ANALYSIS: Hardaway speaks his mind ahead of matchup with Tulsa

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TSD Tigers Reporter
Terry Davis

Penny Hardaway has been a boon to sports talk radio across the country. Hardaway has not been going by the normal script, just sticking to just going to the media and saying the canned answers that most coaches give on a regular basis.

Hardaway has not been afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to his detractors in the coaching ranks. Hardaway was not afraid to take on Rick Barnes after the Tigers had a loss to the Tennessee Volunteers earlier this year.

The Tigers played the Vols nearly two months ago, but Hardaway’s remarks about Barnes come up any time he appears on a national television show. Even former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Penders had something to say following the Tigers’ 20-point win over the AAC’s preseason favorite Central Florida.

Hardaway is not a typical coach who just gives “coach speak.” He tells you what is on his mind and gives you an honest answer. He is open, honest and transparent. That is another reason why the players relate so well with Hardaway.

He tells him his vision and what he can do to assist them in getting to the next level. He doesn’t promise anyone playing time and he tells them they will have to earn everything that they receive. With Alex Lomax, he has shown that if he’s coached you since you were a preteen, you still have to earn your spot as a starter.

One more, during his media availability on Monday for tonight’s Tulsa game, Hardaway did not mince words.

“Everybody’s opinion is their opinion,” he said. “We can’t worry about what they think. We have to come in the gym, use that as our motivation and just keep grinding.

“The only way you prove them wrong,” he continued, “is to win.”

Hardaway also addressed what he calls jealousy among other collegiate coaches.

“There is a lot of jealousy around the country by some college coaches,” he said. “We are NBA players trying to come back to coach, and we did not have any experience. So we did not ‘pay our dues.’ So some of the coaches and their so-called boys in the media are going to throw some jabs at us.”

And that sets the stage for tonight’s Memphis-Tulsa matchup. Three keys to look for:

Rebounding

The Tigers will be facing one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country in Tulsa. Tulsa ranks 345 of 353 schools in terms of offensive rebounds with 7.1 per game. Memphis ranks 31 with 12.8 offensive rebounds per game.

On many occasions, Hardaway has stressed the importance of offensive rebounds for this team. And apparently, they’ve listened: After surrendering more than 17 offensive rebounds just a few games ago, Memphis has outrebounded its last three opponents – SMU, Temple and UCF.

Shot Selection

Shot selections in the loss to Temple was a major reason why the Tigers did not capture a road win. The Tigers went 1-23 from three-point range and had 17 turnovers.

Hardaway considers a bad shot a turnover. Taking good shots especially on the road will be key for the Tigers moving up in the ranking an improving their chances to make the NCAA tournament.

Honor Roll

Senior Raynere Thornton was named to the American Athletic Conference’s Weekly Honor Roll Monday for his play in the team’s recent league games against Temple and UCF.

“Raynere is figuring out who he is,” Hardaway said. “He wanted to score a lot early on, but that is not who he really is. He is our best defender. We put him on their best player.”

Thornton, a 6-foot-6 forward from Marietta, Ga., scored a season-high 14 points in the Memphis loss at Temple Thursday and followed with a double-double — his second of the season — in Sunday’s 77-57 victory over UCF.

Thornton nearly averaged a double-double in a 1-1 week. Had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Knights and, in addition to his 14 points at Temple, he added eight boards at Temple. In his last four games, Thornton is averaging 12 points and 10.3 rebounds.

The Tigers (13-7, 5-2 The American) play Wednesday night in a league game at Tulsa (12-9, 2-6). Tipoff is 7 p.m and can be seen on ESPNEWS.