The Memphis Tigers basketball team faces a pivotal moment this season. Currently on a two-game losing streak, they find themselves in the middle of the conference standings. After showing potential to be among America’s best teams, they now seem destined for the NCAA bubble.
Head coach Penny Hardaway commented, “There are things acceptable in winning that I won’t tolerate in losing, and it caught up with us. The unexpected loss to South Florida and the injuries in the Tulane game were setbacks. We haven’t had these minor injuries keeping players out of games before. That’s the nature of a challenging season.”
Hardaway also emphasized the importance of respecting all conference teams. “Players sometimes underestimate opponents based on team names. This league is competitive. While we may be the most talented, lack of consistent effort can lead to defeats,” he said.
- Jaykwon Walton, who missed the second half against Tulane, has been performing well lately, hitting three three-pointers in the first half of that game. He missed some practices this week but is expected to play in upcoming games.
- Nae’Qwan Tomlin, injured in the eye during the same game, played only 58 seconds in the remaining time. He too is anticipated to return without missing further games.
Integrating 11 new players has been a slow process. Tomlin joined the roster three weeks ago and is still acclimating to the team’s system and dynamics. Most new players, previously focal points on their former teams, are adapting to collaborative play.
The absence of Caleb Mills affected the team’s depth and experience. Jordan Brown, the starting center, recently returned to the roster for the Tulane game but did not play. His return, after resolving some team tensions, is expected to bolster the team for the rest of the season.
On unifying the team, Hardaway said, “We must continue watching film, communicating off the court, and addressing our weaknesses. The belief we had during our 10-game winning streak needs to be reignited, especially in our defensive strategies.”
Righting the Ship:
Offensively, the Tigers have been strong this season. The challenge lies in defense, an area where Memphis has traditionally excelled. Adapting new players to Hardaway’s defensive expectations has been a hurdle.
The team acknowledges the need for defensive improvement, particularly in adhering to game plans and covering opponents effectively. Rediscovering their defensive identity means understanding each other’s strengths and exploiting opponents’ weaknesses.
Mills was a key defender, and his absence has forced weaker defensive players to face formidable offensive threats from rival teams.
The Tigers aim to rebound in an upcoming game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The teams, former conference rivals, have a history of intense matchups. The game, already sold out, marks the first meeting since UAB joined the Tigers in the American Athletic Conference. It is scheduled for 4 p.m. Central and will be broadcast on ESPN.