Desperation or the lack thereof is the reason that head coach Penny Hardaway states is the reason for his team’s lack of energy to start games away from the FedExForum. The home crowd has given the Tigers the extra spark they have needed throughout the season.
But despite a spirited arena, The Tigers were not able to get knock off the 25th ranked Cinncinati Bearcats and lost 69-64 in front of 16,363.
Hardaway once again altered the starting lineup. The Tigers went with all seniors to start the game – Jeremiah Martin, Mike Parks Jr., Kareem Brewton Jr. and Kyvon Davenport. Martin scored 41 points in the second half in the loss to South Florida and did not miss a beat in the first half of this one, scoring 12 first-half points as the Tigers took a (35-29) lead into halftime.
The Bearcats started the game 8-10 from three-point range and the defense midway through the first half forced the Bearcats off their shooting spots and made scoring more difficult. The Bearcats did not make another three-pointer in the first half and completed the half making 8 of 17 three-pointers.
The Bearcats were able to dominate the offensive glass, grabbing eight offensive rebounds in the first half. Cinncinati outrebounded the Tigers 20-15 in the first half.
The Tigers had the Bearcats playing at a tempo that they were comfortable with and had the Bearcats playing out of character. The Bearcats were settling for outside shots, while the Tigers were attacking the rim. The Tigers scored 18 points in the paint in the first half compared to only two for the Bearcats.
The Tigers continue to control the tempo and extended their lead to the largest of the game (44-34) with 14:51 left in the game. Cincinnati went on a 10-0 run over a span of 5 minutes to tie the game at (44-44).
The Tigers would push the lead back up to six point thanks to a three-pointer by Martin (52-46) with 7:15 left in the game. From there the experience of Cincinnati took over and the Bearcats controlled the game. After looking awful from the free throw line in the first half only make 3 of 7 attempts, the Bearcats made 9 of 15 free throws in the second half to put the game on ice.
The Bearcats were led by Jarron Cumberland with 17 points, with 12 coming in the second half. Tre Scott had 13 points and 9 rebounds. The Bearcats outrebounded the Tigers 38-32 with 14 offensive rebounds. Cincinnati improved the inside scoring in the second half with 16 points in the paint.
“It seem like they were going harder,” Parks said of the rebounding gap. “Their coach told them every time a shot goes up, you better go hard. And that is what they did. Some of guys were in there and we just didn’t get the rebound.”
The Tigers were led by the seniors in scoring. The seniors scored 56 points led by Martin with 26 points and 5 assists. The freshmen of Alex Lomax, Tyler Harris and Antwann Jones combined for a total of 4 points.
“We didn’t rebound the basketball like we did in the first half,” Martin said. “They got a couple of easy buckets which led to them pulling away.”
Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin said, “It was a hard fought conference game. I thought their kids played well. It took up us some time to get caught up to their speed and how hard they were going after loose balls. Their style of play was bothering us.”
“Our defense got better as the game went on” Cronin said, “We stopped giving up layup and second chance point.”
Hardaway in his opening statement said, “We played the seniors a lot of minutes. I made my mind up that they had been in this battle before and I was going to have the freshmen to come in and add to that. We were not able to get it done. We did not meet the challenge and they won the game.”
Memphis is 0-5 against ranked teams this season. On the one thing that is missing in the games against the better teams Hardaway said, “Toughness! Every other team is tougher. They impose their will on us.”
On developing a toughness that the Bearcats have Hardaway said, “It is hard to do. You just to have it in you. That is a product of what they do. For our players, there is no way to put toughness inside of someone. You know it is going to be a battle, you have to go out there and battle”.
On the plan to combat Cumberland Hardaway said, “We knew he was going to come off baseline screens and pick and rolls. It was very disappointing that we played the pick and roll in a three minute span as badly as we have all night and that is what started the run for them. We were supposed to make him retreat, that is what we did the entire first half. We had to play the pick and roll better”.
Next up for the Tigers (13-10, 5-5) will be a Sunday afternoon affair against the University of Connecticut Huskies. The Tigers fall to sixth place in the American conference. The first four teams get a first round bye. The Tigers are two games behind the fourth placed team Central Florida. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network on Sunday February 10 at 1 p.m. CT.