketball game at USF. It's the rare athletic performance one knows will not be witnessed again. A player with a career average of less than 15 points per game, with a career-high — for an entire game — of 33 points does not score 41 points in 20 minutes. But that's precisely what the pride of Mitchell High School did on Saturday in Tampa, Florida.
Jeremiah Martin - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jeremiah Martin

How does Martin's Groundhog Day measure historically in these parts? Consider that only five Tigers have scored more than 41 points in an entire game. (The program record is 48 points by Larry Finch  against St. Joseph's on January 20, 1973.) No Memphis player had scored as many as 40 since December 13, 1997 (Marcus Moody). Martin almost won the American Athletic Conference scoring title as a junior last season . . . but with an average of 18.9 points per game. He had scored as many as 30 — in a game — only twice before. For him to score more than two points per minute for an entire half of basketball? I was looking for that Blood Wolf Moon days after the celestial phenomenon had passed.

But here's the uncomfortable sidebar to Martin's extraordinary scoring surge: Where was Martin in the first half? In falling behind 27-1 over the game's first 10 minutes, the Tigers played 30 minutes of catch-up basketball that required something Herculean — from somebody, anybody — just to make the game interesting. And against a team projected to finish dead last in the AAC. (USF, now 15-6, is making a nice statement on the credibility of preseason coaches' polls.) Martin is as guilty as all his teammates (particularly his fellow starters) and the entire Tiger coaching staff for serial somnolence at tip-off this season, particularly when Memphis is playing on the road. Providing an opponent a 10-point cushion before the first media timeout is a prescription for stressful play. There are Tiger fans who missed Martin's outburst because they turned the game off before halftime. 27-1? It was a warm, sunny Saturday in the Mid-South. Game off.

I kept watching the game. Started counting the three-pointers Martin made: three ... five ... eventually seven. Watched a player who averaged 2.7 points and 13.8 minutes as a freshman heat up like no Tiger ever has before. Not Finch, not Keith Lee, not Martin's acclaimed and decorated head coach. It was unforeseen and unnatural. Sadly, it was part of a Memphis loss, so it will be swept away in the cliche we know and love best: "Individual performances mean nothing if the team doesn't win."

For those of us who saw Jeremiah Martin score 41 points in 20 minutes, it does, in fact, mean something. A legitimate lightning strike on the hardwood, and generated by one of the most likable Tigers to suit up this century. Here's hoping "Peso" can spread his impact a bit more evenly over the season's final month. But for that one game — that one half — on Groundhog Day in Tampa? Thank you.

• The Cincinnati Bearcats are not the Louisville Cardinals, but there's no greater Memphis rival in the American Athletic Conference. Thursday night at FedExForum, Penny Hardaway will coach for the first time against the program that beat his Tigers three times in the 1991-92 season, including a 31-point beatdown in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional final. These teams have played 77 times since 1968 (Memphis has won 44). Long before the AAC formed in 2013, they competed as members of the Missouri Valley Conference, then later the Metro, Great Midwest, and Conference USA. Cincinnati has brought villains to the Bluff City (Nick Van Exel, Danny Fortson, and Steve Logan to name just three) and Bearcats have been on the floor for historic Tiger wins (Larry Finch's last as Memphis coach in 1997).  The Bearcats (19-3 and 8-1 in the AAC) are playing at a level Hardaway and his team have yet to reach. As Thursday opens a new chapter in this 50-year rivalry, the Tigers hope their revitalized home-court advantage might close the gap, at least for one night.

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

USF 84, Tigers 78

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 1:52 PM

The Tigers played two of the most historic halves in program history Saturday at USF. The end result: a third loss in four games.

Senior point guard Jeremiah Martin scored 41 points, becoming only the eighth Memphis player to put up 40 in a game (and the first since December 1997). And he scored all 41 after halftime.
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Unfortunately for Martin and his teammates, there was a first half in Tampa. Memphis missed its first 16 shots from the field and was gored in a running of the Bulls, falling behind 27-1 before Kyvon Davenport scored the team's first field goal of the contest. The Tigers missed 24 of 28 shots from the field in the first half and committed 14 turnovers on the way to a 38-13 deficit at the break.

Then Martin took over. The pride of Mitchell High School buried his seventh three-pointer of the second half with 32 seconds left to close the deficit to six points (82-76). But Memphis would get no closer, exchanging field goals with the Bulls before the final buzzer. The 65 second-half points are the most Memphis has scored in a period this season.

David Collins led USF with 20 points as the Bulls improved to 15-6 for the season and are now tied with Memphis in the American Athletic Conference with a 5-4 league mark. The Tigers dropped to 13-9 with the loss.

Davenport scored 13 points off the Tiger bench. No other Memphis player reached double figures in the scoring column. Davenport, Mike Parks, and Isaiah Maurice each fouled out.

The Tigers return to FedExForum Thursday night when they'll host Cincinnati. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Below are the previous 40-point games in Memphis history:

• February 17, 1942: Leslie Steele (42)
• December 11, 1953: Dick Kinder (44)
• December 1, 1955: Win Wilfong (40)
• December 7, 1955: Forest Arnold (46)
• January 20, 1973: Larry Finch (48)
• January 30, 1991: Elliot Perry (42)
• December 13, 1997: Marcus Moody (41)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tulsa 95, Tigers 79

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 9:28 PM

Three days after a so-called "statement win" over UCF, the Tigers found themselves on the receiving end of a statement at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane — 2-6 in the American Athletic Conference at tip-off — seized command over the game's opening ten minutes and cruised to the victory. Daquan Jeffries played like the all-conference candidate he is, scoring a game-high 25 points. Curran Scott added 20 to help Tulsa improve to 13-9 for the season.
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Freshman guard Tyler Harris scored 18 points — all of them after halftime — to help Memphis stay within nine or ten points late in the contest, but the Tigers couldn't slow the Tulsa attack for any comeback to prove fruitful. The Tigers got no closer than nine points (80-71 with 4:45 to play) after trailing by 17 (48-31) at halftime. The loss is the Tigers' fourth straight at Tulsa.

Kyvon Davenport scored 12 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Jeremiah Martin and Raynere Thornton added 14 points each. The Tigers shot 41 percent from the field (Tulsa hit 55 percent) and fell to 13-8 for the season (5-3 in the AAC). Memphis suffered 17 turnovers while handing out but 12 assists.

Now 1-4 in true road games this season, the Tigers visit USF (14-6) Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tigers 77, UCF 57

Posted By on Sun, Jan 27, 2019 at 6:41 PM

"Let's make a statement. When we got up 20, Coach [Hardaway] said, 'Let's get up 25.'"
— Memphis guard Tyler Harris

The Tigers have yet to beat a ranked opponent under rookie coach Penny Hardaway, but on Sunday afternoon at FedExForum, they thoroughly dismantled the team picked by league coaches to win the American Athletic Conference. Despite the presence of towering (7'6") UCF center Tacko Fall, the Tigers dominated the glass, pulling down 46 rebounds (21 offensive) against the Knights' 28. After a miserable shooting performance last Thursday at Temple, the Tigers hit eight three-pointers to hand UCF its worst loss of the season and only fourth overall.
Raynere Thornton - LARRY KUZNIEWKSI
  • Larry Kuzniewksi
  • Raynere Thornton

"Shot selection is the main thing for us," said Hardaway. "We can get into situations where we feel like we can make anything, and we'll start taking anything. I can count maybe three bad shots today, but they didn't hurt us."

The Tigers enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout the game (38-28 at halftime), but put the contest away over a three-minute stretch early in the second half. Tyler Harris opened a barrage of three-pointers to give Memphis a 43-31 lead. By the time the freshman guard hit another — after Raynere Thornton and Isaiah Maurice each connected — the Tiger lead was 52-36, and the crowd of 17,046 achieved full energizing capacity.

"When we buckle down and stick to the game plan, we can be really good in this league," emphasized Hardaway. "If we stay as a team, and listen to the coaching staff, this game shows we can play with anybody in the country. UCF is a really good team. They only had three losses, by a combined 11 points. Only one loss in conference play. They've been playing solid for a couple of years under Coach [Johnny] Dawkins."

Senior center Mike Parks noted the impact of two weeks of rebounding drills, an area of concern for Memphis over the season's first six weeks. In just 19 minutes off the bench, Parks scored 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Senior forward Raynere Thornton had a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds). "I've told Ray to go rebound, and the points will come," said Hardaway.
Alex Lomax - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Alex Lomax

Harris led Memphis in the scoring column with 14 points. Jeremiah Martin had 10 points and seven assists, and Kyvon Davenport scored 11 points to help the Tigers improve to 13-7 for the season (5-2 in the AAC). UCF falls to 15-4 (5-2). Freshman Alex Lomax contributed eight points, three assists, and two steals in 21 minutes off the bench.

"It's always good to see guys stick with what we teach," said Hardaway. "Old-school teaching is defense first, offense second. In today's game, it's not popular to play defense. A lot of the guys in the NBA don't play D, and that's what college kids mimic. To see this game today — holding a really good team to 57 points — it can be done. It was done with energy and toughness, and it was consistent."

The Tigers' next two games will be on the road, at Tulsa Wednesday, then at USF next Saturday. They return to FedExForum on February 7th to host Cincinnati, one of two remaining teams (with Houston) with only one league loss.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Temple 85, Tigers 76

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 8:26 PM

The Tigers managed to stay in Thursday night's game at Temple despite one of the worst shooting performances in the history of the program. The Tigers missed 22 of their 23 attempts from three-point range, yet trailed by only four points (73-69) with four minutes left to play. Shizz Alston buried a three-pointer (his only one) with 2:20 to play to extend the Owls' lead to eight (80-72) and all but end the Tigers' three-game winning streak.
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Quinton Rose scored 18 points in the game's fist 13 minutes, helping Temple to a 25-8 lead, the margin peaking at 20 points in the first half. But an 18-10 Tiger run closed the score to 41-33 at halftime and Memphis pulled within three points (45-42) on a Jeremiah Martin layup just over three minutes into the second half. But the Tigers never found their long-range touch, while the Owls connected on 10 of 27 three-point attempts (including seven of their first nine).

Rose led Temple (now 15-4, 5-1 in the American Athletic Conference) with 26 points. Martin led the Tigers with 28 points while Kareem Brewton added 15 and Raynere Thornton 14. Saddled by foul trouble, Kyvon Davenport was limited to seven points (less than half his average).

The Tigers drop to 12-7 with the loss and are now 4-2 in AAC play. They return to FedExForum Sunday to host UCF. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Tigers 83, SMU 61

Posted By on Sat, Jan 19, 2019 at 6:46 PM

It's one thing for the 2018-19 Tigers to don uniforms that say "Memphis State." It's quite another for the team to take the floor and play like the 1984-85 Memphis State Tigers.

After a pregame boost from an actual member of that 1985 Final Four team (Dwight Boyd, the team's director of player personnel: "You gotta represent. This is Memphis State."), the Tigers roared as thoroughly as they have in Penny Hardaway's rookie season as head coach. After taking a 13-0 lead over the game's first seven minutes, the Tigers only made life more uncomfortable for the SMU Mustangs. Senior guard Kareem Brewton Jr. set a career high for three-pointers (5) before halftime. (Brewton's initial reaction to the throwback jerseys: "These are too cold.")
Kareem Brewton Jr. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Kareem Brewton Jr.

By the time Kyvon Davenport threw down a dunk midway through the second half — the resulting electricity seemed to make the 1985 NCAA tournament banner shimmer — the Tigers had almost doubled SMU (59-32) on the scoreboard. A crowd of 16,673 relished the rest of the contest as Memphis improved to 12-6 for the season and 4-1 in the American Athletic Conference.

"We had a full week to prepare for this team, and we left no stone unturned," said Hardaway. "I couldn't be more proud of the guys. The energy was crazy from the beginning. We're starting to believe in what we're doing. As a team, as a family. This is exactly what I've been looking for when it comes to punching first. We have them prepared for every scenario, so there's no excuse, except for the energy."

"Coach put up a 'hustle board,'" noted Brewton, "for counting charges, rebounds, getting loose balls. We came out with energy. And we were running; that's what we do best." Brewton hit six of his 11 attempts from three-point range and finished with a game-high 20 points in his third consecutive start.

Brewton wasn't the only "Memphis State" star. Raynere Thornton pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds and scored 11 points. Jeremiah Martin scored a pedestrian (for him) eight points, but dished out 11 assists, tying a career high. Davenport scored 12 points, freshman Tyler Harris hit four three-pointers and scored 14 off the bench. Senior forward Mike Parks Jr. hit five of six shots from the field and scored 11 points.
Penny Hardaway - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

"I met with Nike at the Final Four last year and really begged for the Memphis State uniforms," said Hardaway. "The uniforms are great, but the play was even better. They reminded me of my old uniforms. I didn't think they'd respond the way they did. They went crazy; it gave them some extra energy."

The Tigers held SMU to 36-percent shooting from the field. They forced 21 turnovers (and only committed 12). The Mustangs' top scorer, Jahmal McMurray, was held to six points, a dozen under his season average. McMurray was 0-for-8 from three-point range. SMU drops to 11-7 (3-3 in the AAC).

Hardaway emphasized the value Brewton is bringing, drawing a contrast between the player he is now with his play as a junior last season. "Last year's team felt it was entitled to come in and get minutes," said the coach. "We had some disappointed guys early [this season], because they weren't getting minutes. Kareem was one of those guys. To see this process, [Kareem] working hard, buying in, and getting rewarded for it . . . I love that. That's what life is all about. When you earn it, it's better. He's working his butt off."

The Tigers remain one of five teams in the AAC with only one league loss. Their next game will be on the road Thursday against another of those teams, Temple (14-4, 4-1).

NOTE: Through 18 games, the Tigers have scored a total of 743 points before halftime and 743 points after the break.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Tigers 83, Tulane 79

Posted By on Sun, Jan 13, 2019 at 7:29 PM

The Tigers withstood a late run by Tulane in a near-empty Devlin Fieldhouse Sunday to secure their second straight win and sixth in seven games. (The New Orleans Saints were hosting an NFL playoff game at the same time.) Senior guard Jeremiah Martin scored a season-high 27 points and converted a critical layup with less than a minute to play to give Memphis a five-point lead (79-74). Martin's free throws with 13 seconds left proved to be the final points of the game as the Tigers improved to 11-6 for the season and 3-1 in the American Athletic Conference.
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Through Sunday's games, Memphis is one of five AAC teams with only one loss, UCF being the lone undefeated team in league play.

The Tigers raced out to a 22-9 lead against the Green Wave (4-12, 0-4) and were up 15 (49-34) at halftime, thanks largely to Martin's 8-of-10 shooting from the field. (With his 27 points, Martin passed Ronnie Robinson, Otis Jackson, and Vincent Askew on the Tigers' career scoring chart and now ranks 31st.) They led 74-62 before Tulane surged, closing the Tiger lead to two (74-72) with just under three minutes to play.

Junior forward Isaiah Maurice missed a dunk attempt but was fouled and hit one of his two shots for a 75-72 Memphis lead. Kevin Zhang (25 points) missed a jumper and Maurice followed with a reverse layup in a crowded lane for a 77-72 Tiger advantage with 1:15 on the clock. Blake Paul (15 points off the bench) converted a layup for Tulane, but Martin answered with his clutch layup to all but secure the victory.

Kyvon Davenport scored 17 points for the Tigers and Raynere Thornton added 12. Tulane commanded the glass, pulling down 42 rebounds (15 on the offensive end) to the Tigers' 33.

Memphis has now won six straight games against its longtime rivals from New Orleans. (The teams will play at FedExForum on February 20th.)

The Tigers now have five days off before hosting SMU (11-5, 3-1) on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tigers 78, East Carolina 72

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 11:48 PM

Penny Hardaway did not look or sound like a victorious coach late Thursday night in the media room at FedExForum. When asked to assess his team's win over the East Carolina Pirates — a team fresh off an upset of Cincinnati — Hardaway insisted his players must collectively change their mindset to achieve any measure of success.
Antwann Jones - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Antwann Jones

"We took two freshmen [Tyler Harris and Antwann Jones] out of the starting lineup and replaced them with seniors [Kareem Brewton and Kyvon Davenport]," explained Hardaway, "because [the freshmen] were being too lax, had to be pushed every day in practice. You can't come to practice half-assed, going through the motions. We're trying to get better. How you practice is how you play. They took the challenge. But I'm really disappointed in the seniors, falling behind early."

The lineup change, as Hardaway made clear, yielded mixed results. Despite starting five seniors, the Tigers fell behind by 15 points (33-18) over the game's first 12 minutes. Only a pair of three-pointers in the final minute before halftime — one by Davenport, the other by Harris — made the deficit (40-36) at the break feel close. Considering the energy deficit at tip-off, it could have been much worse.

"We can build off this and learn from our mistakes," acknowledged Davenport, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. "Come out with more energy for the next game."

When the Tigers finally did energize, the benched freshmen were key components. Harris led Memphis with 16 points and connected on four three-pointers while Jones scored 10 points, handed out three assists, and picked up three steals. But there can be more, if you listen to their coach.
Tyler Harris - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tyler Harris

"We're trying to create a culture around here where you're working hard every second," said Hardaway. "When we're at the practice facility and when we're on the court. They're coming back next year. I want them to be able to tell the new guys, 'This is the way we do it around here.' You've got to set a standard."

The Tigers finally took the lead (61-60) on a pair of free throws by Jeremiah Martin midway through the second half. The game was tied at 65 with 7:47 to play before the U of M took control for good, Davenport dunking the ball on a feed from Harris and Harris delivering a trey that proved to be the dagger.

The win improves Memphis to 10-6 and 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference while ECU falls to 8-7 (1-2).

"I'm so competitive," said Hardaway. "I went with a [starting lineup] that started most games last year. I felt we were in good hands. For the seniors to start out without much energy — after not making the NCAA tournament last year, not making the NIT — it speaks volumes.

"The team chemistry is getting better. It's not going to move forward without the seniors. They have to talk to the freshmen. I don't know if they're doing a good job of that. We're coaching, we're teaching. But those guys have to lead us."

Freshman guard Alex Lomax only played two minutes, suffering an upper-body injury on a collision early in the game. (Hardaway couldn't confirm if Lomax had undergone concussion protocol.) Junior Isaiah Maurice absorbed some of Lomax's minutes off the bench and scored 10 points. Brewton hit all five of his shots from the field and added 13 points.

The Tigers will get a chance to re-energize Sunday when they travel to New Orleans to face Tulane (4-11).

Monday, January 7, 2019

Numbers Game

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2019 at 9:01 AM

Herewith, six numeric takes on an already memorable Tiger basketball season.

90 — From his opening press conference as Tiger coach, Penny Hardaway has stressed a desire to run opponents out of FedExForum, to leave players in dark jerseys gasping for breath at the first media timeout. There are various ways to measure the pace of a basketball team: number of possessions, number of shots, frequency of turnovers (for either team). But the best measure of a fast team is in the scoring column. The Tigers recently sprinted through five consecutive games in which they scored at least 90 points, a streak unmatched in these parts since the 1975-76 season (when Bill Cook and Marion Hilliard were leading the Tigers to the NCAA tournament). Memphis has struggled at times (including shooting accuracy from the field), but it hasn't been muddy basketball at FedExForum. As the current team continues to grow — yes, college teams can grow after New Year's Day — Penny's pace may indeed end a game or two before halftime.
Kyvon Davenport - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Kyvon Davenport

0 — Kyvon Davenport's uniform number has become a paradoxical reflection of his value to this team. After a rocky first five minutes in last week's AAC opener against Wichita State, Hardaway was pleading (loudly) for his team to get Davenport the basketball. They did. And the senior, freshly shorn of his signature dreadlocks, scored a game-high 25 points in a relatively comfortable win over the Shockers. Don't confuse Davenport coming off Hardaway's bench with his place in this roster's pecking order. He's pulled down 30 more rebounds than any teammate. Jeremiah Martin may be the anointed leader of the 2018-19 Tigers, but you get the impression that, come March, this team will go as far as Davenport takes it.

77.9 — The Tigers rank 12th — dead last — in the American Athletic Conference in points allowed per game. Hardaway has insisted his team will play fast with the ball and apply the clamps defensively. Memphis has done one of these well to date.

9 — Hardaway has gone nine-deep with his rotation, and it might be ten had freshman sharpshooter David Wingett not been sidelined by injury. Five seniors, a junior, and three freshmen have played at least 13 minutes per game, with only three — Martin, Tyler Harris, and Alex Lomax — averaging 25 per game. There is no true "A unit" (the team's best player currently comes off the bench). Hardaway can go small and, as he says, "speed [an opponent] up." He can lean on veterans like Martin, Davenport, and Brewton, or go with the hot freshman hands of Harris, Lomax, or Antwann Jones (a trio that disappeared in last Sunday's loss at Houston). These Tigers aren't just deep, they're versatile.

1 — There appears to be but one killer team in the American Athletic Conference, and the Tigers 13-point loss to Houston last Sunday will be the only time Memphis faces that team until (possibly) the league tournament in March. According to the NCAA's new NET rankings, only the Cougars (4) belong among the country's top 30 teams (through last Saturday's games). Perusing the list, you find UCF (32), Cincinnati (33), and Temple (61) before locating Memphis (75). Houston may dominate this league, but there's room for another team (or two) to accumulate wins and enter the conversation for an at-large NCAA tournament berth.

119,828 — The Tigers sold more tickets for their first eight home games (all nonconference) than they did for the entire 19-game home schedule in 2017-18 (118,277). Hardaway has a delightfully ironic nickname. A math wizard needs to calculate the pennies generated not just for the U of M, but for sponsors, bars, hotels, and vendors that support Tiger basketball since Hardaway took over coaching duties. And you get the sense this is much more than a honeymoon. A crowd of 13,000 for South Dakota State on a Tuesday in December? That's money, Penny.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

#19 Houston 90, Tigers 77

Posted By on Sun, Jan 6, 2019 at 7:20 PM

The madness may be two months away, but the Houston Cougars are becoming part of college basketball's national storyline this season. In easily handling the Tigers Sunday at their shiny new arena, the Cougars extended their home winning streak to 28 games to remain one of only three undefeated teams in the country (along with Michigan and Virginia). Houston (15-0) led from start to finish to end the Tigers' four-game winning streak and drop Memphis to 9-6 for the season and 1-1 in the American Athletic Conference.

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Armoni Brooks led the way for Houston with 22 points, draining three-pointers (a total of six) whenever the Tigers seemed to be closing in. Nate Hinton added 19 off the Cougar bench.

Senior forward Kyvon Davenport spurred a Tiger comeback early in the second half with eight straight points. But Memphis never reduced the lead below four points (50-46) and finished with its lowest point total since Thanksgiving weekend. Davenport finished the contest with 17 points and Kareem Brewton added a career-high 25, also off the Memphis bench. Jeremiah Martin scored 16 points for the Tigers, but the freshman trio of Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, and Antwann Jones combined for just seven.

Memphis shot 48 percent from the field but committed 17 turnovers, a factor in Houston taking 21 more shots in the game. The Cougars shot 45 percent and hit 12 treys (to the Tigers' eight).

Houston does not play in Memphis in the regular season, so the teams will not meet again unless they're matched against one another in the AAC tournament (at FedExForum) in March.

The Tigers return home Thursday night to host East Carolina (8-6, 1-1). Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Tigers 85, Wichita State 74

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 11:36 AM

Memphis opened American Athletic Conference play Thursday night at FedExForum with variables both known and unknown. Having completed their nonconference slate of 13 games, the Tigers know they have a veteran playmaker and leader in senior Jeremiah Martin. In Tyler Harris, they know they have a freshman with a scorer's frame of mind (whether or not he's on target). But what's to be made of players like Antwann Jones, Alex Lomax, or Mike Parks? Swing variables — like that trio — tend to steer a season one direction or another.
Alex Lomax - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Alex Lomax

Jones, Lomax, and Parks played significant roles in helping the Tigers beat Wichita State to complete a 6-1 homestand and extend their current winning streak to four games. A sloppy opening five minutes gave way to the accelerated pace Memphis has shown under rookie coach Penny Hardaway. Lomax converted a steal into a layup to cap a 9-0 Tiger run and give Memphis a 29-20 lead with 4:15 to play before halftime. The Shockers closed the margin to five points (46-41) early in the second half, but the Tigers never surrendered the lead in avenging a 20-point loss to Wichita State a year ago. (The Shockers return no starters from their 2018 NCAA tournament team.)

"I'm proud of the effort, overall," said a hoarse Hardaway after the game. "We had some mental lapses, but we overcame that with hustle and came away with a great victory. This game meant more to Alex Lomax than anybody, because of his [previous] ties to Wichita State. And Antwann Jones . . . what can you say about him? He's just a talent. We've been waiting for him to come around."

Lomax stuffed the stat sheet off the Tiger bench with eight points, a team-leading eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals in 25 minutes. Fellow-freshman Jones scored a season-high 16 points in just 21 minutes, connecting on seven of nine shots from the field, including a few among larger defenders in the paint. "Back in my YMCA days," said Jones, "I played the five [position], so I'm comfortable [down low]."

Parks converted a pair of reverse layups in the first half and hit all four of his field-goal attempts to go along with four rebounds and three steals. Hardaway emphasized that the inconsistent senior is physically healthy, noting only "a mental thing" hindering his becoming an integral part of the Tiger rotation.

Senior Kvon Davenport had his finest game since cutting his signature dreadlocks, scoring a game-high 25 points in 27 minutes off the Memphis bench. He hit nine of 11 free throws, boosting a huge advantage for the Tigers from the charity stripe. (The Tigers made 25 of 31 shots while the Shockers only took — and made — six.)
Penny Hardaway - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

"We scored 85 points on an off night," noted Hardaway, whose team had scored at least 90 points in its previous five games, a streak unmatched by a Memphis squad since the 1975-76 season. "Our offensive woes don't worry me, because I feel like we'll be able to turn it on at any time."

The Tigers won the rebounding battle, 35-29, impressing Hardaway with the toughness necessary to win league clashes. "That's a different Memphis than they're used to seeing," said Hardaway. "They've only been in the league one year, but last year they kind of had their way with the team physically. To be able to take that physicality, and put it back on them, I'm definitely proud of that. We want to grow in that category."

Markis McDuffie led the Shockers with 19 points but needed 17 shots to match his season scoring average. The loss drops Wichita State to 7-6.

Now 9-5, the Tigers will play their first road game in over a month when they travel to 19th-ranked Houston Sunday. Memphis is 0-3 against ranked teams this season.

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